Saving money for a family vacation might seem impossible, but there are ways you can save before you go and while on holiday. These hacks and tips will help you not blow your budget or max out your credit cards while enjoying a relaxing, fun family vacation.

By Barbara L. Nelson, content writer

Planning Ahead

1. Set up an automatic vacation savings plan

Setting up a dedicated vacation savings account to help save for your next vacation is relatively quick and easy. How it works is that a predetermined amount is withdrawn from your checking on specific dates and deposited into your dedicated vacation savings account.

There are several benefits to using a separate vacation savings account. You can earn interest on the money you save, and you can choose a high-yield savings account that allows you to earn even more interest on your balance. But be cautioned that there can be stiff penalties for withdrawing the funds earlier than scheduled. However, the psychological benefit of having a dedicated vacation fund may help you to stick to your savings plan because it’s progress you can see.

2. Set up a budget, and use an app to track spending

If you don’t have a budget, setting one up will help you track your spending and also allow you to see and cut unnecessary spending. Make sure you include everything you spend, like that cup of coffee at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. And with the use of a spending app and/or budgeting app to track your payments and purchases, you can stay within your budget. Using an app can be a huge eye-opener for some allowing them to see where their money is actually going.

Another way to stay within your budget on some purchases is to use a price comparison website or app, so you know you are getting the best bang for your buck. This price comparison can be used on everything from utilities and car insurance to household products.

Things to consider when budget planning:

  • Look at your outgoings – can anything be cut?
  • Can you pick up extra work, i.e. overtime?
  • What money-saving apps and websites can you use?
  • Are you sticking to a monthly budget? If not, where are you going over?
  • When eating out, are you taking advantage of coupons and specials?
  • What are the different little ways you could make money? For example, dog walking, cutting a neighbor’s lawn, dog or cat boarding or sitting, babysitting, and selling unused items as detailed below.

3. Sell Unwanted or Unused Stuff

Facebook Marketplace is a great place to sell items that are still usable. There are no fees, and although you may not get top dollar for your items, it’s still additional money you can use for vacation. There’s no limit to the items you can sell, from old exercise equipment, bicycles, clothes, jewlery, hand-made items, crafts, household items, and so on. If you are not using it, why not post it for sale? Make sure you are seeking a reasonable price by looking at similar items in your area.

Some websites buy old cell phones and other tech items like Envirophone and Mazuma Mobile. They will offer you an instant quote for your smartphone, even if it has some wear and tear. Why not recycle them and get some extra cash for your holiday?

Saving Tips for Planning Your Vacation

So, now that you’ve cut your budget, and saved for vacation, here’s how you can make it go further while on vacation. First, discuss with Damon’s Getaways what your overall vacation spending will be. Travel agents know the best deals in every locale and have that information at their fingertips. They will have the inside track on how you can save money on flights, hotels, tours and more. But here are a few tips that may assist you in planning ahead.

4. Save on Hotel Stays

How much time will you actually stay in your hotel room while on vacation? If the answer is very little, perhaps you don’t need all the amenities that a luxury hotel has to offer. Discuss with Damon’s Getaways what amenities you would like and ones you don’t need. Let them know what you plan on doing while in that locale so they can check hotels in that vicinity.

Also, staying away from the city center may help to reduce the cost of your hotel stay. Often hotels close to all the tourist attractions cost more. Check to see if there is mass transit that you can easily hop on near the hotel you choose by looking at it on Google Maps. Also, you can search popular tourist attractions to see how easily it might be to get there from the proposed accommodation by mass transit. Taxis are often an expensive way to get to attractions and events, whereas buying a transit pass may save you the money you can spend elsewhere enjoying your trip.

5. Plan Meals Ahead Of Time

Before traveling, do some research or ask your travel agent for restaurant options, review travel guides, and find restaurants you don’t want to miss. When you find restaurants you like, be sure to add them to your Google Maps or compile a list with addresses and phone numbers.

You’ll find that most cities offer a diversity of options for every budget and palette. And most travel sites will rank each restaurant from expensive to budget with $ signs. Also, you don’t have to eat at a 5-star eatery every day of your trip. Perhaps plan one or two dress-up nights where you can enjoy a night out while the remainder, you can dine at reasonably priced eateries. However, some cities are just more expensive, like New York, London, or Paris, where you will need to budget more for eating out.

If you are lucky enough to have a kitchenette in your hotel, look for local markets and plan to purchase food for other meals. You will save a fortune making some meals or even selecting food for a picnic. At a minimum, pick up snacks to extend your time between meals and purchase drinks.

6. Plan Ahead on Attractions and Tours

The first step is to research the tourist attractions and activities that you want to do. Consult with your travel agent on discounts for tours and attractions. Plan each day, giving you some leeway for an unplanned free day just to relax or do whatever that day brings.

Another way to get your money’s worth before you book is to look at reviews for each tour operator. More than 90% of consumers say reading reviews helps them in their buying decisions. And this will prevent you from choosing a tour operator who isn’t up to par and chance ruining the day.

If you are going to book your tours in advance, make sure you check with your travel agent first, as they often have discounts the general consumer isn’t privy to. However, booking activities in advance is almost always more cost-effective than same-day or onsite booking.

7. Find Free Activities To Save Money

Wherever you vacation, there are always free things to do. And now, there are so many apps that offer city audio/walking tours that you can download and enjoy. Here are nine of them. There are also vacation games like geocaching and scavenger hunt apps to entertain the kids.

Also, check out if local museums have free entrance days. You could also plan your free day and find a local park or public beach and have a picnic, fly a kite or just relax. Most cities have historical sites and attractions that are free to walk around or visit an old section of town and meander through the shops and galleries.

8. Travel In Low Season To Avoid Overpaying

This would definitely be something you would want to consult your travel agent about. Damon’s Getaways can tell you what time of year will give you the best vacation for your buck anywhere in the world. And when not to go, like during hurricane season in the Caribbean.

For everything you buy, supply and demand come into play. And it’s no different with booking a vacation. Every destination has a high season when prices are inflated, meaning it is the most popular time to go, and you will pay the most. For budget travelers who want to save money,  shoulder season or even low season would be the best time to go.

For example, if your heart is set on Europe, avoid it at all costs during the summer. You can find inexpensive destinations, but it certainly is harder. For most countries in Europe, low or shoulder season starts in late fall and ends mid-spring. However, those dates are exactly when it is high season in the southern United States, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Traveling during the off or shoulder season can also be a better experience. You’re not fighting with giant crowds to get into restaurants or popular tourist attractions or just to take a picture. Sometimes the weather can be tricky, but just consult your travel agent on what to pack for that time of year.

9. Use Credit Card Points, airline or Hotel Points

Not every credit card offers travel benefits, and if they do, each one is different. It pays to do a little research to find the best one available to you. With most major credit cards that have specific travel benefits, you can use the points to pay for airfare, hotel rooms, and other expenses.

Some of the best travel reward credit cards do have a fee, but it is worth it if you travel or want to travel a lot. If you don’t want to pay a fee, a few have lower-end options without a fee, but the travel rewards aren’t as good.

Another option is hotel reward points or airline points if you travel a lot. Also, loyalty programs do have benefits you should explore. Tell your travel agent about your loyalty programs when booking, as each stay, you accumulate points.

10. Choose A Budget-Friendly Destination Where Your Dollar Goes Further

Damon’s Getaways can make sure you stick to your vacation budget by finding a destination where your dollar goes farther!

First, determine what time of year you plan on going, then decide what type of activities you want to enjoy while on vacation. Do you want a beach vacation? Do you want to escape into nature? Do you want a lot of family activities? Do you want to experience a different culture? Do you want to visit several islands on a cruise? Once you determine what type of vacation you want, then you can determine where you can go and what fit’s your budget.

Let’s say you want to go to the Caribbean because you want a winter getaway in the sun, but you can only afford “x” amount of money. There are several island destinations as well as Mexican vacations that you can enjoy while still on a budget. And cruises are always an option if you want to see more than one location. Your travel agent will know all the hotels, resorts and tour operators that run specials throughout the year.

Contact Damon’s Getaways to book your next vacation. Saving you money is one of our top priorities, along with making sure you enjoy your vacation.