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Cents and Sensibility

How to Save Money for Summer Vacation

Think a family vacation is too expensive? Our travel contributor shares budget-friendly options everyone will love.
Credit: Thinkstock

Summer is almost here! If you’re planning to take a vacation, you’ll need to start planning and saving now.

Corrine McCrary, owner of MacTravel Services, shares tips that will help you get away without breaking the bank:

1. Do your research: You should be as informed as possible about the location, weather, and cost of your vacation. You don’t want your dream vacation to turn into a nightmare.

2. Be sure to budget: Determine how much you can afford to spend on your vacation. Whether your vacation is an island getaway or a stateside trip, be realistic about your destination and how many days you can afford to stay. Set a daily budget to spend. It is easy to go over budget while on vacation, but you want to avoid leaving your vacation with an empty bank account.

3. Don’t wait until the last minute: Plan your vacation a year in advance, if possible. This will help you get the lowest prices and allows you to make payments. The closer you get to your travel date, typically means the higher prices will be.

4. Consider group travel: Most of the time, traveling with a group allows for a group discount rate, which often features bonus amenities. This allows travelers to get more bang for their buck.

5. Travel in the off-season: If you have a dream vacation with a budget that does not quite fit your dream, try traveling between September and March, which are usually off-season months. This time period typically produces less crowds and cheaper flights.

6. Pack carefully: Set your clothes and other items out to the side a week before your travel date. This tip will help minimize forgetting to pack that perfect pair of shoes or forgetting your personal items. You will spend less time and money worrying about what you need and more time on enjoying your vacation. Also, make certain that you have everything ahead of time to avoid buying toiletries and other items you may have forgotten at your vacation destination where they may be more expensive.

7. Don’t stress:Have fun without stressing about money during your vacation. Look for free or inexpensive activities at your destination on discount sites, such as Groupon, LivingSocial and Travelzoo.

While planning ahead and doing your research, keep in mind the old saying “you get what you pay for.” Sometimes it is worth it to pay a little more for a better vacation experience. You do not want to arrive to your destination and realize: “I got a great deal, but this place is a dump.”

YOUR TURN: What are your best money-saving tips for vacation?

About Dr. Karen Ratliff

Karen Ratliff

Credit: Dr. Karen Ratliff

Dr. Ratliff is a certified life coach and professional educator, assisting many people in accomplishing financial, career, and educational goals.  She is also the author of “Tightening Your Bootstraps: 104 Tips to Kick Your Debt to the Curb Now.” Keep up with her budgetary advice via Twitter @drkarenratliff  her website at www.drkarenratliff.com, and her facebook fanpage “Financially Focused with Dr. Karen Ratliff.”