Four Tips to Save Big on Your Upcoming Summertime Adventure
I’m not sure if you’ve heard but summer is officially here.
Summer solstice. Check.
Rain, rain, and more rain. Check.
Wearing layers to the office thanks to the arctic blast that is commercial air conditioning. Check.
Counting down the days to your next vacation. Check.
In all seriousness, summer is my absolute favorite. I love the sunshine, the full social calendar, time in the pool, and grilling out in the backyard. It is also the time of year many hardworking women like you get up and go out of town somewhere beautiful and fun (hopefully by a large body of water).
Getting away for that week or long weekend feels incredible but unfortunately it is often accompanied by a not so incredible feeling when you look at your bank statement after returning home. You know what I’m talking about (I spent that much on souvenir shot glasses!).
If you’re trying to keep your finances under control what should you do? Stay home all summer? No way! Just be smart and intentional with your spending, so you don’t have “Vacation Remorse” when you come home. Need some help? Keep on reading. For July I’ll be sharing four ways to help you take that well needed summertime adventure without putting yourself behind in your financial goals.
Tip # 1
Wine & Dine (Just not all the time)
Indulging in the local faire and sipping fruity drinks with little umbrellas is one of the best parts of traveling. Food and drink also tend to be one of the more expensive parts of traveling since you don’t always have the ability to cook your own meals. This doesn’t mean you have to blow 75% of your budget on eating and drinking.
Set yourself a limit of one “Vacation Worthy Meal” a day. Go all out. It’s your vacation and you deserve the appetizer, the wine, and the dessert. Just don’t do that 3 times a day. Stick to on the go items, leftovers (if you have them), and casual restaurants for the other 2 meals a day.
Bring satisfying snacks from home in your suitcase: protein bars, jerky, dried fruit, whatever won’t go bad or get smushed by the TSA. This will help with easy breakfasts and on the go snacking. Just say no to the $5 hotel lobby Cheez-It’s
Bring your water bottle, just make sure it’s empty when you go through TSA. Bottled water adds up plus all the plastic you aren’t using is pretty good for the environment too.
Do your research. Is there a Michelin Star restaurant you’re dying to go to? Check out their website to see if they offer lunch or happy hour specials. Download an app like Yelp to find local favorites, hidden gems, and the best happy hour deals. Depending on your travel location, getting away from the tourist part of town can lead you to some great eats at great prices.
Share with your travel buddy. Traveling often means limited access to refrigeration and the ability to heat up leftovers. Traveling also sometimes means wanting to try everything on the menu. Split an entrée, split some apps, and split a bottle of wine. You’ll save big and satisfy your palette. Just don’t forget to Venmo your buddy after!
Maybe you have a countdown going which makes that afternoon slump at work a little bit harder as your much-needed time away gets closer and closer. Maybe you started packing already, laying out 20 outfits you probably won’t wear but we need options, right? Maybe you’ve started checking the weather at your soon to be destination and it’s going to be gorgeous, just in time for your arrival.
This is usually when a little worry creeps into my mind. Did I budget enough? What if everything is way more expensive than I planned? Will all the fun activities I’m looking forward to leave me with more month than money when I get back home?
To help ease your worries and prevent some of the “Vacation Remorse” I mentioned in my last email, here is another tip to help you save big on your upcoming summertime adventure.
Rewards, Rewards, Rewards
Let’s talk about credit card; most of us have them, most of us are not using them the right way to maximize the benefits they can offer. Keep in mind, if you are not paying off your credit card each month and find yourself regularly accruing interest (which can cost 25%+ annually) any rewards you earn won’t benefit you. Even with an outstanding rewards program, rewards will never exceed the cost of interest (the credit card companies ARE in the business of making money after all).
If you have trouble with credit card spending and don’t pay your balance off each month, a travel rewards credit card may not be your best option. If you are disciplined with credit card spending and pay off your balance each month, using the right rewards efficiently can really save you money.
If you’re ready to maximize your credit card rewards to help fund your travels, here are a few types of credit card rewards programs to consider:
Cash Back Rewards
These are offered through any major bank or financial institution. You earn a stated % back on your spending (somewhere between 1% and 5%) and certain spending categories earn you a higher rate. For example, you may earn 1% cash back on any general spending, but you earn 3% on all dining or grocery purchases. Most cards have a higher % of cash rewards for at least one category. Some cards allow you to pick that category. Some cards change it up every so often so keep an eye on your emails for monthly or quarterly offers.
So how do you make this work for help with travel expenses? Save those rewards! If you use your credit card for your daily spending plus spending on those higher % categories, you can easily accumulate a little nest egg of rewards. Use that nest egg to pay for your spending on the trip such as flights, hotels, shopping, and dining. Just keep in mind some of these credit cards have expiration dates on the rewards, so make sure you use them towards your vacation expenses before they expire.
Airline Miles Rewards
These can be offered through a major airline or a regular credit card company. These cards usually have an annual fee association with them, so do your research and make sure the benefits exceed the annual fee for the card before signing up. Basically, you earn a stated number of miles per dollar you spend on the credit card. If you spend enough, you can redeem the miles for your flight on that upcoming vacation.
Unfortunately, you usually need to spend a decent amount of money for the miles to add up. If you’re only using the card for < $1K per month, you’ll likely have a hard time accumulating enough miles to benefit you. However, if you travel often for work and your employer reimburses you for your flights, using a card like this for your personal spending and reimbursed travel expenses, your miles can really add up. If you open an airline miles card through a specific airline AND sign up for their frequent flyer program, you could potentially start banking miles for maybe more than one vacation a year. Combining those rewards with other perks airline specific credit cards offer (like free upgrades and free checked bags) you can generate some major savings for that summer getaway.
These are offered through major hotel chains and earn you free hotel stays based on your spending. Like the airline miles rewards, these cards usually have an annual fee associated with them so make sure the benefits outweigh the cost. The key here is making sure the hotel chain is at your destination. If you’re planning to take a cruise or stay at an all-inclusive resort, these probably won’t be the best option for you. If you have a major hotel chain you like to use (Marriott, Hilton, Wyndham, Hyatt) and happens to be located where you want to visit, using these cards frequently for your everyday spending will add up.
I have friends who both travel often for work and were planning to visit Hawaii for their Honeymoon. They used their Marriott rewards cards for absolutely everything (groceries, dining out, work travel) and earned enough rewards in one year to pay for 100% of their two-week hotel stay in Hawaii. They were very focused on earning those rewards and using a program they understood that fit their spending habits paid off for them.
These programs aren’t all that’s out there. Disney, various cruise lines, all-inclusive resorts, commonly offer credit card programs that may fit your unique needs. The key is not spending more just to earn rewards. Find a program that fits the spending you already do for the rewards that you want. Pay off the credit card each month and enjoy your savings.
When the time is right
Timing is everything and the tourism industry is well aware. Planning your trips around summer vacations and spring break (when the families and prices are in full force) can help you save big on your next trip away. Especially if you don’t have children or your children are not yet school age.
A few years ago, my boyfriend and I went to Miami in late March. Why? Miami is amazing but most importantly, it was cheap. The hotel was inexpensive, the flights were less than $150 a person, and no one was there. The weather was still fantastic (low 80’s) and the beaches were free from sandcastles and stressed out parents. We had an incredible peaceful time and spent half of what we would if we traveled a few weeks later when spring break vacations were at their peak. Traveling a few weeks before or after the peak season will help you save big. Don’t believe me? Look up hotel prices for the last week of August versus the second week of September; big difference.
Timing also directly impacts the price of your flights. Flights are typically cheaper when you buy your tickets on Tuesday morning versus other days of the week. Since airlines release discounts on Monday evenings, the competition in response adjusts their prices on Tuesday. Flights are also less expensive when you fly on a weekday versus a weekend, because everyone wants to fly out Friday night and come home Sunday. Using a price tracking app like Flight Hopper can help you determine the cheapest time to book your flight, especially if you’re flexible on your departure and arrival.
Pick the right place
What do you value the most in a vacation? Is it checking off a location on your bucket list or is it the act of getting away from the stress and chaos of daily life? If it’s the later, then be creative with your vacation planning.
Rather than booking a room at the expensive hotel in the heart of your destination, try searching for hotels or rentals (VRBO or Airbnb) that are within 45 minutes of what you want to see and do. You’re still close enough to do all the touristy things but you also can step away from it all. This will not only save you money but you’ll have some peace and quiet in the evening so you can catch up on that much needed rest. You will also have the opportunity to see the beyond the attractions, try small local restaurants, local boutiques, and get the true experience of the place you’re visiting.
Being flexible with your destination can reduce your vacation spending substantially. Try searching for the cheapest flights and base your vacation on what you find. Could you end up somewhere totally random? Yes. Could you have an amazing time and an unforgettable adventure? Absolutely. Personally, I think the best part of a trip is going somewhere new and having fun while I’m there. Will I have a great time in Las Vegas? Of course. Will I have a great time in Kansas City? Of course. Your adventure is what you make of it and you don’t have to spend a ton of money to have a wonderful time.
Happy Travels! You deserve it and your wallet thanks you!