So if you want to travel, and travel well, during your vacations, you should think about the decisions you make during the rest of the year. Make the right choices, and you make travel more attainable and affordable.
Here are a few of my tips:
Buy a car with best gas mileage you can afford
Bad gas mileage not only costs you money throughout the year, it kills your desire to get in the car and travel, even when you do have the chance. Roadtrips can be the easiest way to travel - just hop in the car and go. No need to worry about flight schedules, TSA searches, or whether you can get a seat. Your only expenses are gas and time.
A high-mileage car can help you save big money on the gas. We have a Prius, and gas prices are never a concern for us when we think about taking a trip. By getting 45 miles per gallon, we can easily cut corners elsewhere if gas prices go up so much that they squeeze our budget.
Then do the scheduled maintenance on your car
Trust me, you'll save money in the long run. You have two options: Pay the maintenance bill now, or pay a significantly larger repair bill later. There is no third option. You especially do not want to be paying that big repair bill to a shop you don't know in strange town on the road. Get an oil change (and whatever service you'll need in the next month or two) before you hit the road. Few things kill vacation plans like unexpected repair bills. Avoid them by keeping your car in shape. Save money elsewhere if you need to cut corners.
Learn to live lightly
It's a lot easier to live with a high-mileage car if each person in your family can learn to live out of a small backpack or duffel when you're on the road. Learning how to pack lightly is an essential skill for air travel, too, as it saves you on ridiculous bag-check fees. Pack lightly enough, and you won't even have to worry about getting scarce overhead bin space, either.
Last year, I took a week-long trip to Asia packing nothing more than this backpack.
I took clothes for two climates, toiletries, my SLR camera, and MacBook Air and fit it all under the seat in front of me. Pick one pair of shoes (which you'll wear), then select thin but warm clothes that you can mix, match and layer as needed during your trip. If you buy this type of clothes throughout the year, you won't need to buy a special travel wardrobe for your vacation, and you'll be in the habit of dressing for travel already.
Get a miles/reward credit card and use it for everything you can… provided you pay it off in full. Every month
Travel rewards programs can help you save big money on vacation, but the Catch-22 always has been that you have to travel frequently in order to get those rewards.
The solution is to get and use a credit card that pays you points or miles every time you use it, from the grocery to the mall. Which one to pick? That's up to you. I'd start by looking into the card from the airline that has the most flights where you want to go from the airport nearest you. But don't forget to consider annual fees when deciding which card offers you the best deal.
And whatever you do, do not fail to pay off your card each month. Interest charges will cancel out whatever savings you get from those rewards. Avoid them by paying your bill in full each month.
Make choices to save cash
Do you really need cable TV? A landline telephone? Newspaper? Magazines? If you can make due without these extras, cancel them and set aside the money you save for your next vacation.
If you do really need these services, when was the last time you called and threatened to cancel? If it's been 12 months since you've started your service or since you called you get a better deal, make a note today to make that call. Many TV, phone companies and publishers will give their long-time customers a discount "introductory" rate to keep you from walking away. Why pay money you don't need to be paying? Call and get a better deal.
Now, what else can you cut back on to save money for your dream destination? Tickets to sports events? Going out to the movies? "Retail therapy"? Try it and see if it sticks. If it doesn't, no sweat. You gave it a go. But if it does? Well, you've just saved some money for your next trip!
Learn to split meals when dining out
Many restaurants serve you way more calories than you need in a single meal. Start splitting your meals when you dine out, both to save money and save calories. That'll get you in the habit of splitting meals when you're on the road, when you're watching expenses and taking home leftovers isn't an option.
Use social media to renew or develop your long-distance relationships
Having friends around the country and around the world inspires you to hit the road to go see them. Having access to a local's insight also helps you get the most from a vacation, by helping you find the best places to eat and visit. Not only that, but having allies to help you plan your vacation makes trip-planning more enjoyable and efficient. So get active on sites such as ThemeParkInsider.com and start building the connections that can help you make travel a regular part of your life.
Additional tips and advice, as always, are welcome in the comments.Tweet
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.