12 Savvy Solutions to Taming Your Vacation Budget

If you’re lucky, you’re reading this article on an island while rubbing on sunscreen and mulling over another strawberry daiquiri.  Most likely, you’re reading this in your living room, checking your Facebook page and wondering if a medium latte is really worth that extra 83 cents. Everyone deserves a vacation ―and you don’t have to break the bank to do it.

The trick to sticking to and taming a vacation budget is to know how to make the most of your vacation dollars. If you’re trying to sneak in that much-needed vacation within the next few weeks, chances are your efforts to travel on a budget will be difficult to accomplish last minute. Fortunately, cheap flights abound, not all exotic destinations have 4 dollar signs next to their names, and options do exist for families if you plan early and are willing to be a little adventurous.

Here are 12 savvy solutions to help you better prepare and tame your vacation budget.

Be Adventurous

Consider a visit to online sites such as Couch Surfing, Hospitality Club or the servas United States. These sites can help you research and locate people from around the world, who host visitors in their homes for free.

Timing Is Everything 

According to Fare Compare, Wednesday is the cheapest day to travel domestically. Want the lowest airfare? If so, book on Tuesday’s at 3 p.m. Eastern. Last minute vacations rarely end up on the cheap end, but if you need to get away now and want to get the best deal, web sites like cheapOair and lastminute can be of assistance.

Shop Cheap Brands

Yes the J.W. Marriott Hotel is amazing but hotel chains such as La Quinta or Quality Inn can be inexpensive and dependably consistent.  Also, don’t forget about Trip AdvisorKayak. and Trivago as these online sites can be a big help when searching for hotels that meet your vacation budget.

Picture It

When searching for bargain hotels, be wary of online reviews. Look for photos as well, because they can be more reliable than anonymous reviewers.

Remember Bigger Isn’t Better

Do you really need the Tahoe or Suburban? Reserve a compact car because they have better fuel efficiency and aren’t that popular. Rental companies fill their lots with bigger cars; if they run out of compacts, you might just get a free upgrade.

Take a Walk 

Visit web sites like Tours by Locals, the Global Greeter Network or SANDEMANs New Europe  for free walking tours from locals.

Discover Where Your Tank of Gas Will Take You 

Utilize GasBuddy or AAA TripTik Travel Planner tool. With GasBuddy, you can type in your hometown and indicate how much gas you want to use. The tool then lists destinations within your reach. Have a smartphone handy? Download the Fuelio app to help track your mileage, gas consumption, car expenses, your fill-ups and overall gas costs.

Just Cruise 

Cruises, especially shorter and less-expensive sailings, are always bargains, especially come midsummer and fall. For short cruises, check out check out Princess Cruises and  Cruise. Vacations to Go is another web site that has a world-famous 90-Day Ticker, which it says is a complete listing of last-minute cruises on the world’s best cruise lines.

Travel With Friends

Not only can travel with your buddies be fun but if you can put together at least 10 travelers, you may save on carriers such as Southwest, United and American. Also ask tour operators, cruise directors and perhaps a hotel concierge about group deals.

Enjoy a National Park Perk

The $10 America the Beautiful Senior Pass provides lifetime entry to 2,000 national parks and recreation sites.

Feed the Little Mouths for Free 

Kids eat free or at a discount at dozens of chain restaurants. Check for details at Family Friendly America, Groupon and Coupon Divas.

Make the Switch 

If you live in a popular location and you’re willing to let a stranger into your home, join a home-exchange site. Sites like Love Home Swap, Knok, and CasaHop are quickly shaking up the home-swapping scene and are providing new alternatives to established home-exchange sites like HomeLink, HomeExchange, and Intervac.

With these 12 savvy solutions, you can begin to tame and better prepare your vacation budget and get the most out of your money. Also, before you travel, review your life insurance policy and make sure your family is protected.

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