If you are among the 72 percent of Americans who travel for leisure, you know that vacations can be expensive.
American Express says the average weeklong trip can cost around $970 per person for hotels, meals, transportation, entertainment and other expenses.
Even though you set a budget before setting off for another city, state or country, you sometimes spend more than you planned. Invariably, you can blow past your vacation means by buying items on impulse or pushing your credit cards to their limit.
So, what can you do to stick to your budget and still enjoy time with your family and friends? Here are some tips:
Know how you will pay for expenses. CNBC.com says that you need to decide method of payment before heading out the door, especially if you are going out of the country. There could be extra fees tacked on for using your ATM card to withdraw cash from out-of-state banks. Credit cards are great for fraud protection, but they could have high interest rates. Plan what gets paid for with the credit card, the checking account and cash.
Pack grocery items. Bottled water, sodas and snacks can be twice as expensive when purchasing them at vending machines or in theme parks. There are many ways to keep your food cold during travel. You can borrow your kids’ lunch box or pick up a small soft-sided cooler. Remember, though, if you are traveling by air, you have to adhere to the Transportation Security Administration’s rules on carrying liquids.
Plan your meals. MoneyING.com says that if you decide where to eat when you are hungry, you are more likely to eat at a restaurant without considering costs. Decide on one or two big meals, and search the web for coupons or specials (like discounts for seniors).
Stay at budget hotels. The Travel Channel reports that new lines of budget hotels have gone "boutique" and have great amenities. These are not the “flea-bag” motels you hear about. Hilton Homewood Suites, Holiday Inn Express or Hampton Inns have kitchenettes, sitting rooms, full separate bedrooms and oversized baths. Many also offer free daily breakfast, free Wi-Fi, free happy hours and free dinners daily.
Leave the toiletries at home. Moneycrashers.com asks: Why are you packing shampoo, conditioner, soap and toothpaste? Those items are readily available at most hotels for free. In fact, there are manyhotel freebies that are ripe for the taking.
Travel during the “Shoulder Seasons”. Women’sDay.com says wants to get away during the summer. But there are also off-peak times when flights and hotel rooms are much less expensive. However, there's usually a reason that a destination is considered off-peak. So another money-saving option is to travel during "shoulder season," which is between summer and fall. For instance, April through May and mid-August through October are ideal times, when the weather's still nice but there aren't as many tourists.
Rent a car in the least expensive category for a full week. Minitime.com says that if you need a rental car for four or five days, you usually get socked with paying the high daily rate. Check the weekly rate instead. It often turns out to be cheaper to rent for seven days and return the car early. Also, when you are booking a rental car at a very busy destination (such as theOrlandoInternational Airport during a holiday week), reserve the least expensive category possible. The budget categories almost always sell out, so you’re likely to get an upgrade to a roomier model.
IRTA members qualify for many travel benefit. Click here to see what is available for hotels, restaurants, rental cars and travel packages.