Tips for the family vacation

This was originally published on Monday, May 1, 2017, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Question: My family and I have talked about going on a dream summer vacation off island a few years from now before my oldest graduates from high school. Do you have any tips to help me give my family the vacation of a lifetime?

Family vacations, whether on island or off island, are lots of fun and create many wonderful family memories. These family memories will be shared for a lifetime, but you don’t want the trip to put you and the family in a financial bind.

Going off island can be very costly. Just the plane tickets alone are expensive. Of course, with anything that expensive, you need to save. Making the family dream vacation come true is a great feeling, but you certainly want to plan and budget well in advance. Here are a few things to consider when putting your family vacation budget together.

  • Be flexible. Do you know exactly where you want to go? If not, keep your options open. Do some research with your family. You may want to consider traveling internationally, especially if the dollar is strong. Look for destinations that provide you the most for your money. The typical tourist destinations are usually pricier.

The best time to travel is May through early June. Although the kids are still in school, it can save you money. Talk to your child’s school and see if they can arrange a way to let your child out a little earlier. By traveling during the off-peak times, you can save a lot of money. Airfare, 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. Also avoid traveling on three-day weekends.

  • Non-summer travel. Does your vacation have to be during the summer time? Think about spring, Thanksgiving or winter break. Most schools are willing to work with you to extend these breaks a few more days so that you can travel. Schoolwork is a great way to keep kids busy on an airplane.

Use your points or rewards. Many companies now give incentives to use their services. Many airlines, gas stations, car rentals, hotels and credit card companies can save you money by using their customer loyalty programs. Some programs may even partner up with other companies to offer package discounts.

  • Shop around. Travel agents can help you create the dream vacation and are convenient. But they do charge extra for their time. Get quotes from several different agencies before committing. You may also want to consider an online booking agency. Many of them can create package deals with airfare, hotel, rental car and amusement parks. Since they have direct contracts with these companies, they can be less expensive to book.

Whether you use a traditional travel agent or online booking, be sure that you know what you are buying. Spend a little extra money for a refundable option. You may run into some difficulties during travel or even before you start. The last thing you want is to pay for that dream vacation that you never took.

  • Book in advance. Whether it is airfare, hotels or rental cars, booking in advance usually saves you money. Some travel websites recommend anywhere from 45 to 90 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 or flying one route to your vacation and flying back on another. You may have more stops and layovers, but as the saying goes, “It’s not about the destination, but 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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