Thursday, May 3, 2012

More Savings Ideas for Vacations

Have you ever paid for a vacation in advance, and then came back from a vacation broke or in debt after having paid for those extra or unexpected expenses? I have! It's easy to budget for the expected expenses of a vacation--hotel, airline tickets, rental car, entertainment tickets, etc. It's the extras that are more difficult--pet/house sitting, parking at the airport, luggage fees, souvenirs, meals, etc.

Back in December I wrote about how to get the cheapest price for a Disney Cruise; now I'll share some of my tips on saving on other miscellaneous parts of a vacation.  

1. Use credit card rewards smartly. If you have good credit and are disciplined enough to pay your credit card balance in full every month to avoid fees and interest charges, using a credit card with rewards attached can be an easy way to save money on your vacation. We had been using a generic rewards card up until last year, and we'd cash out the rewards every now and then and not ever remember what we spent it on. Then last year we received an offer in the mail for a Disney Visa rewards card, and since we figured we'd probably go to Disney World or on a Disney Cruise a few more times while the kids are young, we decided to switch. At the time we signed up for the card, they were offering a $200 Disney gift card as an incentive. My husband and I each got a card, so we got $400 in Disney gift cards. Then we paid for our cruise with the credit card, which got us more reward dollars (and an additional $50 onboard credit). We switched some of our utilities to the credit card so that we earn more reward points while still paying off our card every month. Bottom line, our Disney Visa rewards enabled us to get 3 nights at a Disney hotel before our cruise and our kids' tickets to Disney World for free!  

2. If flying, pack less. Most airlines charges $25 per checked bag, so packing less cuts down on luggage fees. Last year when we flew to San Diego, we fit all of our clothes and stuff for 5 people (including a baby) in 2 large suitcases. I'd like to only bring 2 suitcases on our upcoming trip, but realistically we might have to stretch that to 3 suitcases since we will need to bring some dress-up clothes. We will see.

3. Pre-pay for airport parking and look for an online discount code. If you're not familiar with, visit the site before you pay for anything online. It's a database of online coupon codes. Currently there is a code for Park n Fly.

4. Save on photographs. Take your own camera and ask someone to take your picture at an attraction or with a character. I've always done this at Disney World. Also, consider pre-purchasing a Disneyworld photopass CD and/or splitting the cost with another family traveling at the same time.  

5. Plan far in advance for souvenir money, especially for kids. If your kids are old enough to earn an allowance, teach them to save some for souvenirs on your vacation. As soon as my oldest son turned 5, he started earning an allowance and has saved money for all of his souvenirs on our last 2 vacations (Disney World and San Diego). Ask family members for gift cards or vacation money for birthdays and holidays. Last Christmas, my kids each received a $50 Disney gift card from my parents. Brian and I also received a $75 gift card from my brother and sister-in-law.

6. Save money on food. Bring your own food for snacks on the airplane. Bring Nutri-Grain bars for a quick, easy breakfast. Eat sit-down meals for lunch instead of dinner (prices are usually cheaper at lunch). Share a meal instead of ordering one for each person. Bring your own water bottle and fill it up at water fountains along the way.

I'd love to hear your money-saving tips for all those vacation *extras*!

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