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It is five o'clock somewhere. And there is a beach with your name on it. So ignore the economy and the stock market. Regardless of your budget, we are going to show you how to plan a stress free, low cost vacation.
If there were any time you could use time away from home and work, it would be during this hard time.
Just to spend even a long weekend away where you can escape from stress and strain. Or have a vacation planned for next summer to get you through the grind.
But how? There always seems like there is too much work to do. Or not enough money.
Well, never fear. With a little planning and some penny pinching, you can actually take that vacation, virtually stress free!
Planning Your Vacation on a Budget
The first step is to decide where you want to go and the things you want to do.
Those theme park vacations will be less expensive now due to the economy. Plus, most of the hotels in theme park or resort areas have great 'room + park tickets' packages.
Be sure you check closely the policies of the package, things like no refunds and prepayment may be part of the deal.
When searching for that perfect vacation spot, do your own research. Spread out the maps, put together an itinerary you love, and make it happen.
At the end of the trip, you will feel like you have actually accomplished something.
And prepare to be flexible. It is okay to approach your vacation with a specific destination in mind. However, you must realize that you may miss some big savings.
It's better to consider four or five places that capture your imagination, and explore the possibilities for all of them.Hotel expenses can be cut down by staying in an extended stay hotel and bringing or buying groceries to cook yourself.
Save Money with Prepayments
If you have the money in savings already or are planning enough in advance that you can safely use your credit card to pay the prepayment (and have it paid-off by vacation time), prepays are a great deal.
Some hotels and cruise lines will give you free upgrades and discounts of upwards to 50%, that's on top of heavily discounted rates.
Be sure that if you prepay using your credit card that you can afford to pay the credit card down by vacation time. It is like making payments on your vacation and being able to prepay all at once.
There are also some resorts and cruise lines that will accept payment over time as long as you are paid up before arrival.
Control Your Spending While Still Having Fun
Food always ends up being way more expensive than you anticipate while traveling.
Definitely save space in your budget for one nice sit-down meal.
However, to save money while away I recommend bringing lots of portable and microwaveable meals and beverages.
Also, supply each member of the family a lightweight backpack so you can always have quick healthy snacks and a water bottle that can be refilled at water fountains.
Save Money on Lodging
We live in the world of Airbnb and VRBO. So another alternative is to consider vacation condos and house rentals, instead of hotel rooms.
This opens a whole range of possibilities and ways to save.
This idea would work well for a multi-family vacation and families split the rent.
Another thing you will want to plan early is packing.
Especially if you are traveling by plane.
Packing one big rolling bag will save you from having to pay exorbitant airline baggage fees. You also want to be light on your feet as you search for cheap hotels or take advantage of public transportation.
Multiple bags create mobility problems and label you as a "tourist." That label might make you the target of a fraud or crime.
Someone with one well-packed bag who looks in control is more likely to find bargains and less likely to find trouble.
Here are a few tips on packing to get you started:
Create a packing list:
Such a list serves two principal purposes.
First (and foremost), it's a gentle reminder that if it's not on your list, it shouldn't be in your bag (because all the necessary items are on your list); this defends against last-minute attacks of "I might need this."
The worst possible time to be considering what to take on a trip is while you are packing for that trip!
Clothing and laundry:
Minimize clothing by selecting a uniform color scheme. Keeping to no more than two (compatible) colors ensures that everything goes with everything else, thus maximizing the number of available clothing combinations.
Choose fabrics that are pre-wrinkled or that do not wrinkle. Choose clothes that will dry quickly. Prepare to do laundry using a laundry-mat or in the sink!
Choose your luggage carefully:
You want a bag that is no larger than carry-on size (for aircraft, the most common rule is length + width + height = no more than 45 inches) with soft sides (which conform better to both their contents and the places you might stow them) and strong construction.
If worse comes to worse and you just cannot afford a trek to places unknown, then you might consider a virtual tour. The internet is chock full of tours of different sights and sounds. A bit depressing maybe, but it would keep the kids occupied while the parents are saving up for a vacation less virtual.