Whether it involves a nap on a sun-drenched beach or flying through crisp mountain air on a zip line, everyone needs a summer vacation. Stepping out of your regular routine recharges your energy like nothing else, but the hassle and expense beforehand can make it seem like more trouble than it’s worth. These easy tips will help smooth the road to your destination and save you a bundle, too.
1. Book your dream vacation in advance
Even if you can’t afford a trip to Paris or Tokyo right now, that doesn’t mean you should write off the idea. While you’re online arranging a more modest vacation for this year, book your dream trip up to 15 months or more in advance for the best rates and to avoid possible future price increases.
You would be surprised how affordable a dream trip becomes as you put a little money aside each week for over a year. Create a separate savings account like a club account, to keep track of your vacation fund’s growth, and earmark your credit card rewards for vacation expenses.
2. Romance the rails
Train travel is often cheaper than flying, particularly for shorter trips. Another benefit is that you see the country in a much more personal way than you would from 30,000 feet in the air. Riding the rails may be slower, but it’s truly an adventure, especially for kids. You’ll also avoid baggage fees and the hassle of airport security, plus you can use your cell phone whenever you like and the dining car serves hot meals.
3. Avoid peak vacation times
Costs vary dramatically depending on the time of year you travel. If you rent a house at New Jersey’s shore for a week in July or August, it will cost thousands of dollars more than it would after Labor Day. Tropical vacations usually are more expensive during the winter months. You’ll save big by learning what’s off-season for your destination, and making your reservations for that time.
4. Eliminate the middleman
Before making reservations through a booking site, be sure to check rates directly at websites and maybe give airlines a call, too. Some airlines don’t list with booking sites, and hotels often run unadvertised sales that you’ll never know about if you don’t contact them directly.
Before you depart
As you complete your vacation checklist and attend to last-minute details, don’t forget to notify your credit union if you’re leaving the country, so they won’t suspect fraud when foreign charges appear on your accounts. Your credit union can also be an excellent ambassador for you abroad as it helps you with money exchanges, traveler’s checks, free foreign ATM locations and emergency advice.
If you're in need of additional funding for your big trip, consider a TFCU Summer Vacation Loan. You can select the loan amount and payment term that works best for you. It also can help pay for that modest trip this year while you start saving for that big trip next year!
Roberta Pescow, NerdWallet