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Money-Saving Mama: Plan ahead to save on vacations

Posted: May 6, 2013 - 1:18pm

It’s that time of year where the summer is almost upon us and everyone starts thinking about their summer vacation. That could mean going by plane, boat or car and staying in either a hotel or campground. The options could be endless. The main thing is to plan a fun vacation while not spending a fortune.

The best way to save money on your vacation is to start by doing a lot of research. You probably already have an idea where you want to go but maybe not where you will be staying or what you will do when you get there. Most places have a Web site where you can look and find out what hotels or campgrounds are in the area. You can go down the list of places you want to stay depending on the amenities that your family needs.

You can find out from the Web site what the normal rate would be for a room. If you have AAA, AARP or another card that will give you a discount, make sure to use that when you are looking up the price. Using a site such as Priceline or other similar site is good as well, but before you make the reservation call the hotel directly to see if they can beat the price. There are times that you can call them and they will either beat the price or upgrade for the same price, so the phone call is worth the time.   This also works for plane reservations as well as a boat cruise. You don’t want to settle for the first price that you see or you will wind up spending more money than is necessary.

Once you have your destination and your place to stay decided, next it’s time to decide what you will do. When looking up Web sites for the area, you should be able to find a list of attractions. There are many free things to do anywhere you go, especially if you like outdoor activities. There are also places that may have a small fee but are well worth the money. Make a list of places that your family would like to visit or the places in the area to see and then go through and plan out where you will go. If you plan it out right, you can save money by going to different places in the same area on the same day. You can always save money when going to theme parks by packing your own cooler and leaving the park for lunch and returning afterward. Theme parks typically have higher prices on food so you can save a lot of money by bringing your own food.

If Disneyworld is your vacation this year, having a package deal is a great way to go because it involves your hotel room and park tickets and can even include your meals. If you are going to be celebrating a birthday of a family member while there, tell them this when making your reservations and they will help you celebrate it with all sorts of special things, including a badge that the birthday girl or boy wears while at the parks and everyone recognizes them for it. The one splurge I would recommend would be the character meal. While not cheap, it is so much fun to have that time with several of the characters while you are eating. If you are staying on property and only going to the parks, you can park your car at the hotel and ride the shuttle to and from the parks which saves a lot on gas while you are there. All of this adds up to saving big money while there.

A large part of vacations involves paying for food and souvenirs. Making plans ahead of time for how much you are willing to spend on souvenirs, setting aside the money and sticking to your budget keeps you from over spending and having to use credit cards. One thing that works for our family is having an envelope for each day for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks with the amount we are budgeting for each category written on the outside along with the date we will be using it. If you are gone for six days then there should be six envelopes with cash for each day. Then have an envelope with your money for souvenirs separate from your others along with an envelope with gas money. If you have an envelope with money for everything you do, you will not blow your budget and overspend.

One final thing to remember is this: you don’t have to spend a lot of money or go on a fancy and expensive vacation to make wonderful memories with your family. The object is to spend time together and to get away from your normal life at home. It doesn’t take a lot to accomplish this, so make plans, do the work now and you will have a great time with less stress on your vacation.

KAREN GREEN CAN BE BOOKED TO TEACH COUPON CLASSES AND CAN BE REACHED AT BUDGETCOUPONS@COMCAST.NET.

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