Planning for summer vacation? How to save money AND have fun!

Posted on April 11 2014

After you finish preparing your tax return and file both your federal and state returns at OnePriceTaxes, the next thing on your agenda is to get ready for summer! Put your tax refund to good use by planning a fun vacation, and use these tips to vacation on a budget so you won't break the bank.

1. Stay close to home

Getting to your vacation destination can eat up a big chunk of your budget. Save money this summer by choosing a destination that's close to home. You'll be able to limit your transportation costs if you vacation somewhere within comfortable driving distance. Rather than spending hundreds of dollars per person on airfare, you'll be able to get to your vacation for just the cost of gas. Another idea, even closer to home, is to do a "staycation", which is when you vacation at your own home. Take the time off work and disconnect from technology, friends, and extended family just as if you were on a vacation. Then stay in your home, but use your vacation budget for food and fun rather than having to spend it on travel and
accommodations. Eat out at fancy restaurants, explore your city, and go on day trips to discover some new attractions nearby.

2. Choose accommodations with a kitchen

Eating out three meals every day, plus snacks in between, can get expensive quickly. Save money on your vacation by choosing accommodations with a kitchen or kitchenette so you can prepare some
meals from there. Even if you're in a hotel, you can prepare many types of breakfast with simple ingredients that fit in the mini fridge. You can also pack sandwiches, fruit, and chips to take with you for lunch while you're out for the day.

If you have a full kitchen, you can go grocery shopping at the beginning of your vacation and prepare most of your meals in your kitchen. Splurge on high-quality ingredients to prepare a fancy steak or surf and turf dinner for a fraction of the cost of that same meal in a restaurant. If you're getting tired of cooking, you can also go out a few times during your vacation to get a break from the kitchen.

3. Consider a home exchange

Do you know someone who lives in a place where you would love to vacation? Propose a home exchange, where you stay in their house while they come stay in your house. There are also websites that allow people to list their homes for exchanges so you may be able to set up an exchange with someone you don't know. Not only do you get free accommodations, but you also get a kitchen so your vacation budget is freed up for fun activities.

4. Vacation with your friends

If you're going to go traditional and pay for accommodations, consider renting a vacation house with your friends rather than staying in a crowded hotel room. Of course, these friends need to be people you truly enjoy and get along with so your vacation will be stress-free, but if you're a good match, it can be a lot of fun. When you share the cost of renting a vacation home with your friends, you all get a great deal and stellar accommodations.

5. Sign up for discount alerts

If you are going to travel or rent accommodations, book your vacation at the right time to save money off the list price. Unless you have time to compulsively check websites for deals, the best way to find out when a sale is going on is to sign up for discount alerts to be delivered right to your email inbox. Get on the mailing list for your favorite airlines, hotel chains, resorts, cruise lines, and daily deal sites to be alerted when a great deal is happening. As long as you hold onto your tax refund money after filing through OnePriceTaxes, you will be ready to jump on a stellar deal.

6. Use credit card rewards

Many credit cards offer rewards points that you can redeem for airfare, hotel stays, or even cash back to spend on whatever part of your vacation needs to be funded. Save up these points during the year and tap into them when it's time for summer vacation. If you buy most of your regular purchases on your credit card, you can take a big chunk out of the vacation cost each year.

Of course, this only really saves you money if you pay your credit card bill in full every month. Otherwise, you'll be paying 15% in interest to earn just 1%, or if you're lucky, 3% or even 5% back in rewards. Therefore, if you cannot control your credit card spending, don't even think about using this strategy to help with your vacation.

If you don't have a credit card with a good rewards program, but you think you could use the card wisely, look for a card with a sign-up bonus. Many airline rewards credit cards offer enough points to buy one or two round trip tickets after you get the card and use it for a few months. Although you might not get the card soon enough for this summer's vacation, there's always next year!
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