Vacations with small budgets can be big fun

Recently I celebrated my birthday by going to Disney World for four days! It was an awesome trip. I took pictures with Mickey, Minnie, and all the other popular Disney characters. A getaway can be both fun and relaxing, but improper planning can lead to a financial disaster when returning home to stacks of bills. And the enormous financial pressure can discourage you from taking future trips. Celebrating your birthday, or any other special occasion, with a getaway can be costly.  Thankfully, there are several things you can do to get the most out of your getaway budget.

Plan well in advance. Give yourself between three to six months to effectively plan your trip. Decide on the destination, when you plan to go, and how long you may want to stay. Research airline ticket prices and fees, hotels, and other travel expenses. Look for great package deals on websites such as Expedia.com, Trip Advisor.com, and Travelzoo.com. Once you have a basic idea of the primary cost of the trip start saving a little each month. You should also try to determine how much you plan to spend on food, souvenirs, clothing, etc. For more help on creating a vacation spending plan download MMI's free Travel Planner.

Look for special promotions. For example, many businesses offer special birthday promotions. Restaurants often give free food for signing up for their online newsletter. Check out FreeBirthdayStuff.com or FrugalLiving.tv for a list of resturaunts that offer birthday freebies.

Travel in pairs or with a group. Often booking travel in pairs or as a group can significantly lower the cost of airfare and hotel rates. Not only that, but more than likely you and your travel buddy can split the cost of other travel expenses such as fees, food, entertainment, etc. This way you are not burden to pay for everything yourself. In my case, my travel buddies was there to prevent me from an impulse buy of a designer Mickey Mouse purse that I only wanted because I liked the color.

Pack lunches. Whether you are going to take a bike ride through the local park or are headed to a theme park such as Disney World, pack your lunch. Buying food on the go can be extremely expensive. We stopped at an old style burger joint at Disney World and my lunch alone was $18! At least they gave me a free birthday cookie.

Take advantage of complimentary services. Many hotels and airlines will offer complimentary services like free transportation. Shuttle buses will pick you up and take you to and from the airport and the hotel. Taking the shuttle bus will alleviate the financial cost of taking a cab, renting a car, or having to pay for parking.

Another note is before you travel out of town alert your bank and credit card providers of the exact dates you plan to be away and the cards you plan on using during that time. They will put a note on your account that you’re traveling to prevent declines for suspicious use. This also helps to protect against fraud and unauthorized purchases.

You might also enjoy reading:

Don't let travel fees bust your vacation budget

Heading home for the holidays

Cut your travel budget without sacrificing your vacation

Rental car prices: How to hit a moving target

Renee McGruder is a former communications coordinator and grant writer at MMI.

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