For many, taking a family vacation is an annual tradition. Whether it’s visiting relatives across the state, seeing old friends across the country, or flying to some far-off region on an adventure, more than two-thirds of Americans report that they plan to take a vacation this summer. They’re budgeting $2,373 on average for their vacation travel, which is a lot of money! Luckily, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) has tips to help you and your family save money on your vacation this summer.
Generally, the longer you give yourself to research different vacation destinations, the better chance you’ll have of finding a good deal. Many popular summer destinations fill up quickly, and if there is a particular attraction you want to visit, you’ll want to know if it’s likely to sell out. What’s more, by doing research online into different housing options (hotels, rental properties, or campgrounds) while they are all still available, you’ll have the opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of each of them and see if you can save money.
If you’re considering flying, research the general price range of flights. That will give you time to monitor sales and find a ticket within your budget. Having your dates for the summer in advance also gives you the opportunity to set online price alerts and monitor airlines for any sales that airlines may have weeks or even months in advance of your travel dates.
Have Some Flexibility
If you and your travel companions are the spontaneous type, there are many websites that offer last-minute deals. This is a great option for people who just want to get away but don’t necessarily have a destination in mind. Start by identifying a block of dates that work and defining a few parameters for what you want in a vacation – perhaps you’d like to visit a city where you can watch a baseball game, or you’re looking to spend some time lounging by the pool in temperatures warmer (or cooler) than the weather at home. Once you’ve come up with dates and some general destination goals, begin searching for locations that meet your requirements and see what sort of deals may be available. In particular, the option of combining hotel and airfare through a travel website can often save hundreds of dollars if you’re not particular about the airline you fly or hotel chain you’re staying in. You may also want to consider non-traditional options such as Air B&B and Vacation Rental by Owners. A word of caution: be sure to use only reputable, vetted websites, and with any travel purchase take the time to understand the refund and cancellation policies before you make a purchase.
Use Those Points!
Travel rewards points – and points from credit and debit cards that can be converted to be used for travel – are a great way to save some money. Despite this, the American Institute of CPAs has found that only 7% of all Americans used reward points to pay for part of their last vacation.
You can change that! You’ve already gone through the process of spending your money to earn the points, so getting a hotel room or flight for free or at a discount is your reward. Many people don’t realize the true value of their points. Luckily there are multiple websites that specialize in this type of information.
No matter what your plans are this summer, before you book your travel you should have a plan in mind to pay off the costs without incurring interest charges. Vacations should be about getting away and having fun. You should be left with photos and memories, not credit card debt.
Your CPA Can Help
Careful planning for a memorable trip is just one budget tip to help you keep on track to meet your financial goals. For more personal finance tips, visit www.picpa.org/moneyandlife.