13 ways to make vacation budget-friendly


By Andrew Housser

NATIONAL - According to a recent survey, more than one-third of Americans will not take all their vacation days this year. The Expedia.com survey found a variety of reasons for workers' hesitance to take time off. If you are concerned that financial pressures could put a crimp in your vacation, here are 13 ways to make vacation a little easier on your wallet.

  1. Save ahead of time. Brainstorm resources that you can set aside to pay for your vacation: rebates, birthday money, bonuses, garage sale proceeds, money from cashing in change, or profits from eBay sales can help. For future trips, include vacation costs in your annual budget and save a portion each month.

  2. Pick your season. Some spots are much cheaper in low season. If you plan to lounge on a tropical beach, you might have as much fun -- and catch lower rates -- in the dog days of mid-summer, rather than in popular winter high season. On the other hand, ski areas offer appealing attractions in the summertime.

  3. Consider a city. Those visiting a city might be able to get by with public transportation instead of a car rental -- saving hundreds of dollars. Shuttles or public transit can avoid the need to hire an airport taxi.

  4. Plan far ahead. Order plane tickets well in advance of your trip for the best prices. Additionally, try traveling and visiting attractions mid-week to save a bundle and avoid crowds.

  5. Consider all-inclusive. Sometimes, all-inclusive vacations offer great values, from a cruise to a resort to a dude ranch. Look at the costs of meals, beverages and excursions to decide if an offer is a good deal.

  6. Save with a home away from home. Save money on lodging and meals by renting or trading for an apartment or condominium. You will be able to prepare your own meals and spread out in more space than a hotel. Trade homes with a friend or relative, rent or trade through a reputable home exchange, or housesit to save big on a longer stay -- even in a foreign country.

  7. Eat in. For a hotel stay, request a room with a microwave and refrigerator. Bring simple non-breakable dishes and make your own breakfast (such as cereal or yogurt), dinner (salad or frozen meals), or snacks. Make sandwiches in the morning, and then eat just one meal a day out to save significantly.

  8. Drink water. Bring your own water bottle to save resources and money (call attractions first to make sure you can bring a bottle in). Refrain from ordering soda or, especially, alcoholic beverages at every meal to save money and calories.

  9. Go coupon crazy. Before leaving home, go online to select activities you might want to do at your destination. Then search the Web for your activity and the word "coupon." Many places offer two-for-one, free lunch, kids-free or percentage-off coupons online. Print these and bring them along to save.

  10. Strategize souvenirs. Instead of buying souvenirs at a tourist gift shop, visit a large discount retailer. In many areas, these stores have a good selection of T-shirts, mugs, magnets and postcards -- at much lower prices. Or purchase something you will enjoy later, like local foods, craft supplies or a needed household item (such as new kitchen towels, a vase or a basket) that will remind you of your trip.

  11. Take a "staycation." Staying home eliminates lodging costs, and can be rejuvenating. Visit tourist sites in your hometown that you have never seen, eat at a restaurant you always wanted to try, or order in. For ideas in various locales, order state tourist information or search online for frugal activities in your town.

  12. Camp out. The cheapest lodgings often come when you bring your own roof. Campgrounds are available near amusement parks, beaches and scenic areas. Expand your definition of "camping" to include RVs, rustic cabins and even yurts. "Rough it" so you can splurge on an activity, from a simple hike to a wild ride at an amusement park. Visit a state park near your hometown or in a destination you have longed to visit.

  13. Walk. The best way to see a new place is to experience it. Wear comfortable shoes and take a walking tour or just explore. It is good exercise -- and will not break the bank.

Wherever your vacation plans may take you this year, it is possible to find a good value on a relaxing diversion from routine. With some forethought, you will be on your way to a great break.