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How to vacation on a budget

It is that time of year where summer vacations are nearly there. Chris and I are off to USA for three weeks on a road trip from California to Colorado and back very soon (we are both super excited for this). But holidays are expensive, for us this is the last big holiday for several years as Chris is starting college in September, and I'm in law school. Despite being a big holiday, we have worked hard to find the best deals and keep the cost as low as possible when booking. Today we will be sharing our tips on having an amazing vacation on a budget.

Make an itinerary. Know when you want to fly out. When you need accommodation for what locations and what you plan on doing during your days, this especially important for day trip planning. Though having some flexibility on your dates is helpful and will help you to be able to pick dates which offer the best value for money. 

Flights- Book early. We booked in January for a June/July holiday, but the prices were even cheaper when we looked in November/December. We found SkySkanner a really helpful site for comparing flight prices. Also think realistically about how many of the 'add-ons' you need. For us we knew that where we would be staying would have laundry facilities so we decided that we would share one 'hold' luggage and them both have our carry-ons (Chris has promised me that he will be able to fit all his stuff in his carry on; though we will see how that pans out). A lot of the cheaper airline make up their profits with add-ons. Food on the flights worked out as a £50 pp add-on. There is no way the food is worth that, and so we will be taking our own pack ups (and buy drinks in duty-free as we have to work around the liquids limit). We are flying with Norweigan who worked out £150 cheaper than everywhere else (plus I got cashback through Quidco)

Car Hire- At the end of the day all you need is a car to get you from A to B. It doesn't have to be a fancy model just ensure it can fit the number of passengers and the right amount of luggage. Big names such as Hertz and Avis often don't work out the best price. Plus never wait until you arrive in the country to pick up the car you sometimes pay  double what you would if you book online in advance. Also don't forget to compare the cost of the drivers if there are several of you travelling. If any of the drivers are young or have points/penalties on their license then the costs will increase. Consider whether someone else could opt to drive. 

Accommodation- I personally really love for booking accommodation. Firstly they offer some of the best prices out there. They have a really good cancellation policy. Plus for every ten nights you book you get one free. For our road trip, we have been super blessed and are able to stay with family and friends along our journey (we have only had to book eight nights out of the 20). also works through several cashback sites so you can save even more on your holiday. By being able to pay in advance you avoid paying debit-card international transaction fees. 

Foreign exchange- Monsey Saving Expert has a super useful tool for comparing exchange rates which are what we used when determining who to go with for our travel money. Never use a debit card abroad as the charges are extortionate. Though the site is correct in that there are a select number of credit cards that do provide slightly cheaper travel money. At the end of the day, they are still credit cards and so there is the temptation to spend much more than your budget as you can go into debt. However, if you have the financial diligence, then this may be the best option. If you want the security of having money on a card without the issue of debt or card fees, then a travel cashcard/passport works well. We opted to convert some of our money onto Travelex cash passports and the other in cash (in case we cant get to an ATM).

Theme parks- Booking in advance rather than on the day can save huge amounts. They are often 2/3x as expensive on the door also look for multi-day savings passes. Food at theme parks is also super expensive so bringing a packed lunch is often a good idea (though check how much a locker will cost). Another good thing to do is look online at what food places that are within your budget. Disney allows you to search their food outlets online based on cost p/p.

How do you save money on your vacation?

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