This is a guest post from Pauline of investmentzen.com
Holidays come around every year. You know it, I know it. So let’s prepare for them as much as we can in order to make them fun and affordable, shall we?
- Save ahead
You still have several months until your summer holidays. If you need $500 five months from now, it will be much easier to save $100 a month than to come up with $500 in late June. You might end up charging your credit card, and paying interest (at least get a 0% interest card!) for a holiday that will already be long behind you, which is pretty annoying.
So write down a savings plan. How are you going to pay for your holiday? The easiest is just to have the money transferred automatically every month into a high yield savings account so you forget about it and it makes a few pennies on top.
- Book early
Flight prices go up quickly, if you want to fly exactly around a long weekend or a school holiday. I like to book my flights at least six months in advance, but find that the price really starts to increase around the three month mark.
The same goes for trains and buses if you are traveling by land, or even car rentals. Tickets usually open three or six months earlier, and if you are looking at highly desirable dates, set a reminder in your calendar to book your tickets that very day. You can always buy travel insurance if your plans change. Back when I had a job, I also used to ask my boss well in advance if taking the time off was ok, in order to be able to book instantly should a deal arise.
- Apply for the perfect card
Have you ever heard of credit card hacking? People look up the best credit cards for travel, and then start spending on them to get free hotel nights and free flights. There are many sites that will tell you exactly how to spend optimally to get maximum miles and loyalty points, but remember that this is a game you only want to play if you are going to pay your balance in full at the end of each month. Otherwise, the interest will eat up any perks. Applying for a card early will allow you to understand the program, and book your free travel before other people.
- Define your priorities
One of my last trip was to the Grand Canyon. I didn’t really care about the quality of my accommodation, since I planned on spending most of my days hiking around the National Parks. So I was willing to make sacrifices on that, whereas having a nice meal in the evening was important, after eating trail mix all day.
Your priorities can be big ticket items, things you absolutely want to do and see. But you don’t need to visit ALL the museums and ALL the attractions one place has to offer. Once you have made up your list, look for coupons online. Some places may even have free days if you are lucky. It is worth organizing your visits around that specific day, especially if you are bringing the whole family along.
- Look for free fun
Speaking of which, there are tons of free activities that are enjoyable everywhere. Open air concerts in summer, free parks, and even free campsites! So once you have cut back on the paying activities, fill your agenda back up with free stuff.
Many big cities have free walking tours (usually the guide will ask for a tip at the end, but that’s 2 hours of family fun for $5 or $10), if you are on Airbnb, you could ask your host to lend you some bicycles, or just find other families nearby who share your hobbies on Meetup.
- Keep a budget
How much are you willing to spend per day on your holiday? You have already booked transportation and accommodation in advance, how much should meals and activities cost? Try to bring cash if you want a better visual representation. Look up restaurant prices before you go to avoid surprises.
Have a backup solution, for example if you overspend on lunch, cook dinner at home and just go out for ice cream.
- Be ready for an emergency
A car breakdown, a kid’s health concern, … even small emergencies away from home can be costly. Imagine you booked all your hotels in advance but your car won’t start. You can’t go to the next city and all your bookings are non refundable. On top of that, you need to find a new place to stay near the workshop. It happens. If you are not properly insured (some credit cards will cover you if you use them to pay for your holidays, check that out before you buy travel insurance), make sure you have a big enough emergency fund to cover emergencies.
Holidays are meant to be fun, don’t let money tensions ruin them!