Saving money for travel is all well and good, but what about when you arrive at your destination? It is easy to blow your budget once you are on the ground. Ice cream, specialty drinks, souvenirs and amazing experiences can be found at every turn. If you do your research ahead of time, though, you can stick to your budget while getting the most out of each destination you visit this year. Follow these 10 suggestions as you plan, book and enjoy your next vacation.
Stay in a Family-Friendly Hostel
Hostels aren’t just for backpacking college kids anymore. More and more hostels are welcoming couples and families, making it easier for families to affordably travel. Make sure to check the per-person rate will not exceed that of a standard hotel room. Also, always ask for a private room so you and your partner or your children don’t end up sleeping in a dorm with a bunch of 20-year-olds.
Bunk with Family and Friends (or Friends of Friends)
You can save a ton of money if you stay with friends and family across the globe. You can even see if any of your friends and family members have friends with a spare room in the destination you are traveling to. Just be careful whom you ask and how long you stay so you don’t wear out your welcome.
Load Up on Breakfast
When researching a hotel, look into the free amenities, like a hot breakfast, that come along with your stay. Many chain hotels offer a complimentary breakfast. If you have hungry, growing children, let them eat as much as possible at breakfast. And grab a banana or apple for a late morning snack on the road.
We all want to get those credit card points, but there is something about physical cash that can help you save money. Instead of charging all of your purchases onto a card that will be paid off later, watch the money leave your pocket. Have enough cash each day to cover your daily budget so you can see how much is left for unexpected ice cream stops and extra treats.
Get Money from an ATM
Using an ATM may seem like an archaic idea, but if you are traveling from the U.S. to Canada, you can often get a better exchange rate than you would at a currency exchange shop. Check the fees for using an ATM that is not connected to your bank versus the fee at the currency exchange to make sure you are getting the best deal possible.
Free Museums and Discount Days
Many museums across the country have at least one free or discounted admission day a month to allow locals and visitors to see their collections at a fraction of the price. Washington, D.C., is home to the Smithsonian museums, all of which are free 365 days of the year. The Philadelphia Museum of Art offers a “pay what you wish” on Wednesday nights. The Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle is open to the public and free year round for locals and visitors to explore at their own pace.
Discount Activity Sites
There are plenty of discount sites out there, but we love Living Social, Groupon and Travel Zoo. Look up the activities you already want to do to see if there are any discounts being offered. Check the fine print before you buy to make sure your tickets won’t expire before your trip.
CityPass gives you a bunch of attractions for up to half off the admission fee. It may feel like a lot of money to pay upfront, but if you want to go to all of the sites in one city, this may be your cheapest option.
Walk Around Town
Walking is the cheapest form of transportation. If you have rented a car, park it at the hotel and explore your destination on foot. If the weather turns, hop onto public transportation. Walking gets you into spots you might otherwise miss and gives the whole family a little exercise.
Let your kids know that you can’t go crazy once you arrive at your destination. Too often, kids think once vacation starts all rules go out the window. You can have a few treats, but you aren’t having ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sit your family down before your trip to discuss where you will be prioritizing your money. It is a luxury to be going on the trip in the first place, which a lot of children just don’t understand. Set your limits ahead of time so there are no meltdowns or misunderstandings later. Encourage your kids to save up their allowance and work odd jobs to have extra spending money for the things they really want but you have not budgeted for this trip. If you can budget in a few surprises that’s great, but this way everyone knows what to expect on your journey.