These gray Kentucky skies and cold weather have many of us thinking about taking a vacation away from work and home. But before jumping into the car or onto a plane, plan the vacation with some financial realities in mind.
If you have the time and patience, you can plan the trip on your own and save money. Travel guides available from AAA, the local bookstore, or library that list hotel rates, restaurant prices, and the cost of local tourist attractions can help. If you do not have the time to make all the calls or browse the Internet, it’s a good idea to use travel agents. They have access to the latest tour packages and updated airline fares. Internet users might start with www.travel.com.
Word of mouth is still one of the best ways to discover a good vacation destination. Ask your friends and co-workers for vacation ideas, and then do some research to see if the suggestion matches your interest.
Finding the cash
Try to spread the cost of vacationing over an entire year by including a travel line in your monthly budget and putting aside that amount.
But if your heart is set on a trip this summer that you can’t pay for in cash, you still have a couple options. You may be able to take out a personal loan from the credit union or bank, or draw on a home-equity line of credit. If you charge the vacation to a credit card, choose one with the lowest interest rate.
In your vacation planning, throw in a few extra bucks to cover gas prices that have increased from a year ago.
Most people know to avoid higher-octane fuel than their cars require, but may not have thought of getting a gas card: several gas companies offer a 1 percent to 5 percent discount if you use their MasterCard or Visa when buying their brand of gas. Consider also buying discounted gas from member-only pumps at wholesale clubs, such as Costco or Sam’s Club.
Want to save up to 30 percent on meals while on the road? If you don’t mind eating early in the evening, get deals for off-peak hours at www.dinnerbroker.com. It’s free and covers nearly 50 cities and regions.
There’s also www.dinnerbroker.com, which sells discount certificates for a wide range of eateries around the country. A certificate good for $25 will generally run you about $10.
Plane good tips
If traveling by plane, consider wearing slip-on shoes that can easily go into the tray for X-ray inspection. Also, stick change, watch, and jewelry into a plastic bag to go into carry-on luggage for easy passage at the security checkpoint.
Other creative ways to break the airport gridlock, according to USA Today: a big jacket with zippered pockets can accommodate valuables if you don’t want to put them in a carry-on. (Or get all your belongings to fit into carry-ons; never check them.)
Finally, learn what time of day the airports you’ll be using are most crowded and try to avoid flying then.