No one says you have to hand over your hard-earned money to get away for some rest and relaxation. Use your travel smarts, and get a foot ahead of your budget by spending less and getting more from your holiday.
I’ve done my fair share of travelling around the world, starting in my 20s. The first place I travelled to was the Canary Islands. I didn’t budget for that trip, and I learned some valuable lessons about budgeting and travelling for my future holidays. I spent far more money than anticipated at the beginning of my trip because I didn’t do my homework. Combine that with not having a set amount of money to spend, and it can equal budget disaster. My thought was that I’d spend as I wished and deal with the bills later because I knew I had money in the bank. But that wasn’t a smart spender attitude.
Here are my budget-friendly ideas to save money for your holiday travels.
Use a budget
If you don’t have a monthly budget, now is a great time to create one and start using it. Knowing how much money you’re bringing in and how much is going out will help you with your travel plans. Once you pay your fixed expenses, you’ll have a better idea of how much money you have left to play with.
Set a travel budget amount
This amount depends on how much you can afford to save from your monthly budget each month. Setting up a monthly budget, knowing where you want to go and having a general idea of the cost will help you to set the budget amount needed to travel and then to save for that amount. If you have a travel budget of $600, then you’re limited to whatever $600 will get you. If you want to stretch your $600-budget, you might have to stay in a tent rather than at a hotel.
If you know your holiday is going to be in September and it’s already March, that leaves you six months to save up for that holiday. Let’s say the trip will cost you $4,000. That means starting from March, you’ll need to set aside approximately $666 each month in a travel or a projected expenses account. Using this simple save-and-spend model means the money will be ready to go when you are. You won’t have to put the expenses of your trip on credit cards or a line of credit.
Rewards credit cards
If you pay off your credit card bill each month, you can easily earn rewards miles or points to use for your upcoming vacation. Check with your credit card provider to see what rewards or perks it has to offer, and take advantage of the free money-making opportunities coming your way.
Research your trip
Do your homework by reading free travel books from the library or by researching online. Once you settle on a place to go, then purchase a travel book, preferably one with maps that can help you navigate large cities.
Plan your trip
Ask yourself what you want your ideal holiday to provide for you. What do you want to do? What do you want to see? Do you need a visa (which will require travelling costs to the consulate)? Do you need any vaccinations? Are the vaccinations covered by your provincial or work health insurance plan? Travel insurance can drive the budget up, as some places can be more expensive than others.
Eat at local restaurants
When travelling, I normally eat at local restaurants, as I tend to find a better choice of food that’s almost always cheaper than eating at tourist resort restaurants. It’s the food that drives resort businesses, not just room bookings. All you’re going to get from a resort restaurant is a Westernized resort menu experience.
Never book all-inclusive
If you book an all-inclusive vacation, you might find yourself struggling to leave the resort to enjoy what your surroundings have to offer. Since you prepaid for all your food and drinks, why would you leave, right? Well, that leads me to ask, why did you go on holidays if you won’t venture out from the resort?
Keep it simple
If your plan is to have fun on a beach, try staying local rather than going to somewhere costly, like St. Lucia, for example, especially if your vacation is during the hot summer months. Alternatively, go somewhere cheaper, like Florida, if you’re looking for a beach holiday. Why go to Hawaii and sit around the pool at a resort for two weeks when you can do exactly the same thing in Florida for half the price?
If you plan to go out and explore what your vacation spot has to offer, then that’s a different story. But filling your agenda with plans to soak up the rays, play sports, eat good food and drink margaritas means you can save money by enjoying the heat closer to home. Another alternative is to take a short weekend trip, which is just enough to give you a few days away from everyday life.
Don’t go travelling during Canadian holiday periods, as prices are higher then. If the cost for going somewhere is $1,000 during the first week in August, see if you can wait to go until the last week in September, when the kids are back in school and prices tend to drop. The other advantage of travelling off-season is that you won’t have to contend with crowds of other vacationers.
Last-minute deals online
You don’t really need to stay at a five-star hotel, as you’ll be there for only a short duration. A clean, basic room with towels and a full bathroom is more than enough for any savvy traveller. I’ve only ever used a hotel to sleep in. I didn’t take photos of my hotel room; I wanted to get out and see the surroundings. Staying at a three-star hotel means not paying an arm and a leg, and you can find many deals for such hotels online.
Skip the travel agent
I’ve never used a travel agent to plan my trips, as that requires paying agent fees. I’ve always just booked online or over the phone. If you do enough research, then you won’t need the services of a travel agent. You can find pictures of the hotels and resorts online. Besides, you should never plan your vacation based on just one person’s recommendation. Their idea of a holiday might be completely different from yours. When you search online, you’ll find plenty of reviews from other travellers, which can give you a better idea about the place you’re considering spending your holiday.
Going over budget
Give yourself some budget room for unexpected extras. I’ve sometimes spent more than my budget allowed because some things were too good to pass up. Having a once-in-a-lifetime experience — such as taking a plane ride around Mount Everest, something I hadn’t planned but which fell into my lap, so I jumped on the opportunity — is always money well spent. Don’t have regrets; make memories that will last a lifetime.
Some people save cash by backpacking, and if that’s your thing, go for it. But be warned that this is more of a physical type of holiday, with no creature comforts. Don’t expect to get room service or a shower each day, depending on where you’re travelling. For some travel nerds, backpacking gives them a sense of freedom, one that’s worth the hard edges that come with roughing it.
Using public transportation rather than renting a car or tour guide is a smart way to get around town without costing you more than anticipated. There is an inherent fun about finding your way around and learning as you go, if that’s the type of person you are. Staying in youth hostels, which bunk about eight people per room, might run you $10 a night and is a frugal way to travel.
Going on holiday doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you take the proper steps to make your dream getaway memorable and budget-friendly. Start the process early, and remember that a trip worth planning is a trip worth enjoying, even on the smallest of budgets.