Some things to consider when planning your vacation budget

With the economy still in a precarious position, you would like to take a vacation with your family, but to do so you will have to cut costs drastically. You are in good company. But where are some of the places where you can cut costs and still have a good time? The first thing you should do is list your expected expenses, even to the point of setting up a spreadsheet so it’s all in front of you. Then place the items you need to examine.

1. Make a list. This is a checklist of all the things big and small that you will need. Make it an ongoing list that you add to over a period of time. Even for seasoned travelers, we often forget something, and the additional time and expense required to purchase those things along the way can be quite significant.

2. Make use of a travel agent. Travel agencies can get benefits that normal travelers may not have the opportunity to obtain. Airlines stopped giving bonuses in the 1990s, yet studies have shown that a travel agent saved an average of $80 on cheaper flights, and savings were achieved more than 90% of the time. And it’s not always about money. By using a good travel agent who is knowledgeable within one segment of the industry (cruises, for example), you’ll be able to dig deeper and offer better overall value than you could get by simply buying a ticket.

3. Be flexible when buying airline tickets for value. The more flexibility you have with your flight plans, the better your chances of getting great deals on your airline tickets. Booking late at night or early in the morning, flying on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, as well as flying off-season, will give you the best chance of getting cheaper airline flights. If you don’t travel often, you may think frequent flyer miles are a waste of time. But regardless, you should still consider applying, as there are benefits.

4. Try to negotiate with hotels for better rates. Chain hotels offer many opportunities through corporate rates, organizational discounts, and certain hours upon request. One option that is becoming more popular, especially in the United States, is rooms with kitchens. Try to use this at every opportunity, as it drastically cuts food costs if you don’t eat out at restaurants three times a day.

5. Use the Internet. There are a multitude of sources on the Internet to find savings on all modes of travel. One site we frequently use is Trip Advisor, where you can get reviews of hotels, restaurants, and many other businesses that you can use when traveling. These reviews are written by people who have had first-hand experience of the places they are reviewing.

Obviously, these are just a few ideas, but your next trip doesn’t have to be that expensive if you take the time to do a little research. And once you get some experience hunting for bargains, it will get easier and easier.

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