Your idea of what a great vacations costs likely has a lot to do with how you vacationed as a child. There were no trips to Disney World or Disney Land in my childhood (though I now know it can be done on a tight budget!). Instead, summers were spent in a rundown cabin where the menu was limited to hot dogs and generic-brand potato chips. Of course, I thought it was heaven.
It was only after becoming an adult that I realized that many families assume their annual vacation will cost as much as a used car.
TD Canada Trust commissioned a poll asking Calgarians what was their ideal vacation style. The survey found that Calgarians prefer all-inclusive vacations, where everything is taken care of and all they have to do is relax (29%). The next most popular types of vacations are adventure trips with lots of excursions (20%), road trips (15%) and cruises (10%). One in five (21%) say it doesn’t matter where they go as long as they get a good deal.
Tips for More Affordable Vacations
Have a family meeting to hear about everyone’s dream vacation—you might find the kids have been pining for a family camping trip instead of the week long resort extravaganza you had originally planned or thought they wanted.
Consider travelling on the shoulder of a season and/or taking the kids out of school for a few days—travelling for a week in high season on school break is a sure way to spend hundreds or thousands more at the same resort or hotel.
Sell-offs are a great way to get a hard-to-beat deal on a trip somewhere, but you have to be ready to go at the drop of a hat. Before kids, we’d book a week off work but not the trip—then two to three weeks before our week off, we’d book the trip on a sell-off website at a significantly reduced cost. You may not get the exact resort you wanted, but the savings are considerable, and can make any compromise more than worthwhile.
If you collect rewards program points, see if you can cash them in for a vacation or part of a vacation. You may also get a discount on services such as car rentals just for being a cardholder. For the most flexibility, see if you can redeem your miles for gift cards to a travel agency that offers sell off vacation packages—you have near total flexibility if they honour the gift cards as if they were cash.
Once you know what you want to do for your vacation, start saving now. Estimate how much it will cost and set a plan for how you’re going to save the money based on how long you have to save up. Set up a vacation fund and use the “out of sight, out of mind” strategy—the power of automatic transfers from your pay.