Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Travel expenses: make your money go the extra mile

Among the hypothetical items listed in things people would spend on if they'd won the lottery, there's usually some mention of an indulgent vacation. People often equate travel with luxury, and with good reason: it can be very costly. Despite our knowledge that we need breaks, that we need rest, and that vacations are something we should build into our budgets, the reality is that with mortgages, tuition, and car payments, it's often just not a priority. There are definitely ways, though, to minimize the costs of traveling, which would increase the likelihood of you being able to afford it:
Be proactive: time is money; spending a little time upfront planning out the details of your trip will most certainly save you money. If you decide well in advance on a vacation time and destination, buying your tickets long beforehand will cut the costs of airfare substantially. The same holds true for accommodations. Using sites like Hotwire can help you compare prices to make sure the rate you get is the most competitive. Planning will save you on just about every aspect of your trip, big or small. It could be something as trivial as planning to pack snacks for your wait at the airport and for layovers (even packing meals for the plane ride) to ensuring that you have the appropriate clothing and equipment for your destination already packed in your bag. Having to buy these items at the mercy of airport shops and tourist stores guarantees markups for you. The savings may seem trivial if you don't give the matter much thought, but if you actually record the savings and add them up, you'll be surprised to find that it's no small amount. The more planning you are able to do, the more you will save.
Be creative: consider substitutions for your vacation that you might not have planned for in your traditional vision of the ideal vacation. Take advantage of a friend's vacation property; stay in hostels; find out what free activities the locals rely on for good entertainment.
Be prepared: anticipate hardships during your travels so that when they occur, you are equipped to deal with them (and Murphy's law will show you that if you are ready for bad things to happen, they won't happen). Knowing the health risks associated with travel to your destination, get the appropriate vaccinations before you go, and save yourself the agony and the expense of being sick abroad. That said, vaccinations don't guarantee perfect health when you're abroad, so make sure to invest in adequate traveler's insurance so that you're not confronted with an enormous medical bill in the event of illness or injury.
Be flexible: Although vacation dates are usually dependent upon when we are able to book time off of work, if you can, try to travel off season. Seasons and dates that tend to see the highest airfares are the summer months, Christmas, spring break, and Thanksgiving. If it's possible, try to book your vacation away from those times. Also, flexibility in the days of the week, as well as the times of day that you fly could be a further source of savings. Saturdays tend to cost more than Tuesdays or Wednesdays, for example, and red-eye flights (if you're up to it) tend to cost less than those that run mid morning to mid evening.