For some families, March Break is a must do family get away time. Its half way between Christmas and summer vacation. Many people need or want a break from the snow doldrums. It sees a furry of fun seeking travellers across the country who are itching to escape the hustle and bustle of their daily lives and reconnect on a spring break trip with the family.
But no matter which destination parents choose or how much time they devote to the vacation-planning process, travelling with the kids can get expensive quickly and turn even the most relaxing getaway into a stressful event. And while many travellers spend time researching the best rates on flight and accommodations, they don’t spend time mapping out a spending plan for daily expenses.
The little things tend to add up fast. Whether it’s researching in advance how you’re going to get from the airport to your hotel or where you want to eat nightly, it’s vital to plan ahead.
While creating a budget is a key part of managing vacation costs, families often forget about their financial life planning goals when they’re having fun and end up spending more than they had planned for. It’s far too easy to splurge for all the little extras that make a vacation special.
Saving money when travelling doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality experiences. A little extra prep work goes a long way in keeping your budget in check. Plan ahead by reviewing these March Break budgeting-backed tips and tricks for avoiding them.
People often forget to add up how much it will cost to feed a family for a week or longer. Considering that food costs can account for more than 25 percent of total. Travel expenses, overspending on restaurant meals daily can quickly derail a travel budget. Food is often a lot more expensive than people realize, especially when you fall into vacation mode and wind up dining out for every meal.
Saving money on food doesn’t mean you have to skip on dining out altogether. Instead, try enjoying one meal at a restaurant and offsetting that expense by preparing other meals at your hotel or vacation rental. You can also find plenty of dining deals by looking for restaurants that offer happy hour specials or early bird promotions, along with free kids’ meals. Also consider looking for a hotel that includes free breakfast.
Also stay mindful of your spending on smaller items, such as bottled water, coffee, and snacks, which can easily tack on a few hundred dollars to a weeklong vacation. Curb costs by stocking up inexpensive snacks, such as granola bars, crackers, fruit cups and trail mix, at a local grocery store.
Alcohol is another often-overlooked travel expense. This is especially true if you’re going to drink at restaurants, bars or on your cruise ship. Avoid the high markups on cocktails, wine and beer found at pool bars and restaurants by enjoying a drink in your hotel room or condo rental. Otherwise, speak with the concierge at your hotel to find out if there are any happy hour specials nearby.
It’s natural to want to see and do as much as you can to make the most of your trip but booking an excursion every day can quickly drain your travel budget. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to save money without skimping on fun. First, book the activities that are most important to you and your family. Then, look for free activities, such as visiting the beach, exploring the downtown city area, or going on a hike. If you want to learn more about a city’s history or architecture, many cities and destination spots have free guides you can print or walking tours and maps to download. There are also many apps like Google Trips and TripIt that can assist as well. Just google it.
You can also snag discounts on attractions, adventure activities and spa bookings through location-based deal sites such as Groupon. Some attractions may offer discounts for purchasing passes online in advance, while others offer discounted or free admission during certain days of the week, so do a quick internet search to figure out when and where to go for the best deals.
Travellers often focus on scoring the cheapest airfare and forget about how they’ll get to and from the airport. But if you don’t plan ahead, you could find yourself stuck with limited options that cost more in time and money. Sometimes there are trains or buses that offer the best value, but other times an Uber or taxi might save you the most money and time. Figure out what best suits your needs and go with it.
If you’re planning to drive yourself to the airport when heading out of town, research long-term affordable airport parking options online. Most parking lots are open 24 hours a day and offer regular shuttle service. Look for a parking lot with a high user rating to ensure you’re leaving your car in trusted hands.
Travellers rely on their phones daily, from accessing directions to requesting Uber or Lyft rides to posting pictures on social media accounts to researching activities. Those who don’t pay attention to their data usage may get caught paying pricey extra fees. Dodge additional costs by turning off pop-up notifications and turning on the Wi-Fi locator to find free hot spots wherever you are. It’s also a wise idea to track data usage. Again, there are many available apps online to know when you’re close to reaching your usage limit. And if you’re travelling outside the country, find out if your carrier offers coverage where you’re going.
Foreign transaction fees
If you’re travelling abroad over spring break, it’s important to review your credit card provider’s terms and conditions to sidestep steep foreign transaction fees, which are typically between 2 and 3 percent for every purchase. For those who travel internationally often, look for a no foreign transaction fee credit card ahead of your trip. Otherwise, limit card purchases and opt to use local currency.
Picking up a memento from your vacation may seem inexpensive, but many travellers end up exceeding their budgets by purchasing several souvenirs. Considering that knickknacks lose their lustre quickly, it’s important to be mindful of how much you spend on travel souvenirs. Instead, capture memories from your trip by printing pictures or make a digital album using apps like Shutterfly. Otherwise, give your children a souvenir allowance and buy them a gift card loaded with a set amount. Once the money is gone, it’s gone. This will not only save parents on money spent but also it teaches children a valuable lesson about budgeting.
You may have noticed that I did not focus on the hotels or airfare but more on some of the often-overlooked budget killers. The little things. They can get out of hand, especially with cash in hand. It is important to ensure that if you need to budget for your vacation, that the little things are factored in. The larger expenses are usually prepaid or clearly identified before travelling.
It’s the last-minute purchases that can catch up on you silently and make an affordable trip into one with large credit card balances when you get home. Sometimes, it is the shock of opening your credit card statements and mobile phone invoices when you get home that cause the gravity of your spending to sink in. The solution is to be as prepared as you can before you travel and doing your research before hand. Learning is often by example or through experience. But learning is fundamental to Keeping Life Current.