Cut your travel budget without sacrificing your vacation

This is a guest post from Anna Nguyen, marketing specialist and new bride (Congratulations Anna!) Also check out Anna's last post titled For richer or poorer? At times when you need to save your money and cut back on costs, vacations seem to be the first “want” to go. For some, travel is a must and not something to sacrifice this year. Think you can't afford to get away this summer? Check out these tips to help you plan a vacation within your means:

Prepare a budget. Before you begin making travel arrangements, make a spending plan and prepare your budget. Think about what you may spend and write it down. Then, take it with you and compare the amount spent with the amount you had budgeted. Try not to stray far from your list.

Do your homework. Online research is essential during your vacation planning. Information on the Internet is at your fingertips and always up-to-date. Trip Advisor is a great web site that features real advice and photos from real travelers. You can read about first hand experiences and tips regarding the location, lodging, food, and things to do. It’s all the help in the world when you have guidance on where to go, stay, eat, and have fun!

Look for deals. The Internet is also the home for all great deals and specials. Sign up for travel newsletters like TravelZoo’s or just check in frequently for their top deals and news flashes. For domestic flights and hotels, I like to use Bing Travel, formerly known as Farecast. It allows you to comparison shop, and helps you decide when and where to travel and when it’s the right time to buy tickets. LastMinute.com also offers great vacation package discounts for last minute travel.

Cut your costs. The two most flexible areas of expense are food and lodging. You can still experience the foods of the place you’re visiting (one of my favorite parts of traveling), but limit meals out each day. A cooler filled with food and drinks from a grocery store can help eliminate the high cost of quick stops at fast food restaurants and convenience stores. Check prices on menus before choosing a restaurant and remember that dining out for lunch is often less expensive than dinner. Also, consider getting away for an affordable weekend rather than longer, and avoid stressing about your expenses afterward. Book your accommodations early to get special discount rates. If you end up finding a cheaper rate after you’ve booked your lodging, a lot of places will be more than happy to match the price you found.

Whether you are traveling by land or air, it’s important to remember that a vacation is meant to be fun and relaxing! It’s a time for you to be stress-free and the planning process should be equally so. With a little planning, you won’t have to give up a vacation this year and might be surprised how it pays in the end!

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.