December 2015  
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How to Plan a Vacation on a Budget
Make planning your vacation a stress-free endeavor with these simple tips

Vacations are essential escapes for families. Parents often need a break from work and household duties to recharge their batteries, and children will appreciate the time spent away from schoolwork for the same reason. However, because vacations are inherently expensive, they can actually just be another source of stress for families. Keep your next vacation stress-free by planning out your vacation on a solid budget that fits your means.

Plan ahead

The single best thing you can do when planning a vacation on a budget is to start planning very early. Doing so means you will find cheaper rates for lodging, airfare and car rentals. It also means you can reserve your lodging in advance, instead of trying to find a hotel with vacancies the day of your arrival. Real Simple does recommend searching for last-minute deals leading up to your departure, however, as airlines and hotels often lower their rates when they have unreserved seats or rooms. Last-minute deals are only helpful for those with flexible plans, however.

During your planning phase, you should also consider the best time to travel. According to U.S. News, gas prices, hotel rates and airfare all go up during the holidays and the summer. Travel during the off-season for reduced rates. In addition, consider visiting friends or family to avoid the cost of a hotel, if your loved ones are willing and able to house you during your stay.

Create a conservative budget

When on vacation, it can be easy to spend your money freely. Remembering the limitations you need to impose on your credit card is difficult when everyone is in such a good mood. It is much easier to manage your money on vacation if you have created a conservative budget beforehand and have reviewed it with your entire family. USA Today lists common expenses to consider—food, lodging, transportation, entertainment, equipment and emergencies—but you must also consider time lost at work as an expense if you are hourly or out of paid time off for the year.

Search for deals

You can never be completely finished researching your vacation. There are always more “deals” to be found online or via your travel agent. Look for package deals with airports and hotels—consider an all-inclusive package for a cruise, resort or amusement park or bundle tickets in advance for shows, museums and other attractions your family wants to visit.

Pack light

According to Real Simple, there are a number of benefits to packing light. If you are traveling by car, you will want to maintain the best fuel economy possible. By limiting your suitcases, you can reduce overall vehicle weight and keep luggage off your roof racks for slightly improved efficiency and aerodynamics. If traveling by plane, you will spend less money on baggage by traveling with less. If you have souvenir money in your budget, it is important to leave some room in your suitcases for the return trip. Doing so will keep you from having to buy additional baggage at your destination before departing for home.

Look for cheaper activities

While some activities are going to be expensive, such as visiting an amusement park, you and your family can plan to find lots of food and entertainment options within your budget. Consider visiting museums or national parks for free entertainment and education, and cook your own meals if staying at a campground, cabin or equipped hotel room. Visit expensive restaurants at breakfast or lunch for reduced prices, and save your leftovers for dinner.

Vacations don’t have to bankrupt your savings account and can still provide an amazing getaway for your family. Keep stress out of your next vacation by following these easy tips.

This article is presented by Colonial Buick GMC in Watertown, Massachusetts.

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