Why work so hard and deal with all the stress if you aren't going to enjoy it?? This is coming from me! I have a rule to only spend money on things that will increase in value, or generate an income, but I am willing to break that to travel and enjoy a vacation.
From managing money and investing all these years, I've found that the one thing that actually is of long term value to me is experiences. The luxury items and great meals are nice, but I lose interest after the short term excitement. Experiences last much longer, and that is something I'm willing to spend some money on.....
Here are a few tips I've learned as I've been finding the cheapest way to enjoy a great vacation!
1. Airline Credit Cards
You know from speaking with me that I hate credit cards. They are the surest way to hit financial hardship if you put more than you can afford on them, but if you can utilize them smart, there's a nice perk included. I personally only use airline credit cards to get tons of free miles to fly. You can put your business expenses, or personal expenses on them. The key is to only put on what you can afford to pay off BEFORE the end of the month. This way you will not accumulate interest and can easily pay them off. It is not worth it to overspend and try to deal with 17%+ interest against you, so make sure it is only used for items you can easily pay for in cash.
Overtime, these points really add up, especially if you have a lot of monthly expenses to pay for. This year I've gone to Florida 3 times and have been able to use my excess miles each time! If you cut down the cost of your flights that immediately increases your budget for more vacations, or what you do on the vacation you have planned.
2. Air BnB
I normally was the person to stay at a hotel or resort near the beach until I learned about Air BnB. Having your own house to stay in or a shared location can be a huge money saver! Not only is the overall cost to stay there less than resorts, but you have the privacy and ability to cook your own meals. Of course we all want to go out and enjoy some of the cool restaurants and local food, but if I can save a few hundred dollars on food each trip that could literally add up to another vacation that year, that's a good tradeoff in my opinion!
At Air BnB locations they have kitchens stocked with all the utensils, cooking supplies, cleaning supplies, etc that you would need. Simply go to a local supermarket or discount grocery store chain near your location and stock up on food for the week. As a group on our recent trip we paid a total of $35 each for the whole weeks supply of food, that's less than going to one restaurant for one meal! Some locations even have a grill which makes the experience even better.
3. Buying Alcohol
We all know getting a few drinks makes the vacation that much more fun, but it doesn't have to all be spent at the bar! Just like buying food for the week, you can buy whatever alcohol you want for the week as well. There are regular sized refrigerators at the house as opposed to the baby refrigerators at a hotel, and you don't have to pay $12 a drink at the bar! Of course you'll get some drinks when you are out, but if you can limit it to one or two as opposed to paying the bar all night for inflated drink prices, you'll come out way ahead on your vaca budget!
Knowing what locations you want to visit, the price of each, and how to get there can be very helpful on your vacation. Taking extra uber trips, renting a car, over paying for food you end up not liking, or visiting a way to pricey bar can eat away at that budget. There's so many free tools on the internet to research all the locations near where you will stay to determine what would be the best experience for you. Also, asking local residents is extremely helpful. They know all the popular bars and attractions and can give you insight on what is worth it or how to save money in the process!
It's never too late to start planning the next vacation. Going with a group of friends or family will dramatically decrease how much you will need to have a great time. Hopefully some of these tips can save you some cash so you can start worrying about what beach you're going to visit and not how you can afford it!