Many of us have dreams of traveling more – hitting the open road to explore cuisine, culture, and city life. If that’s you – congratulations! You’ve earned it. But just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean it’s time to overthrow the financial plan.
Good spending habits on vacation should be a part of your overall financial strategy but you don’t need a financial advisor to plan your vacation. Taking your time to plan your trip and be smart about your spending can help you make sure you’re getting the most out of your budget - that’s money you could be spending on wine tastings or other experiences.
Use our expert financial advice to break these five bad habits and save money on your travels.
1. Going in With No Plan
It never feels good to have to spend more than expected. A little research ahead of time can help you set realistic spending expectations, as you grow excited about your vacation.
Create a budget based on where you want to go, how you’ll get there, where you’ll stay, and what you’ll do there. Knowing approximately how much your vacation will cost ahead of time lets you prepare both mentally and financially for a stress-free getaway. A spreadsheet with all costs and expenses is a great way to keep everything organized.
How to make a plan:
- Tally the running costs of accommodation, transportation, food, and activities for your destination
- Categorize options for restaurants, museums and attractions into definitely, maybe, and could live without - then narrow down those activities based on your budget
- Create a weekly plan to set aside or save the necessary amount by the departure date
2. Missing out on Weekly or Monthly Discounts
People rave about Airbnb as a cheaper alternative to hotels. The variety of unique and glamorous accommodations are seemingly endless. And access to a kitchen means you can make your own coffee and breakfast in the morning – a win for both finances and convenience.
Many hosts on Airbnb, HomeAway and similar sites offer weekly and monthly discounts, typically around 10% but it can be more. Sometimes it can even be cheaper to book more nights than you need - for example booking seven nights instead of 6 or 28 days instead of 27.
How to land the best discounts:
- Plan to stay in your destination for at least a week or month if possible
- Search for and compare properties that offer weekly/monthly discounts
- If you’re near the month or week mark, play with the dates to see if the overall discount would be worth more than paying the extra night
3. Not Checking the Itemized Hotel Bill
Reputable hotels should notify you of any fees at check-in, like towel fees, late check-out penalties or WiFi costs. The same goes for check out when you should receive an itemized final bill – this is where you would see if they accidentally charged you for an extra OnDemand movie or a spa service you didn’t use.
It takes a few extra minutes of your vacation, but it’s much easier to have them remove the charges and update the bill right then.
How to avoid surprises at check-out:
- Keep track of expenses accumulated during your stay, including room service and raiding the minibar
- Make time to review the itemized bill before leaving
- Know the check-out policy and be on time to avoid any extra fees
4. Trying to See Too Much
It’s tempting to want to squeeze it all in – especially if you’ve traveled halfway around the world for a vacation. But those taxis to the airport, short-haul flights, train journeys and rental cars can add up.
Yes, you see less when you travel slower. But you travel deeper and get to know a place beyond the tourist attractions. Find a favorite restaurant and make friends with the locals. Take a bath, or enjoy the sunset from your balcony, and appreciate the moment.
How to start slowing down on vacation:
- Commit to longer stays in fewer places
- Look for a destination that has interesting day trips within reach
- Consider a place that’s within reach of both nature and city
5. Not Taking Advantage of Points and Rewards Programs
If you’re using a credit card to pay for hotels, flights and other travel expenses, you may as well be earning rewards towards free travel.
There are literally hundreds of travel rewards credit cards out there with perks like double, triple, and even 5x points for travel purchases, VIP airport lounge access, free Global Entry, rental car insurance, and more. You can also earn points through hotel and airline loyalty programs.
How to start earning free travel:
- Compare credit cards, sign-on bonuses and other important considerations
- Join an airline frequent flyer club (or two) and take advantage of their partnerships with other airlines
- Use sites or apps like Booking.com, Expedia, and Hotel Tonight where you accumulate rewards every time you book
Travel planning and budgeting may not be as fun as the actual vacation, but with some good habits and a financial plan, you can sip that margarita worry-free.