5 Ways to Get the
Best Value for
Your Vacation Dollar
Get Away on the Cheap
How Do You Save for a Vacation?
"Mom, can we go to Disney World?"
"Our family survey reports Yosemite is the best family vacation spot in the U.S."
"We need to visit the relatives this year, but we just can't afford it." Have these conversations been heard in your house? Taking a vacation today has become incredibly expensive. A trip to Disney World? For some families this seems easy, for mine it would take a winning lottery ticket or an act of God. So many households are struggling just to get all the bills paid every month, so taking a vacation can take a backseat. The truth is though it is these very families who really need that vacation. If you are scrimping and saving all the time, the idea of cutting loose and ...spending can be pretty liberating. So what are some ways to get that family vacation? First of all you need to have a plan.
Where do you want to go? Discuss this as a family. Are you going to Aunt Martha's in the next county or are you going to EuroDisney? If you are really stretched financially, start small. We found we could afford a 4-day weekend to a nearby city. We hit museums, zoos, restaurants, and historical monuments. Research your destination. Use the library, the Internet, a relative or friend in the area. We found a great restaurant for kids we never would have known about if I hadn't asked a cousin about it. Once you have your destination decided write it down on a savings worksheet. Put the worksheet on the front of the refrigerator. This helps your family to remember the goal you have set.
What travel arrangements will you need? Are you going by car, plane, bus, train? Once you know how you're going to get there come up with a cost of your travel accommodations. If you're going by car, don't forget to add the gas. Try to get a bottom line total of how much it will cost you to travel there and back and add it to your chart.
What kind of lodgings will you require? If you're staying with relatives, great! If not, find hotel rates in the area and figure out (1) how much it will take per night and (2) how much the total bill will be for your family. Add this to your chart. What kind of entertainment/meal money would you require? Plan the expense of eating out. If you rent a one of the family suites now so popular, you can save substantial amounts on your food bill. We stayed at a suite with a microwave, sink and refrigerator. We brought soda, cereal, milk, bread and sandwich meat from the local grocery store. This way we ate out for dinner and maybe lunch. Figure out how much you want to spend per day on restaurant meals. Then add it together to get a total. Add this to the chart.
Then think about what you will do at your destination. If you are going to a museum, how much will it cost for your family to get in? Swimming with the dolphins? How much? My niece once saved her birthday money to get to do this and I thought it was great way to teach her why we save for things. Decide what you want to do and then calculate how much each activity will cost and put it on the chart.
Now, add it all together and take a deep breath. This may be the point where you have to modify! Maybe not. How are you ever going to get all that cash together? I can't guarantee these strategies will get it the total amount for you, but they just might help.
On top of all these things, find ways to generate extra money by collecting cans, baby-sitting, tutoring, whatever you can do. You may not reach your total vacation expenditure, but these strategies will help provided you remember to squirrel away what you've saved. If you buy a pair of jeans for $1.00 at a yard sale then write a check to your vacation fund for the other $18.00(or more) you would have spent at the store.
Families need vacations to rest and rejuvenate from the busy lives we lead. Take a small one or a big one, but try to find a way to take a vacation!
Teresa Higginbotham is also known as "Tightwad Tess." Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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