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Author: Ryan Hirsch, NASBA Multimedia & Video Services Manager
Posted: July 19, 2012

Whether seeking a break from work or school or just wanting a change of scenery, many people enjoy taking a break and relaxing on vacation. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently revealed that the average family vacation costs $1,415. Of that amount, "44% is spent on transportation, 23% on food and beverages, 23% on lodging and 10% on entertainment," and the escalating expenses associated with these vacations can sometimes create stress. Fortunately, there are a variety of tools, resources and strategies for individuals who choose to save money by coordinating their own travel plans. Below are five tips that can help you save money when planning your next vacation:

  1. Analyze Transportation Options

With travel often being the most significant expense of a vacation, it makes sense to start saving here first by determining the best mode of transportation. Primarily this involves deciding whether you should fly, drive or ride a bus. Important factors to consider include the number of people attending, as well as current gas prices. It may be more economical for large families to load into a van and drive, while a small family or couple might find it cheaper to fly. Companies like Megabus now offer rides to some cities for as little as $1 – that might be a good option for a family of any size. In order to find the best deals, search online travel sites and compare rates among transportation providers. Also consider researching your destination's public transportation or shuttle options. Determine whether you will need to rent a car, take cabs or walk to nearby attractions. This factor may also help you decide whether you choose to drive to a particular location.

  1. Seek Alternative Lodging Options

With the exception of camper and RV owners, most travelers need a place to stay while on vacation. Although you may be tempted to book a hotel in the city as your first choice, consider staying with friends, using a rental property or finding a hotel on the outskirts of the town you are visiting. Some travel sites even offer options to combine airfare and hotels for deeper discounts. Kristen Kuchar of Money Crashers suggests, "If you have a flexible schedule, consider staying at a hotel during the off-season." This can sometimes result in rates that are up to 50% less than peak-season pricing.

  1. Provide Your Own Meals

Many travelers take vacations to get away from the daily chore of cooking and cleaning. However, tourists may be able to save hundreds by bringing their own snacks and beverages. Families or groups who stay in locations with kitchens may also be able to buy groceries and prepare their own meals, instead of dining at restaurants. If cooking is out of the question for you, try to find hotels that include meals or food credit in the room rate. "A complimentary breakfast saves the cost of your morning meal and coffee." That can add up to significant savings over the duration of your vacation, especially when traveling with a family.

  1. Enroll in Customer Loyalty Programs

Businesses realize that customers have a plethora of options when traveling. Therefore, many hotels, airlines and gas stations have created customer loyalty programs, which reward consumers who consistently use the same companies when traveling. These programs offer incentives for discounted rates, as well as free flights and hotel stays. Annamaria Andriotis notes, "The average American household participates in a whopping 18 consumer rewards programs." So, if you are not participating, you may be paying more for products and services than your peers.

  1. Download Promo Codes for Attractions

Whether attending an amusement park, zoo or other area attraction, companies often post discount codes for tickets online. These codes often reduce admission fees by up to 50% of the regular retail price. Also, consider which attractions are the most cost-effective. For example, many cities have beautiful scenery, parks, lakes and walking trails, which are typically free. These types of activities can create memorable vacations without spending an exorbitant amount on entertainment.

These money-saving examples are just a few ways you can protect your wallet when planning your next vacation – without sacrificing fun or entertainment.

"Spotlight on Statistics" 7/1/2010
"Five Tips for Saving Money on Your Summer Vacation" Erik Folgate
"6 Rewards Programs Worth Yor Loyalty" Annamaria Andriotis 3/22/2011
"14 Ways to Save Money on Hotels for Your Next Vacation" Kristen Kuchar 12/14/2011

Other Suggested Reading

"Top 5 Group Buying Sites for Daily Deals and Online Coupons" Kira Botkin

"When to Buy That Plane Ticket" Michelle Higgins 4/11/2012

"Cheapest Months to Travel" Susan Breslow Sardone