Whether it’s a trip out of town or out of the country, there are ways to have the family vacation of your dreams without turning it into a financial nightmare. Follow these travel tips and hacks to make the most out of your savings.
1 Have a daily budget. You may have a budget planned out for the entirety of the trip, but doing a daily budget will help you get a better hold of your spending. This way, you’ll be a better judge of what you’re working with each day, whether you have enough to spend on a souvenir or eat at a fancy restaurant, for example.
2. Look beyond hotels. “[Consider] dormitory-type hostels and family-owned bed-and-breakfasts, both of which are cheaper than staying at a hotel. If you’ll be spending most of your day outdoors and sightseeing, you don’t really need to splurge on a fancy room. A place that is safe, with clean bed sheets and a decent bathroom, should do,” says mom-of-two and travel-agency owner Anne Dimacurawat.
If you’d rather stay at a hotel, look for those hotels located outside of the city if you want a place affordale. Just check if it is easily accessible by public transportation.
3. Keep meal costs down. Eating out everyday, for every meal of the day, can be very costly. That’s why Mom Anne opts for breakfasts on family vacations. “What I do is the night before, I head over to the nearest café or convenience store and buy whatever we need for breakfast. The next morning, we eat at our own leisure in the comfort of our room.” Another clever hack is packing snacks on the go and bringing your own drinking water.
4. Choose the attractions you visit wisely. Tourist attractions can be very costly. Just the entrance ticket can cost you big bucks. Local (and often free!) spots can also offer great experiences. Plus, you and your family will get to immerse in the culture of your chosen vacation spot. Think town markets, neighborhood street fairs, parks, museums and churches. The list goes on.
5. Collect souvenirs. Your souvenirs can be your admission tickets, menus, brochures and even beach shells. These are things that remind you of your family's special moments. Encourage your child to take photos and keep a travel journal, which make great keepsakes.
6. Don’t have too many stopovers. If there’s one activity that can burn a hole right through your budget it’s shopping. It’s hard to resist the temptation of buying stuff when the opportunity is always there. When on a road trip, this means stopovers with loads of stalls and stores. To limit this, make a stopover only when there’s an important or immediate reason to do so.
7. Avail of tax refunds. Here’s a tip that’s useful when you’re on a vacation abroad. “Many countries offer tax-free shopping, meaning you can refund the value-added tax (VAT) or the goods and services tax (GST) that you’ve paid for certain purchases as long as you present your receipt at the airport. Countries that offer refunds include Singapore, Korea, Japan, Thailand, and most of Europe,” says Mom Anne.
Interviews by Jaclyn Lutano-Chua from the April 2015 issue of Smart Parenting.