Sunday, June 1, 2014

5 Money-Saving Tips for Summer Vacation Planning

As June comes steaming down the track, many parents prepare with many summer activities for the kids for those months when school is out. Finding meaningful activities that interest the children can quickly become a daunting, and rather expensive, task. Here are five tips for planning a summer vacation without putting the piggy bank on the chopping block.
How to Save Money on Summer Vacation Plans - Photo from Wikimedia Commons
#1 Determine your budget...and stick to it

Before looking at camps, activities, and travel ideas, step back and determine how much money you plan to spend during the summer. Include preparatory costs, such as application fees, parking fees, uniforms for summer sports, preventive maintenance on the vehicle, and the cost of gas. Recognize that gas prices may be higher in popular vacation spots and during summer months.

How much money have you saved? What are your specific plans to cover the extra cost? Making plans without having a clear financial plan is like jumping out of a plane and then looking to see if you have a parachute. You are likely to regret the lack of planning somewhere along the downward spiral of credit card debt.

Involve the kids in the planning process. Although you might have always gone to a certain place or done a particular summer activity in the past, sometimes traditions become stale and the money might be better invested in something else or a new tradition. Give your family permission to assess and evaluate what is working and what is not and plan accordingly.
How to Avoid Spending Too Much on Summer Vacation © Katrena
#2 Plan months ahead

Those who have limited financial resources may find it particularly prudent to look at summer camp and activities months in advance. Many camps for children may offer scholarships. Early applications might be more successful because funds may be more readily available. Those who wait until the deadline might find that the scholarship funds have dried up.

Some campgrounds and hotels fill up months in advance; it helps to lock in reservations as early as possible. This also enables you to have more choices regarding room and campsite location. Weather is never guaranteed, so it helps to have indoor and outdoor plans in place so you can enjoy the vacation whether or not it rains.
Save Money on Food While on Summer Vacation - Photo by Jon Sullivan
#3 Limit eating out

The food portion of the budget can rapidly add large expenses to an already strained budget. Although it takes more planning and work, cooking while on vacation can be a cost effective way to keep costs down. Take advantage of free meals, such as a complimentary breakfast at a hotel if possible. Learn how to cook over a fire if you plan to camp in a tent.

Ensure that you have all supplies for cooking if you are planning to prepare meals while you are out. It is easy to forget items such as an oven mitt, can opener, sharp knife, spices like salt, condiments like catsup, or pots if you are used to eating out for all meals while on vacation. If you forget those items, you might check to see if there is an inexpensive discount store nearby – those items tend to have inflated prices at campgrounds and convenience stores.
How to Find Discounts When Traveling with Kids - Photo by Missvain
#4 Research options

Many people who are traveling may be drawn to the big ticket tourist attractions, but those areas often have a great variety of "unsung" entertainment options as well. The area's Chamber of Commerce may give you tips about these less expensive travel ideas. Checking with social media friends may give you added ideas for local places to visit and avoid – be careful not to announce to everyone when you will be traveling for safety reasons. Rest areas, particularly those when entering the state, may provide loads of brochures about fun things to do within the state.

Some amusement parks and other attractions may offer discounts to various populations such as teachers or those in the military. Season passes tend to be cost effective for those who plan to visit an attraction several times during the year, and other facilities may offer reciprocal programs for those who purchase a season pass or membership to an affiliated facility. Online prices may be less expensive than purchasing a ticket in person – be careful to protect your privacy when making online purchases.

Save Money by Staying Home - Photo by Jessie Eastland
#5 Enjoy the moment and local activities

The local library is likely to have a summer reading program and a nice variety of speakers and activities. Playgrounds are often free and fun. County Parks and Recreation departments might offer free movies, entertainment, and even fireworks in the park. Churches often provide engaging activities for children for free or at a low cost. Some area attractions offer discounts to local residents.

A sunset might look as beautiful from the back yard as it appears from an expensive amusement park. Enjoying music, games, taking a walk, or scavenger hunts together may be a great way to connect and enjoy being together without the stress and added cost of traveling. Children may value simple times together with family and friends over money spent on extravagant vacations...and the lines are likely significantly shorter!

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