Better Budgeting: Saving Money While on Vacation

Saving Money While on Vacation

Black Belt Shopper (featured column)
by Larry Wiener

Much as I am willing to spend money for attractions on vacation, I do try to cut overhead. Here are a few tips I have found valuable for saving money while on vacation.

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Vacations are great for the soul. Being away from home and the schedule, relaxing, touring, trying new adventures–great restorative vacations. Vacations can, however, be hard on the budget as you see the dollars go.

Really, though, I don’t mind spending to make my vacation better. I figure part of the reason I clip the coupons and use the ultra-cheap long distance company is so that I will have the extra dollars for weeklong vacations, weekend getaways, and day trips.

During a recent trip to Monterey, for example, I was perfectly willing to get the more expensive Plus Package to the Monterey Bay Aquarium ($19.95 for each adult) so I could get more out of the visit.

One place I refused to visit in Monterey, however, was the 7-11 Convenience Store because that’s a clip joint. Much as I am willing to spend money for attractions on vacation, I do try to cut overhead. Here are a few tips I have found valuable for saving money while on vacation.

Bring your own snacks:

Whether you’re traveling by yourself or with children, you will get hungry along the way. Roadside stores don’t offer the best snacks, either nutritionally or in terms of price. You can pack some of your favorite snacks before you go and save yourself time, trouble, and money. I find an ice chest helpful; you can usually get ice refills at motels.

If you are on a long trip and run out of snacks, a trip to a major grocery store will serve you better than convenience stores.

I even bring snacks on air trips as delays at major hubs such as O’Hare are common. Food from airport food stands are often overpriced and not really tasty.

Ask for discounts:

Many facilities offer discounts for Auto Club members, AARP members, and other groups. Those discounts are not always posted or announced in travel literature. It was only when I asked that I found that the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas (great museum if you’re out that way) offers a discount to AAA members.

Buy gas from the less expensive stations:

Gas prices vary within a 50 mile radius. Generally prices are lower in the cities than in the outlying areas. While it doesn’t make sense to spend half your time looking for gasoline bargains, it makes more sense to fill up if you see gas at a good price even if you still have half a tank.

Try to eliminate the need for ATM visits: 

You don’t want to spend all your time looking for an ATM from your bank any more than you want to spend money on ATM surcharges. By purchasing traveler’s checks, using a card whenever possible, or bringing enough cash, you will less likely need to visit the ATM.

Try to save on parking expenses: 

Parking lots associated with major attractions can be very overpriced. In Santa Cruz, for example, it costs $8 to park in the lot for the Boardwalk. Two blocks away I found free on- street parking. This is the case in many areas frequented by out of town tourists.

Personally, I enjoy the extra few blocks of walking. I get to check out the new environment. Since when on vacation I am away from my diet and exercise program, the extra calories spent don’t do me any harm.

Be very careful to look at the signs, however, to make sure that you are not parking in a spot that will land you a ticket or, worse yet, a tow-away. Generally if you don’t see any cars parked on a block, that’s a sign.

I know many people who enjoy taking a vacation from budgeting while on vacation. I find that same trend tempting. I motivate myself, however, by saying that if during a weeklong vacation I can cut some overhead without cutting my enjoyment of the trip, I can save enough to help finance a weekend getaway in a few months when I need it.

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Copyright © 2001 by Larry Wiener. All rights reserved.

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