It’s 35 degrees outside. The wind is gusting making the bare tree branches dance. The sky is dark, covered in clouds blocking most of the sunlight. It’s decidedly NOT my favorite time of year. If I could hop on a plane to somewhere warm today, I would! Give me some sunshine, some warmth, and some time off of my responsibilities and I’m a happy lady.
While I can’t up and hop on a plane today planning this year’s vacations can give me something to look forward to, and more importantly helps me make smarter financial choices to get us there without causing us to get into debt. Planning ahead for vacation can never start too early.
To start let’s just debunk something right now, if you’re in debt you can still take time off for a vacation and in fact I encourage you to take time off! While many financial gurus want you to laser focus on debt and to give up everything extra (including vacations) you have to balance your financial goals and your life goals.
Starting to think about your family vacation plans for 2013? So how can you plan a dream vacation while staying within your budget? My friends at Women & Co. â€“ Citi’s personal finance resource for women â€“ have compiled seven strategies to help plan an affordable vacation that the whole family will enjoy.
Additionally I’ve learned a few ways to save on our vacations as well. Here are a few ideas for taking an affordable vacation (whether you’re digging out of debt or not):
Ways to Plan Vacation on the Cheap
Key Things to Remember When Vacation Planning:
- Research, research, research: The key to a fun-filled and stress-free trip is to plan ahead. This includes researching local blogs for info on the best places to visit, buying or downloading a book on the area, and making plans.
- Be Flexible: While planning ahead is key, if you are traveling with a group or kids keep your expectations in check. Having options is great, but be sure you make plenty of time for downtime, and don’t be afraid to pull the plug on an activity if it’s not working for you or your family.
Travel on the Cheap
- Road Trip: Travel by car may limit you more to locales, but it can be much cheaper than air travel.
- Train Travel: Train travel may seem to be part of a bygone era, but you can find great rates on train tickets depending on when and where you travel.
- Visit Friends & Family: Not only are you able to visit with family, but you can also save big bucks on lodging. Just make sure to be a good guest, and bring a host gift.
- Day Trip: Taking day trips can be just as fun, and you won’t have the expense of staying overnight.
Lodging for Less
- House Share: There are more and more websites devoted to house sharing where you can sign up to share your own home, as well as take advantage of staying in someone else’s home. Sometimes it is for trade, sometimes it is for a small fee.
- Rent a Landing Pad: In many major metropolitan areas you can choose to rent an apartment or condo instead of booking a hotel room.
- Sign up for Sale Emails: From airline frequent flier emails to hotel emails you can score great deals. If you have a specific attraction you want to visit (a waterpark for instance) make sure you get their emails as well.
Save on Expenses
- Pack it Up: Packing your own food can be a great way to save big bucks. We tend to eat a big breakfast and pack a ton of easy to eat snacks like fruit, nuts, and homemade sandwiches.
- Scour Deal Sites: Wherever you are visiting you can score great deals on attractions, hotel stays, and restaurants via sites like Groupon and Living Social.
- Find Free Days/Activities: Many museums offer free or discounted days, off-season pricing, and special activities that are included in the price of admission. You may also be able to take advantage of a reciprocal membership with another museum you are a member of (check with any you belong to for more information).
ThankYou Points Giveaway
Now you can start your vacation planning with a little extra from Citi! FOUR lucky winners will receive 10,000 Citi ThankYou ® points redeemable at www.thankyou.com. Citi ThankYou points can be redeemed for merchandise, gift certificates, travel getaways, electronics and more â€“ and they come in very handy when you’re booking your trip, since points can be used towards air travel with no blackout dates, on any airline.
Visit www.thankyou.com for more info, where one Citi ThankYou ® member from Portland, OR shared that her 10 day Maui vacation only cost her $5 in transportation costs â€“ “all three flights for just $5 thanks to my points, rental car for free!”(WOW!)
Comment: To win, share your insider tips on family travel â€“ whether it’s a great kid-friendly hotel or restaurant you’ve visited, a tried-and-true strategy for easy travel with kids, or your favorite family vacation activity.
Score extra entry points by doing the following and letting me know in the comment section below:
Rules: Read the full giveaway rules before entering. Giveaway ends February 24th at 10am ET.
Disclosure: Citi provided me with ThankYou points for my use, and to giveaway to readers. This giveaway is sponsored by the Centsible Life.