Summer is just around the corner, which means you might be thinking about one of my favorite things to do: vacations. In fact, I always joke that vacation planning is actually one of my spiritual gifts. But we all know that vacations can get expensive very quickly, which is a lot less fun than it should be. So here are five tips to help you plan an amazing vacation without straining your budget:
1. Base your plans on the Baby Steps
No matter what Baby Step you’re on, you don’t have to miss out on your fun this summer. But it’s important to plan in a way that makes sense for your finances. If you’re in Baby Step 1 or 2 (saving a $1,000 emergency fund and getting out of debt), you’ll want to find some creative ways to have a great time without spending any money.
You could make a stay and use a few days of your paid free time to relax with your family and explore free events in your own city. You can also go camping – even if it’s just in your backyard – or stay with close friends or family. Don’t lose sight of your financial goals now, because if you stay gazelle intense, you can start your dream vacation much sooner than you might think.
If you are in Baby Step 3 (saving 3 to 6 months of expenses in a fully funded emergency fund) you can take a smaller trip like a few nights or a long weekend. This still isn’t the time to overexert yourself, so check out some less popular (but fun) destinations like a cabin in the mountains. There may be more vacation flexibility with Baby Steps 4, 5, 6, and 7, but you should still plan to flow into something that works with your budget and other financial goals.
2. Shop around
Doing your research to find the best prices for hotels, flights, attractions, etc. will seriously pay off. Always compare flight prices on sites like Google Flights, Skyscanner and Scott’s Cheap Flights and book your tickets as early as possible. And check out Groupon for deals on attractions and events. Rumor has it that if you call a hotel and ask them to match the price with a price you found at a similar hotel, you could deduct some money from your total bill.
Speaking of price matching, if you’re looking for the best deals, don’t be afraid to use the power of negotiation. I know it can feel awkward right now, but simply asking for a discount, family plan, or any other deal they may be offering can save you a ton of money. I did this myself. Once my husband and I were planning a trip for the end of summer, a few weeks before the fall prices were due to kick in, so I asked if we could have the off-season prices a bit earlier. And they let us. We saved a lot on this trip so I’d recommend asking. The worst thing they can say is no, right?
4. Don’t fall for the points and rewards
You might be tempted to buy a credit card just for those airline miles and rewards points, but trust me, it’s not worth it. Until you’ve loaded enough stuff onto a credit card to maybe earn enough miles for a one-way flight, you’ll be deeper in debt and further from actually making a vacation flow.
And if you’re worried about not being able to use a debit card on your trip, I promise you that with a debit card you can do everything that you can do with a credit card – rent a car, book a hotel, you name it. Depending on your location you may have to ask around different places to find one that accepts debit cards (my husband and I had to do this with rental car companies) but you will find one. And it will be worth knowing that you avoided debt in the process.
5. Don’t compare your vacation to anyone else’s
We’ve all heard the famous quote that comparisons are the thief of happiness, but folks, it’s so true — especially when it comes to vacations. You might even want to take a break from social media for a while, knowing you can’t scroll without getting jealous of your neighbors’ tropical vacation and comparing it to the trip you’ve (or haven’t) taken could do). ). And if you spend less time comparing, you’ll be less tempted to overspend on your own vacation.
Remember that social media doesn’t give you a full picture of reality. And at the end of the day, no matter what type of vacation or stay you go on, you can still take a break and spend time with the people you love. This is something worth celebrating!
Check out this article for more tips and travel tips to help you save on your next vacation.
Rachel Cruze is a two-time national bestselling author, financial expert, and host of The Rachel Cruze Show. She has appeared on Good Morning America, TODAY Show and Live! Among others with Kelly & Ryan. Since 2010, Rachel has been with Ramsey Solutions teaching people how to avoid debt, save money, save money and win with money at every stage of life.