Budgeting during summer vacation

By Sijun Li

It’s that time of the year again – Summer! The kids are out of school, the sun is out bright and early, and it’s time to take that much needed vacation.

But in this economy, it’s important to budget for everything. Whether it be a night out or a week-long getaway, knowing how much you can afford to spend will help you avoid financial problems.

According to a just released American Express survey, American households are expected to spend about $1,200 per person on summer vacations. For the typical middle-class, median-sized household, this means that an estimated 5% of income goes toward vacations.

So the simple solution to planning a summer vacation budget is simple: The less spent, the more money saved. While this summer getaway is the chance to reward yourself for working those long hours, it’s still crucial to stay frugal.  Here are a few money saving tips to keep in mind when you’re preparing for that summer getaway:

The early bird gets the worm. Don’t wait until the last minute to book a flight or hotel. The earlier you do it, the better chance you get at getting a deal. Try a comparison site like Priceline.com to snap the best deals.

Research, Research, Research. Go to visitors’ bureaus and look on attraction websites to see if there are any special rates. You may be able to purchase special packages which can include discounts on transportation, entrance fees and even food.

Flexibility is a must. Typically, weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) pricing for attractions are more expensive. If possible, go during the weekday. You’d be getting the same experience for less money, not to mention, it won’t be as crowded.

Membership advantages. People tend to forget about their membership discounts. By belonging to organizations like AAA or being a member of an alumni association, you can get special discounts on certain attractions. This also applies to being a certain type of cardholder, like Visa or American Express.

Alternative accommodations. Instead of renting a hotel room every night, try staying with relatives or family friends. Tourist towns have condos and houses that can be rented out for a week or even a month. This would be ideal if you’re traveling with the kids, and you’d get a lot more room.

Supermarket foods. Go to a local supermarket and stock up on grocery items. There’s no need to dine in an expensive restaurant every night. This means you can also pack lunch every day and enjoy a nice picnic with the family.

Preparation is key. Before leaving, pack tons of sunscreen, batteries and don’t forget those sunglasses. Make a checklist of everything you need so you don’t have to purchase it later. Stock up on items you’ll know you’ll need, even bottles of water.

Have great summer vacation, everyone!