Travel is one of those luxuries everyone wants to afford, but may not be able to fit into their budget. In fact, 32 percent of Americans report they cannot afford to take a summer vacation, according to a recent Skift survey. But for families feeling the squeeze, there are ways to enjoy a guilt-free vacation. The nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) recommends planning a budget-friendly trip with these tips.
1. Plan in Advance
To save big, plan ahead by packing lunches, snacks and drinks. Instead of filling your cooler full of ice that will melt, freeze water bottles to cool your food down. When they melt, hand them to your kids for drinks. With a picnic lunch, you can avoid inflated amusement park prices and allot more money to other vacation activities. If you are staying in a hotel or flying, make sure to book your ticket in advance before prices skyrocket.
2. Drive Rather than Fly
Instead of flying, take advantage of falling gas prices by setting out on a road trip. Compared to last year, fuel cost is estimated to be a dollar less per gallon in the United States. Make the most out of your outing. Get your kids involved by using Google Maps to plot your destinations along the way. Bring fun trivia and car games to transform what could be a boring car trip into an exciting adventure.
3. Research Budget Activities and Special Deals
Do your research ahead of time to find out about special offers. Since it is summer and the economy is slow, many businesses and towns are offering free events and incredible deals on discount websites such as Groupon.com. Instead of taking a pricey walking tour, print your own map out online and create a do-it-yourself version Visit free concerts and museums.
If you find a free deal a few states away, use it as your choice for an expedition. While on your trip, pass up the over-priced souvenirs and use your smart phones to capture photos. When your trip is over, compile your pictures into a colorful scrapbook or calendar as a memento or great gift idea for a family member in the future.
4. Find Off-Season Destinations
If you can take off week days, plan to travel Monday through Thursday so that you beat the crowds and weekend prices. Consider winter destinations, like the Caribbean, as you will enjoy their off-season prices during the summer.
5. Rethink Your Lodging
Avoid staying in the most popular locations. If you are planning a trip to a major tourist city, consider staying in a city close by. When choosing where to stay, take into account the variety of options besides expensive hotels. Camping is not only affordable, but a clever way to un-plug from your busy routine and enjoy the outdoors. If camping is not for you, consider a quaint bed and breakfast where you can enjoy a sit-down breakfast with your family.