Memorial Day is the unofficial start to the summer season and Labor Day is its unofficial end. In between those holidays, millions of families will be taking their annual summer vacation and I’d like to offer a few tips on how they can more efficiently and effectively plan for their trip.
Family Vacation Planning
Depending on the age of your children, it can be a worthwhile exercise to involve them in every stage of the family vacation experience. Consider it a teachable moment.
Hold a family meeting (or several meetings) to discuss where the family should spend their vacation. Ask your kids for their input and encourage them to do research on their preferred destinations, and to share that information with the family.
Once a family decision has been made, you can also involve them in the vacation planning. By participating in the process, kids can gain a valuable understanding about how to plan for, budget and save money on travel expenses.
Budgeting is Key
I realize that, for most people, budgeting is a pain. But it really is the best way to ensure that the family’s overall financial responsibilities will be met, and to curb the temptation to overspend in the course of all the family fun and frolic.
Create a detailed and realistic budget for all the expenses your family is likely to encounter:
- Use online travel sites (or a travel agent) to help you find great deals on hotels, plane tickets, rental cars, special events, or other vacation expenses.
- Plan for the costs of all food and drink, including snacks.
- Allocate money for gasoline, if traveling by car.
- Allocate money for taxis, Uber, ride shares, or other local transportation costs.
- Budget for your lodging. Hotels with free breakfast are a smart option, as are hotels with kitchens so you can prepare your own meals.
- Create a shopping budget for souvenirs.
Reserve in Advance
Because summer is a peak travel season, almost all hotels and airlines boost their prices during this time. So it is wise make your reservations as far in advance as possible – the earlier, the better.
Also, keep in mind there are other ways to save money. For instance, maybe you’re willing to fly during non-peak times, or to depart out of a different airport that might offer lower fares. Same is true for hotels – consider staying at properties further away from the main attractions, or at lodging off the beaten path.
Redeem Your Rewards Points
Take the time to review all the frequent flyer miles and rewards programs you’re enrolled in. Redeeming your rewards points for travel can save you hundreds of dollars on airfare or hotels. Make sure you’re also taking advantage of any special offers or bonus rewards.
Packing carefully will prevent lots of unnecessary headaches when you arrive at your destination. Be sure to pack enough clothing, shoes, toiletries, and accessories to see you through the duration of your trip.
In addition, don’t forget the following:
- Pack any prescription medications in their original prescription bottle. Also, bring along an assortment of over-the-counter medicine.