Vacations aren’t just fun, they are important – a critical chance to set aside our daily cares and recharge our mental batteries. But there’s one thing you shouldn’t ditch when you take time off – your financial discipline. Blowing money on vacation might make for a few fun moments, but it will leave you with a money-related hangover when you get home.
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Here are seven ways to stop wasting money on vacation, courtesy of Dave Ramsey.
1. Drive. If your destination is just six-seven hours away, you will save both time and money by driving. Especially now. Gas is cheap, airline tickets average $377 per person, and airport security waits have grown crazy long.
2. Take more, shorter vacations. It is possible for a vacation to become a grind. Consider spending 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 those savings to take another (short) trip. My research into the secrets of a happy retirement for my book, You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think, indicates that the happiest retirees take more vacations than their peers.
3. Hunt down discounts. If you do your homework you can almost certainly find discounts on every aspect of your trip, from hotel rates to food to admission to attractions. Doing this research will get you excited for the vacation and likely save you significant money.
4. Buy practical souvenirs. How long before that $42 sombrero is headed to Goodwill? A coffee mug or cutting board made by a local artisan will provide years of use and memories.
5. Do less. While it’s tempting to try to wring all the juice out of a vacation destination, doing too much is ultimately stressful on 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.
6. Eat in your room. Restaurants are expensive – and not always healthy. The tab at a cheap chain eatery will run you an average $12.17 per person. You can reduce that bite by booking a hotel room with a fridge, picking up your favorite breakfast and lunch foods, and trying to eat one meal per day in your room. When booking your hotel, factor in whether they offer a free breakfast.
7. Avoid the theme park snacks. Skip the wildly over-priced turkey legs and fried Snickers bars. Eat a big breakfast and, if park policy permits, stash some treats in your purse or bag to hold the kids til the next meal. Direct thirsty kids (and spouses) to the water fountain.
Keep these tips in mind and you’ll get one final 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 over-arching financial goals and dreams.