Tips to avoid a costly vacation

This was originally published on Monday, August 31, 2015, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Question: My family and I want to go on vacation next summer, we want to take the kids off-island, but it is so costly. Do you have any tips on how we can bring the costs down?

Answer: Another summer has past and kids are back in school. Vacations should be fun and memorable. You wait all year for another time to go on vacation. Going on vacation, especially if you plan to travel to distant locations, can also put a good dent on your wallet. Although next summer may be a whole year away, today is the perfect time to start planning for your next summer vacation.

Start a vacation savings account. Just like buying a car, or any other high end purchase, you should always start saving money for an upcoming event. Create an account that is separate from the account that you use regularly. This account should be dedicated to just the vacation. If possible, have an allotment go directly to this account so you don’t become tempted to use it.

Be flexible. Unless you know specifically where you want to vacation, keep your options open. Do some research. Find a vacation destination that fulfills your idea of fun and gives you the most bang for your buck. This could include international travel that is closer, reducing your travel cost. Guam is so close to the orient and there are similar entertainment destinations such as Tokyo Disney and Universal Studios in Osaka. The Dollar has been quite strong against the yen so it may not be as expensive as you think going to those destinations. Destinations that cater to tourists usually are pricier. If you can, travel outside the high travel times. Usually the best times to travel is May through early June. Airfares, rental cars and hotels have some of their best deals outside the peak summer travel months. Weekday travel is usually cheaper than traveling on a weekend. Avoid traveling on three-day weekends, especially those during the summer.

Use your points or rewards. From airlines, to gas stations, and even your credit cards can save you money by using their customer loyalty programs. Some programs may even partner up with other companies to offer package discounts. There are two banks on Guam that offer points for use on their credit cards or debit cards that can be redeemed for travel and/or lodging. The key is to pay those cards off monthly.

Think outside the hotel. One of the larger costs is lodging, especially if you have a large family. Staying in hotel rooms for several weeks can add up. There are many different options than staying in a hotel room. You can rent homes or apartments through a vacation rental company. By thinking outside the hotel you can maximize your money by cooking meals and being close to many attractions. You may also check to see if you have family or friends in the area with whom you could stay.

Find package deals. Travel agents and even online booking sites offer package deals that can save you money. Package deals could include airfare, transportation, lodging and food.

Travel with a large group. Make it a true family vacation or travel with friends. Large groups can get discounts and share costs. You can split the cost of food if you buy in bulk and cook. You may even rent a house and share the lodging costs. Many attractions including theme parks offer group rates.

Book in advance. Book your airfare, hotels or rental cars well in advance. This usually saves you money. Some travel websites recommend anywhere from forty-five to ninety days in advance. Check fares early and often. You can sign up for airfare alerts through certain programs online. Once again, be flexible. Usually the most direct route is the most expensive. If you have time consider alternate routes. Flying one route to your vacation and flying back on another may save money. You may have more stops and layovers but as the saying goes, “It’s not about the destination it’s about the journey.”

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.

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