Whenever someone I know is planning a vacation one of the first things they ask me is if I have any tips for saving on vacations. Of course, there are plenty of ways to save on your vacation and to save on souvenirs. But there are also a few things you can do at home before you even leave that will save you money and your sanity.
Take care of your utilities.
Turn off your water heater. If you’re planning to be gone more than a week, turn off your hot water heater. There is no sense paying to heat water that no one is using while you’re on vacation. Shut it off and save a few bucks on your utility bill.
Turn off your water. I’ve been a home owner longer enough to realize that weird things can happen – things like the water supply valve to your washing machine suddenly failing and spewing water all over the laundry room. If you’re going to be gone more than a few days, consider shutting off all the water to your home. You won’t have to worry about freak floods damaging your home while you’re gone.
Adjust the thermostat. You can keep the house cooler in winter and hotter in the summer while you’re away on vacation. You’ll save on your utility bill and be kinder to the environment, too.
Program your lights. A dark house tells people that your house is empty. Plug a lamp or two into a timer and set them to come on in the evenings for an hour or two. An outdoor light with a motion sensor can also deter would-be thieves.
Play it safe.
Make a photo copy of the contents of your wallet before you leave. If something were to happen to your wallet while you were on vacation, you would have a detailed list of all the information you need to cancel your cards and replace them with new ones. Just be sure to put it in a safe place.
Don’t announce to the world you’ll be gone. It’s exciting to go on vacation and you may be tempted to tell everyone you know. Don’t! Don’t broadcast that you’ll be gone on Facebook or Twitter. Don’t post location-based updates while you’re away. When you tell everyone your house is empty, you put it at risk for burglaries or vandalism. Wait until you return home to tell the world about your trip.
Have a trusted friend or family member check on the house while you’re gone. You shouldn’t tell the world you’re out of town, but it is a good idea to tell a few trusted folks. They can check on your house while you’re gone (especially during times of bad weather). Leave them a detailed itinerary so that they know how to reach you in case of an emergency.
Arrange to have mail and newspapers picked up. Mail and newspapers that have piled up on your doorstep tell would-be thieves no one is at home. Have your mail held at the post office and hold delivery on your newspapers, or arrange to have a neighbor collect them for you daily.
Plan ahead for your trip.
Bring snacks and drinks. Bring along your own snacks and drinks to avoid paying top prices at convenience stores or vending machines. You can even bring some shelf-stable convenience meals or breakfast foods to help you save.
You should also make sure to bring a variety of over-the-counter medicines. It’s no fun looking for a drugstore on vacation to deal with stomach issues or headaches – plus you’re at the mercy of whatever prices they charge.
Pack well. It can be impossible to guess what the weather will be like where you are going, so it’s a good idea to bring items that can be layered. For example, you don’t want to worry about being cold, so pack a cardigan or jacket that goes with several outfits. Pack light and avoid paying more for gas (or more to check a bag at the airport) by packing versatile items that can be mixed and matched to look like totally different outfits.
Plan for your return.
Clean the house before you leave. After you’ve been away from home for awhile, there’s nothing like coming home to sleep in your own bed. Come home to a clean and tidy house, and you’ll feel even better! You’ll be able to get back into the groove of being at home if you aren’t overwhelmed by a mess the moment you get home.
Shop before you leave. Do a quick inventory of your pantry and freezer before you leave. Then make a quick trip to the store to pick up the things you know you’ll need. By taking care of that shopping list before you leave town, you’ll be less likely to make expensive impulse buys when you get home. And you won’t have to shop when you’re exhausted from your trip, so it’s kind of like extending that vacation!
Plan for simple meals when you return. It’s pretty easy to get spoiled on vacation when it comes to meals. Whether others cooked for you or you ate out at restaurants, it can be hard to get back into the habit of creating healthy, home-cooked meals. Don’t waste any more money eating out! Instead, make up some meals and put them in your freezer before you go, or pick up a couple of quick convenience items like jarred spaghetti sauce and pasta so that you can throw together a simple meal with minimal effort and expense.
Planning ahead saves time and money.
With just a little bit of planning, you’ll make sure that you’ll be able to rest easy while on your vacation and be able to ease back into the old routine when you return home.
Your turn: What things do you do to get ready for a vacation?