Two words have rarely meant more to kids and parents alike, though generally the responses are polar opposites. It’s the first big vacation opportunity of the year and, in many ways, it’s like going to a buffet when you’re starving. Everything is tempting and it’s easy to end up trying everything in sight! The problem with that – one of the many problems with that – is that it’s easy to overspend.
This post is not about self-denial, though! We are not going to give you the evil eye and ask if you really need to try all three flavors of cake. (Because we are totally trying them all!) Instead, we have a few simple tips to help save where you can, so you can spend where you want. Starting with our #Travel140 Travel Tip on the topic, and continuing with these tips, we can Keep Spring Break Affordable!
Tip #1: Be Flexible
Yes, we know you’ve had your heart set on a beach trip. Everyone else has, too, and beach resorts know this. Same goes for the ski resorts who still have snow. You are going to pay a premium for these vacations, but you can opt for something fun in someplace not as popular. Perhaps that’s a beach town that doesn’t get overrun by college kids (and thus, is much more family-friendly). Maybe that means exploring the ghost towns of Arizona instead of the Grand Canyon.
Flexibility with your calendar will pay off, too. Unfortunately, school (and often work) holidays usually start Friday afternoon, and end on Monday mornings. That leads to a big problem: Everybody want to travel on Saturday and Sunday. No bueno for your pocket book. If you can travel on a Tuesday or Wednesday, you’ll generally pay less.
Tip #2: Pack Smart
Airlines love baggage fees. We do not. So ask yourself: “Does my family of four need to check four suitcases on this flight?” Sharing is saving. If two kids can squeeze into one bag (figuratively; please don’t try this at home!), that’s $25 saved. You might have to leave a few things behind to make that happen, but it could be worth the trade-off.
On the other hand, it might make sense to pack some things you could buy when you get there. Sun screen is a good example. You can pick some up at home for a few dollars, compared to $10 or $15 (or more!) at a resort. Unless there’s a drugstore nearby, you’ll almost always pay Resort Prices for toiletries and over-the-counter medications. Individually, they may not add much to the bottom line, but they can add up quickly.
Tip #3: Book Ahead
If you are booking a hotel for Spring Break in the spring, chances are you’re paying too much. The closer we get to any holiday or event, the less open rooms there are likely to be. Which means the rooms that are empty will cost more. Our favorite trick is to book a room early, but keep looking for price drops, sales, and promotions. If you find one, book the cheaper rate and cancel your old reservation. If you’ve booked a non-refundable rate, it never hurts to call the hotel and ask if they’ll honor the sale price for you.
The same is almost true for airfare, except for the part where you book the new price and cancel the old ticket. Airlines are smarter than that. There is almost always a cancellation or change fee involved, which will usually wipe out any potential savings. Because of the airline’s pricing strategies, you are usually best off booking somewhere between one and four months before your trip. That’s when sale fares are most likely to show up. When you see a price you can live with, buy it! There are probably very few seats with that price tag; once they’re gone, the airline moves to the next cheapest fare.
Tip #4: Be a Coupon Queen (or King)!
A lot of thrifty travelers swear by Groupon and Living Social to find cheap eats and attractions at their destinations. Don’t stop there, though. By checking our smartphone’s app store for more coupon apps, we found Specials, which shows us restaurant specials and coupons around us. Having someone old enough to join AARP in the family helps, too. The AARP Member Advantages app also shows local savings and discounts, and you don’t have to be 50+ to use them. Finally, be sure to search Google or ask Siri about specials in your destination, too. Many times, you’ll find coupons you can print in advance for more savings.
Tip #5: A strong dollar goes further, and so should you!
If you’re comfortable taking your family overseas, this spring is a great time to do it. Foreign airlines are competing with American legacy carriers for your business, driving the cost of international travel down further. While Mexico and Central America have always been a good value for American tourists, the European continent is particularly affordable now. Travel experts are saying to look even further: South America, North and South Africa, and even Asian countries like Vietnam and Cambodia are good values. While the long flight might be expensive, low prices in-country make up the difference. Whatever the savings are, there is no better value than an international experience for enriching young minds. And older ones!
Rule Spring Break!
You don’t have to bust the budget for a great experience. Whether it’s a family vacation or an adults-only escape for Mom and Dad, these tips can help you get the time off you deserve with some savings you’ll appreciate.
We’re anxious to hear what’s on your Spring Break agenda, and how you plan to get away without breaking the bank. Share your tips, thoughts, or questions in the Comments!