Here comes vacation season! Spring break is just around the corner with summer hot on its heels. While I’m excited for both, I’m not looking forward to the wince-inducing bill for whatever beach house or mountain cabin my family occupies on our getaway. Demand created by the strong economy has driven rental property prices to new heights, especially in popular areas such as our favorite, Florida’s 30-A beaches.
This reality makes it even more important to find ways to economize while taking a break.
Here are seven ways to save money on vacation, courtesy of Dave Ramsey.
1. Take more, shorter vacations. Admit it. There is such a thing as a too-long vacation. If you spend just 4-5 days at your destination, you’ll save money and have time to relax at home before returning to real life. Use some of your savings to take another short trip.
The research I did for my book, You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think, indicates that the happiest retirees take more vacations than their peers.
2. Drive. If your getaway location is six or seven hours away by car, you will save both time and money by driving. Gas is cheap, airline tickets average $379 per person, and flying has become a grind, especially with the kiddos in tow.
3. Search out deals. With a little bit of effort, you can almost certainly find discounts on every aspect of your trip, from accommodations to food to admission to attractions. Doing this research will get you excited for the vacation and likely save you significant money. Enlist the whole family and turn the savings search into a game.
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4. Do less. Trying to cram too much into a vacation visit is stressful for the family and the wallet. Instead, do one or two activities per day and then retire to the hotel room or pool for a nap or swim. Save something for next time.
5. Dine in. Restaurants are expensive. The tab at even a cheap chain eatery will run you an average $12.17 per person. You can reduce that cost by booking a hotel room with a refrigerator and eating one meal per day in your room. When selecting a hotel, factor in whether they offer a free breakfast.
6. Avoid the theme park food. Eat a big breakfast before hitting the park. Pack a cooler with sandwiches and eat lunch in the car in the parking lot. If policy permits, stash some treats in your purse or bag to hold the kids until dinner. Thirsty kids can find relief at the water fountain.
7. Buy practical souvenirs. Be honest. How long before that mouse-ears hat goes into the trash? A scarf or cutting board made by a local artisan will provide years of use and memories.
Adopt even a few of these tips and you’ll get a bonus moment of joy from your vacation – when you check your balances and see that a week of fun hasn’t come at the expense of your long-term financial goals and dreams.