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How to save money for vacation

Updated on September 17, 2015
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Erin Shelby is passionate about living a lifestyle that aims for financial freedom. She writes about personal finance and other topics.

Is the mere idea of going on vacation in jeopardy because you can’t afford it? Try these price-slashing tips to save money for a vacation.

Dreaming of an island vacation but caught in a financial nightmare?
Dreaming of an island vacation but caught in a financial nightmare? | Source

Plan in Advance

You can afford to go on vacation if you plan in advance. While you may only be a few months or away from your desired vacation week, booking a full year prior to your vacation is your best bet to getting maximum savings. A discount can sometimes be obtained for booking a year in advance because hotel and rental property owners want the cash and promise of return customers.

Planning a visit during the off-season is another great way to save whether you're planning for a rustic camping trip or a beach side stay. Hotel brochures and websites will tell you when the peak season is based on when the maximum number of tourists are expected. Lower rates are given during the off-season because there are fewer visitors.

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Choose Your Lodging Wisely

Choosing your type of lodging is the most important decision because it carries a great amount of cost that can't be reversed. Staying at a state park can be very affordable. If you’re not the outdoorsy type, don’t automatically disregard this option. Some state parks have modern cabins for guests who require air conditioning and running water.

If you choose to stay in a hotel or motel, look for coupon codes or loyalty programs. Some hotels offer discounts for return visits – if you stay four nights, your fifth will be free. Investigate these options before making a final decision, keeping in mind that you probably won't be spending much time inside your hotel room if you plan lots of other fun activities.

Eat Cheap

If you opt for a hotel, motel or even a bed-and-breakfast, you have the advantage of a continental breakfast. Don't miss it! When dining out, take advantage of free water. If you typically enjoy beer or wine, consider eliminating alcohol to keep more money in your pocket. Pack food before heading out on the road so you can avoid high-priced convenience stores. Whether you opt to stay in a hotel or a less populated place, shop from a grocery store and prepare the bulk of your meals on your own instead of eating out. Designating one meal per day as a dining out meal and making this a special occasion will also reduce your food expenses. If you choose to eat at a chain restaurant, you may be able to anticipate their deals if those are similar to the specials or coupons offered in your area.

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Play For Less

Paying for the things you’ll be doing on vacation is another aspect to plan. Be sure there is an ample amount of activities that are low-cost or no cost. An amusement park vacation has more potential to tempt you to deviate from your spending plan than a week long vacation at a secluded beach, so keep these things in mind when choosing your destination. If your family is content to spend all day at the beach soaking up the sun and surf, that’s a day of free fun. If not, find activities that provide hours of fun for little money. Activities might include visiting a museum, zoo or historical monument.

Create a Staycation

When all else fails, and you’ve considered these extreme vacation saving tips, you may decide that a vacation is still not feasible this year. In that case, create a staycation with family or friends that will energize you and give you some of the same rewards as a vacation.

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© 2013 erinshelby

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      Cathy Mayer 15 months ago

      Thanks for your brilliant insights! I can recommend a hotel booking site which provides cheap hotel rates. You may try RoomHopper.com, have been using them for a long time and so far they are really helping me to save more on my hotel bookings.

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