Summer vacation is upon us and many of us are planning a trip. But are you ready financially for the costs? How are you planning to pay for this year’s getaway?
Most of us think ahead and plan for summer vacation. In fact, a recent survey found that eight in 10 Americans have saved at least part of the money needed for their summer vacation. However, 15 percent say that they will use their credit card. Of those using the credit card, two-thirds are planning to pay for the trip within a month, while 11 percent say it will take four months or more to pay for their trip.
The same research also showed that less than half of Americans (44 percent) are planning to take a trip at all this summer. This shows that some people are trying hard to not add any additional debt load to their credit cards.
But everyone wants to have a little bit of a break. What can we do to reduce costs, yet still have that much-needed break?
Take a staycation. Instead of jetting off to Florida or Europe, vacation close to home. How about a camping trip at a state park near Fairbanks? Or for that matter, just unplug from work and stay home. Try being a tourist in our own town. Spend a day walking through Pioneer Park or picnicking at Chena Lakes. It’s a great way to have a break and keep the vacation costs down.
Consider your lodging costs. We all know how expensive a hotel room can be. Take a look at some of the popular websites for vacation rentals. In February, we spent a week in Hawaii and rented a whole house for the same amount of money that two rooms would have cost. We had four bedrooms, a big kitchen, hangout space and lots of opportunities for family togetherness.
Meals are the next big cost. The best option to save money is to not eat out. Have a picnic or hit the grocery store for takeout. Many rooms have free breakfast, snacks at night and even free happy hour. You might pay more for the room, but will save on food. If your room comes equipped with a kitchen or even just a microwave, you can save real money by preparing your own meals.
If you are renting a car, think about prepaying for your rental. Recently, I prepaid for a car rental and found that it saved me several hundred dollars. You can’t always save this much, so be sure to check on the car rental website to review the prices for both the prepaid and regular rentals.
Do what the locals do. Check out what is happening locally in a newspaper or take a while to visit with people and find out where they are going. Local festivals are often low cost and tons of fun. Whether you take in a fair, music festival, or other local event, it is bound to be less expensive that tickets to Disney or a cruise.
If you can, choose to go off-season. Summer is a beautiful time to be in Alaska, so put your vacation off for a different time of year. Everyone wants to get out of Fairbanks in the coldest part of the winter, so that time is often expensive. Try a fall or spring trip. Plane tickets, hotels and events are less expensive at those times of year.
Avoid souvenirs. A plastic replica of the Eiffel Tower will not add a lot of value to your home furnishings when you get home. If you want to buy a remembrance of your trip, make sure it is something that you will use and enjoy later.
A vacation break is important for your mental state of mind, but it doesn’t have to break the bank.
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 907-474-7201.