Plan Your Spring Break Vacation and Keep your Budget Intact

march-break-2013Dare I even utter the words? Spring Break is just around the corner, and this particular winter has been exceptionally long and exceptionally harsh, no matter where you live. This may make your yearning to escape during this Spring Break even stronger.

Your budget may not share your enthusiasm for holiday though. While vacationing is one of those spending extras, it can be done frugally, while doing minimal damage to your bottom line.

Set a Budget

It seems fairly obvious, but set out what you can afford to go away, before you decide where (and if) you are going to go. Resist the temptation to whip out the plastic to fulfill your winter-worn fantasy of lying on a beach somewhere. Decide what funding is available and stick to it.

Include all potential spending items, like travel itself, lodging, meals and entertainment!

Skip the Gift Shop

No matter where you are going, skip the gift shop at whatever tourist attraction/ski hill/museum/beach destination you are in. Especially if you are traveling with children.

Instead of buying snoglobes and t-shirts, which are great reminders of the fun you had, but somehow lose their impact in the months that follow, take souvenir photos yourself. Print them out and display them when you get home.

Much better at recalling memories, and much cheaper.

Drive vs. Fly

If possible, get in the car and drive, rather than ferrying the family to the airport. While flying is faster, it most certainly is not cheaper.

Think of the stories, years later, about the road trip itself to get to the destination. Plan your driving to alternate shifts, so that you don’t have to spend money on accommodations on the way through.

Think about Food

When booking accommodations, try to find ones that have kitchens (or kitchenettes) in your room. While they may be slightly more expensive, you will save a lot on food. Also look for places that have BBQ grills (many hotels do, but you may have to ask), which means you can grill your food every day.

Even having a small fridge means you can pack ingredients to make a picnic lunch, or to store milk and juice to have breakfast in your room.

Travel Rewards?

Those travel rewards programs are not just for flights, you know, but can be redeemed towards other travel items like hotels and attraction tickets.

You can save boatloads of cash by redeeming points- even if it is for a portion of your stay. Be aware though, that these are usually non-refundable, and you may get charged a processing fee.

Fly Smart

If you are intent on flying, consider driving south of the border and grabbing a flight out of the U.S. to your destination. Even when you consider the extra cost for gas and parking, it is significantly (and I’m talking hundreds of dollars for a family, from my own experience, many times over) cheaper to fly from there.

Depending on where you live, check out smaller airports, like Bellingham, WA, Plattsburgh, Syracuse, Buffalo or Rochester, NY or Detroit, MI.

Many airport hotels offer Park and Fly options, including a night’s stay for much the same you’d pay just to park at your local airport.

Fly off peak times and days for extra savings. Typically, flying Tues-Thurs yield the biggest savings. Similarly, if you are ok with flying early morning or late evening, flights tend to be cheaper. Ones with stops (which I preferred when my kids were very little, so they could get out and run around in between flights) are cheaper than non-stop options too.