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  • Planning a Trip?

    From searching for the best flight to finding the perfect hotel, you often spend hours planning the perfect vacation. It's easy to get caught up in the planning and forget about budgeting. Before planning your trip, it's important to start with a budget. Your budget should include a spending limit on transportation, lodging, food, souvenirs, and special attractions.

    Here are a couple tips to help you stick to your budget and avoid overspending, while still being able to enjoy your vacation.

    Travel during the off-season.

    The time of year you choose to go on vacation is a big factor in how much you will spend. If you travel during peak seasons or around a holiday, you're likely going to pay more for flights, a hotel, and special attractions. Instead, try booking your vacation during the off-season to save yourself some big bucks. Want to go to the beach? Go in the fall or winter. Other destinations such as oversees or big vacation spots have an off-season. You can typically find it out with a simple Google search.

    Plan your transportation.

    Transportation can take up a large portion of your budget, especially if you are flying. Not only will you need to plan how you're going to reach your destination, but you'll also need to plan how you're going to get around once you arrive. If your destination is within driving distance, you may want to consider driving there and save yourself from a costly plane ticket. Also, consider taking a train which may be more wallet-friendly than a plane. Other options to consider when you arrive are:

    • Rental Cars: If you go the route of booking a rental car, be sure to compare rates to find the best deal.
    • Rideshare: Apps like Uber and Lyft make getting around easier and more cost effective.
    • Public Transportation: Visiting an area that has public transportation? Consider traveling like the locals and save money in the process.

              (Read our Budget-Friendly Vacation article for finding a cheap flight.)

    Limit your luggage.

    When packing for your trip, try and limit your luggage to a carry-on only. Fees for checked bags can quickly add up. Not checking a bag also eliminates the chance for lost luggage. You may have to be a little more strategic with your packing, but you'll save money and the possible headache of having to deal with lost or delayed luggage.

    Pack everything you'll need.

    As you're packing, you will come across some items that you may consider buying when you arrive at your destination such as toiletries or snacks. If possible, make room for these in your luggage. Many times items such as these will cost you more once you arrive at your destination.

    Find the best deal on lodging.

    Finding a cheap hotel room is a task all on its own. Check online booking sites and compare them to find the most budget-friendly deal. Look outside the city center and for last minute deals to save. When you're looking, try and find one that includes a laundry facility. This will help reduce the number of clothes you need to pack, helping to save you on checked bags. Also, look for hotels that include breakfast in the price.

    If you are open to alternatives, consider staying in a hostel or using booking sites such as Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO. Staying in one of these options gives you a more local feel to your travels.

    Visit local restaurants.

    The costs of food and eating out are often underestimated when planning a travel budget. Ways to cut the spending are to plan when you want to splurge on meals and work around that. When looking for a restaurant, try to look for one out of the tourist-heavy zone and ask the locals what they recommend. A good go-to rule is to look for the areas that have the locals lined up. If you walk about six blocks away from the tourist hot spots, you're typically able to find local favorites with cheaper and better food.

    Some travelers recommend packing power bars or breakfast bars to help cut costs. Also, use the local markets and grocery stores to your advantage; they will have fresh local foods and cost less than a restaurant.

    Set a limit on souvenir spending.

    As with the rest of the trip, set a budget for souvenir spending. Don't buy a souvenir the moment you see it. Take a mental note of the item and come back to the store later that day or later on in your trip, to give yourself time to decide if you really want it. This may save you from overspending. Try to avoid the souvenir shopping until the end of your trip. This way, you've seen the attractions and can compare prices and find the best deals.

    Use coupons for special attractions.

    When traveling somewhere new, you're going to want to visit sites and attractions of your destination. These can be costly, but with some planning and deal searching, visiting special attractions doesn't have to break the bank. Consider looking into Groupon, coupons, or other discounts for attractions you are planning to visit. Look into free options as well, such as parks and landmarks.

    Have a savings account for your travel expenses.

    The most important tip is to have a designated account for traveling. Opening a savings account specifically for traveling and travel related expenses allow you to budget and save for the trip. Before you leave on your trip, transfer the funds to your checking account. Or you can use your credit card during the trip and use the funds you saved to pay it off when you return.

    With advanced planning and budgeting for your trip, you can enjoy the vacation of your dreams.  

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