The time of year is quickly approaching when people start making their travel plans, but with gas prices above average, some wonder if they can afford to go on vacation. The answer is yes, with a little planning and research.
You should pick a few destinations, but to keep from being overwhelmed, pick no more than three destinations that you would like to travel to this year. Picking up to three destinations will allow you to see what you can afford to do. For example, flying to certain areas is more expensive than flying to others. Additionally, hotel and car rentals can be more expensive in certain areas as well.
After you have picked your destinations, sit down and think about what you can afford to spend. Once you have established a grand total of what you can spend make a list of your travel expenses. This can include airline tickets, car rental, gas (you will need to include this figure whether you are renting a car or driving your own), food, and attractions you would like to visit. You may consider also adding a category for things that will need to be purchased prior to traveling. These prior purchases can put a dent in your vacation budget before you even depart. When you have established your budget items, start putting in numbers for your budget. For example, find out how much it is to fly to your destinations and then put this number beside airfare. Go through your list and do the same with your other budget items. This exercise will help you pick a destination. Once you have finished filling in your budget items, look at your destinations and decide which is more likely to fit into you pre-established budget. This will be your destination choice.
Now the research begins. Take each budget item and start researching the specials through the Internet. You can consult discount travel websites and many companies now offer a low price guarantee. Meaning if you fly a certain airline, that airline may guarantee that they will have the lowest price available on the Internet. If you find one lower on a discount travel site, call the airline and see what you can negotiate. This same scenario holds true for hotels and car rentals agencies as well. Look into combo deals that offer airfare, hotel, and car rental. Sometimes these will save you money as well.
If you have time, sign up for e-newsletters from your favorite travel companies. Sometimes air, hotel, and car rental companies will give their e-newsletter customers a special deal such as percentage off or a free night. When it comes to air, hotel, or car rental see if you have any points or travel miles and try to use these. If you do not have a program like this, sign up for one starting with your vacation. That way in the future you will have the opportunity to save even more money.
Once you have established a good idea of what it will cost to get where you are going, you can turn your attention to food and extras. Research the things you would like to do and write them all down with their price. Again, this is just meant to be quick and easy. Once you have written everything down go through your list and think about what you would really like to do. When you look at your budget for entertainment, go for the more expensive activities if those activities are what you want to do. Going for a vacation that is filled with fewer activities that really excite you is better than having a lot of activities that merely just entertain you. Exciting activities will make your vacation more memorable in the end. Next look at your food needs. Research coupons that may be available and in fact you could even go so far as picking out the restaurants before leaving. Visiting specific restaurants websites will give you an extra advantage since sometimes they may place coupons on their website. If you go this route, you may even consider signing up for an e-newsletter, as many companies will place coupons in their e-newsletter also. Next consider whether or not you could eat a few meals in your room. Depending on the hotel room you stay in, you may have a refrigerator or mini-kitchen. If this is the case, consider purchasing some breakfast items and perhaps lunch items. Cutting down on the amount of meals that must be eaten out will save you some significant money. Last but not least, bring your own snacks if allowable. Theme parks and other places are notorious for their high prices on snack food and drinks. Bringing your own will also save you some significant change.
Also, consider purchasing travel insurance. Nothing is worse than spending money that is not refundable only to have a sick child or other event that prevents you from traveling. Many times discount websites will offer their own version that protects your purchase. Usually it is for a nominal fee and will protect you in the case of cancellation. Many travel insurance policies will guard against your travel plans, luggage, and provide health insurance. If you are going out of the country, purchasing travel insurance in an absolute must. Most private insurance plans will not cover out of the country emergencies. However, a travel insurance plan will provide emergency medical care coverage as well as emergency transportation back home, if needed.
Following these tips will allow you to have a fun vacation at a more affordable cost.