Over the years planning a family vacation on a budget has become something of a challenge. Everything from plane tickets to hotels to gas has ratcheted up a few notches on the old cost meter while my paycheck has stayed the same or even slightly dropped thanks to escalating healthcare costs and the old self-funded retirement known as the 401(k).
That being said, getting away for any period of time is still possible, but it takes a little legwork to accomplish the task without sacrificing location or details. After all, if I’m going to the ocean, what’s the point if I can’t stay in an ocean-view room? Smaller local trips are great, but getting away for a day or a weekend just doesn’t compare with recharging the families batteries in some sort of faraway multi-night trip.
Online travel agencies, or OTA’s, routinely feature a variety of specials for a variety of locations. Travelocity, Expedia, and just about every other brand will bundle in flight, hotel or resort, rental car costs, and more into one solid price. Being a price conscious consumer means clicking around and rechecking often for the best deal, but these package deals can result in considerable savings on any number of destinations. The real trick is finding a family friendly destination.
The all-inclusive resorts seem to something of an out-of-the-United-States type of feature, but taking food and beverages out of the equation for a family is a big plus. Looking at resorts that charge the card only once and offer unlimited type of meals is a great way to save on those hefty $100-breakfast buffets many theme parks offer. Just finding one in a location that suits individual needs can be a challenge. As an added plus, many resorts of this type offer up airline credits to offset what is increasingly becoming the bulk of travel expenses-airfares.
It’s no secret that airline fees have gotten out of hand for the family on vacation. Booking seats together costs money, taking luggage costs money, and even trying to hook up to Wi-Fi on flights costs money. That means that finding great deals on airfares is a must, which means booking ahead. In my case booking months in advance and locking in a low rate, while it might not be the ultra-low rate offered, saves a little bit of cash. However, researching possible routes and flight schedules revealed that flying on Wednesdays can get you a break on airfares.
Those travel dates get a little more complicated when traveling from Wednesday to Wednesday and can even mean some creative scheduling at work. For the most part, a summer vacation represented a scheduling nightmare. While taking the kids out of school for a break is unattractive, traveling in early November or late October meant avoiding ultra-hot weather and higher peak season rates.
The bottom line is that by committing to a realistic budget and sticking to it, allows me to use the Internet to weigh in on a bunch of different traveling options. Seeing Texas or the Grand Canyon is a distinct possibility, it just means a little more legwork.