How to save BIG on your next vacation
What do you enjoy most about travelling? For some people, the pleasure of travelling is simply being in a specific location, like the beach or the mountains. For others, the pleasure of travelling is about enjoying the culture, like the people and food. No matter why you enjoy travelling, there can be high costs associated with your travel destination. But you don’t have to go into debt to go on that fancy vacation. Do not let the high cost of travel stop your vacation plans. I’m going to show you where most people spend their money when they travel and how careful planning can let you leave your vacation without going into debt. Careful planning can help reduce travel costs and can sometimes even make travel FREE!
The high costs of flying high
In 2013, the U.S. bureau of labor and statistics did a study that showed where most Americans spend their money when travelling. The results caught me by surprise. The top four categories of spending for travel are: transportation, lodging, food and entertainment. The categories themselves weren’t really a surprise, though, the surprise for me was the percentages of each of the spending categories, see below:
No surprise here, travelling to the spot is the biggest slice of travel pie. Whether it’s by plane or caravan, packing up and getting there is where most of your travel budget gets eaten.
Food (27%) & Lodging (26%)
This is what was most shocking to me, the food and lodging budget accounted for over 50% of the total trip expenses. Looking at the numbers, though, is even more insightful. Assuming two people go on vacation for 7 days, the average cost of food is 350$! If you read my article about eating away your retirement, you’ll remember that the study showed the average household food budget was a little over 400$. So, if you want to know why your travel budget is so high, look under your nose, you’re eating it!
The study highlights that, when on vacation, the frequency of eating out is high, and the costs are five times the amount of eating out versus preparing food.
Ways to $ave BIG on your next trip
Don’t let these high costs deter you from taking that family vacation! From a guy that’s flown all over the world, let me give you tips to take that dream vacation without breaking the bank.
Travel during non-peak times:
After you’ve chosen the spot for your next vacation, plan on going when everyone else is not. For example, Emily and I are going to Florida next April and will save about $1000 (just in lodging) by not going during the summer months.
If you’ve already decided on a destination but flexible on the dates you travel, keep on eye on your favorite airline. We LUV Southwest airlines, so I check their website about once a month for upcoming flights. Emily and I used our Southwest points to score two round-trip tickets to Cancun later this year for a total of 30,000 points. If we would have paid, it would have cost us $700 for two round trip flights, which is about half of what it would have cost if we had waited to book.
Live with the locals
If available in your destination, use sites like www.vrbo.com (vacation rentals by owner) to find great deals on houses in your favorite destinations. The advantage of using these sites is that you’re able to find houses in neighborhoods instead of living in a cramped hotel or condo. A huge benefit to these sites is that they also follow off-peak seasons, so you can snag a great deal if you plan ahead.
Eat like the locals
As exciting as it may be to try a new restaurant each night, if you want to really get the full experience of where you’re staying, eat like the locals. Instead of paying high prices for restaurant food, go out to the local farmers market, pick up produce and ask the locals how they would prepare it. Domestic or abroad, people love to share their local cuisine and recipes, and it’s a fun cooking / learning experience!
Travel with miles
(DISCLAIMER: Do not do this if you are broke or do not know how to handle money. YOU WILL LOSE. YOU WILL FAIL. THEY ARE COUNTING ON IT.)
Some people may refer to this as “travel-hacking”, but it’s simply using miles or points to reduce or eliminate the cost of travelling. Have you ever been walking through the airport and someone is standing at a little booth trying to get you to sign up for their credit card in exchange for 50,000 miles? Most big airlines and hotel chains have credit card partners that they do business with.
I’ve personally used credit cards from Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and Hyatt Hotels to rack hundreds of thousands of points. The principle is simple, you sign up / use the credit card, they give you points/miles, you use those miles towards travel expenses. It may seem complicated but it’s really not. Emily and I are going to Cancun later this year absolutely FREE using miles on Southwest, and points on Hyatt (this trip would have cost over $4,000 if we didn’t use our miles/points).
Cruise the high seas (all inclusive)
If you’re more inclined to getting an all inclusive vacation stay, opt for taking a cruise. Emily and I use sites like www.vacationstogo.com to find last minute deals on some of the best cruises around the world! I’ve been on five cruises, including a trans-atlantic cruise, and this is by far the simplest and most efficient way to travel. On vacationstogo.com you can search by date and port you want to sail from and find thousands of great deals. The thing I love about cruises is that you pay one price for an all-inclusive trip, including the lodging, food, on board amenities, and some pretty awesome on-board entertainment.
With careful planning you can take the vacation of your dreams for a fraction of the cost. Travelling during off-peak seasons and using miles/points can drastically reduce the cost of getting to your family’s favorite spot. Once you’re there, live and eat like the locals and immerse yourself in the local food & culture.
I hope you use these tips to save on your next vacation and look forward to hearing your stories!