Saving for that Summer Vacation

Most of us look forward to our vacation each year. Some trek off to exotic destinations, others go back to the same lakeside cabin season after season, while still others of us just stay home and relax. But regardless of where you yearn to vacate, you can make it the holiday you want it to be – without shooting your bank account straight through the heart – by taking heed of the following simple tips:

  • Save up! If you have four-to-six months before your vacation rolls around, start socking away ten to fifteen percent of your income in a vacation fund. Having these funds available when you go on vacation will soften the financial blow because, let's face it, getaway excursions can be expensive. (If you're taking a cruise or booking another all-inclusive vacation, you should plan on purchasing your trip six months before you want to travel in order to get the best prices.)
  • Shop around! Many destinations offer special prices and discounts for combining travel and accommodations through their own websites or travel sites. But don't let that stop you from talking with a professional travel agent. One ten-minute phone call to a knowledgeable agent can often be as fruitful as hours of online research. They can tell you the in- and off-season times for any particular destination and also when the best prices are likely to come along. Then you can go back to the web to further refine your searches. Additionally, always tell the agent you consulted about what you found online. Some travel agencies will price-match at least a portion of a trip, and booking through an agent may offer other benefits not available with online booking. You won't know unless you inquire.
  • Budget for those 'while-you're-there' expenses! Check out the prices for food and other items that you may want or need in your destination area, especially if you've never been there before. But be truthful with yourself; don't plan to spend twenty dollars per person for dinner when you know you'll probably want to spend at least thirty. Budget accordingly. Then, when you get there (and this is a biggie), spend accordingly, too. This point is crucial; it can make or break your vacation. You don't want to have your first four days be wonderful, but only at the expense of being absolutely broke for the final three.
  • Take along an emergency credit card! Don't bring this credit card with the intent of using it. Don't take it out with you, but don't leave it in your room. Put it in the hotel's safe or safe deposit box. This action serves two purposes. First, you won't be tempted to buy more trinkets to take home with you; and second, it ensures that you'll have backup funds in the event of a real emergency – such as if your wallet gets stolen or someone gets hurt.

Some of these tips may seem to only apply to 'going-away' destinations, but look at it in another light. If you save for your vacation even if you just plan to stay home, you can hire daily maid service for the week and eat at the best local restaurants every night (or have them delivery to you). If you like to spend time outdoors, there are travel agencies that specialize in RVing, canoeing and fishing destinations. Search around; you'll be able to find – and afford – just the type of 'getaway' that you've dreamed of.

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