By Kendall Bitonte, GalTime Associate Producer
"Vacations are what you and your family remember for the rest of your life but you don't want to be paying for them for the res of your life. That's why it's important to budget a debt free vacation." Those are the words of wisdom from travel guru and finance wiz Ellie Kay. An author, mother and financial expert in her own right, Kay has tips for all of us who are planning summer get-aways or researching how to make future vacations real possibilities.
Before daydreaming yourself into travel photographs, however, you have to make a clear, realistic and inelastic budget that includes everything from transportation, room & board, food, amusement and even those usually "hidden fees." She also suggests taking time to consider vacation options outside of what is considered traditional.
"The bottom line is planning the most enjoyable vacation your family can take without going into debt, because not having the bills to pay after will make the experience that much better," reminds Kay.
She strongly suggests starting your budgeting process with the website budgetyourtrip.com. The site operates as a hybrid between a social media and travel website: travelers and consumers share their past experiences and hidden costs that they found while visiting the specific location. Plus, the site also has an 'average daily travel cost per person' that breaks down a daily budget into everything from food to, the less desirable, "scams, robberies and mishaps."
The three largest parts of a vacation budget typically are accommodations, transportation and entertainment, but Kay has tips for how to make each of these hurt your wallet a little less.
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- Think beyond the hotel. According to Kay, a good cruise deal is often cheaper than a hotel stay (she suggests cayloe.com for cruise deals). Also, consider doing a house swap or renting someone's owned vacation house (vrbo.com). Kay points out that renting through an owner cuts out the middle-man charges of a traditional rental process.
- If you're flying, be sure to compare ticket prices from multiple sources (bookingbuddy.com) as well as the original air carrier. As for hitting the road, Kay says gas prices have to be a part of the budget and AAA's fuel cost calculator factors in the destination as well as the make & model of your vehicle to give a personalized route that includes the best places to stop to fill-up along the way.
- As for the entertainment on the road, check out websites like groupon.com and livingsocial.com for discounted tickets to amusement parks, ball games, plays and concerts at your destination.
Don't let the process of budgeting intimidate you-a vacation is good for your physical and mental health and sticking to your budget (don't forget to budget in souvenirs!) make the post-vacation blues a little easier to soothe.
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