There are few things I love more than traveling for a vacation; shopping, eating a great meal and spending time with friends and family are definitely up there on the list, too. Combine traveling, shopping, eating and spending time with loved ones, and I’m ecstatic. The only way to top that combo is to have the whole experience without spending a ton of money. Easier said than done, I know. I’m not always the best about watching my travel budget, but I’ve been working on getting my act together and have four tips to help you save money while on vacation. 1. Technology Is Your Friend I’m a notorious CrackBerry addict, and I love my iPad. Don’t judge — I really do try to put away the technology once I’m actually on vacation, but I am obsessed with using apps and the internet to save money and keep things organized when I travel. My current faves? I like creating a vacation budget using www.mint.com, and I use sites like www.gtrot.com to find discounts specific to where I’ll be traveling. Most major airlines have apps to help you check out flight costs and Kayak (www.kayak.com) offers a nice app and website for comparing flights. Sites like www.tripadvisor.com can help you find deals and check out tons of reviews from other travelers, and I love using apps like TripIt to organize my trip once I get my plans set. There are way too many online and mobile resources to list here, but Google it up, check out some travel sites and talk to your friends, family or coworkers to find out their favorite online and mobile vacation resources. 2. You Can Find a Discount I’m not one of those extreme couponers by any stretch, but I do like to get a deal when I can. Before you travel, check with different organizations to which you belong, like AAA or AARP, to see what types of travel deals they provide. One friend of mine who’s a teacher recently discovered that STA Travel offers discounted trips, not only for students, but also for teachers. I purchase my Cedar Point tickets at my credit union each year because it’s cheaper than buying them at the actual park. The lesson here? There’s probably a way for you to save money on your trip, too. Plan ahead and you can make the most of your money while still doing everything you want during your vacation. 3. Don’t Be Afraid of Credit Cards This goes hand in hand with No. 2 above. First of all, I absolutely do not advocate racking up a ton of debt going on vacation. This isn’t necessary, and you can go on your dream trip while still spending within your means. That being said, I am a big fan of using my credit card to pay for just about everything while I’m traveling. I typically use my VISA credit card that offers cash back on purchases because, not only will I get part of what I spend back in cash, but I can always find deals offered to VISA cardholders. On my last trip, I saved money on my car rental and hotel by using my card. Plus, I purchased my airline tickets with my credit card because it provided free travel accident insurance — just in case. Be sure to get in touch with your credit card provider before you travel to see what kind of special offers and travel coverage are available to you — you might be surprised by the deals you can get! Just don’t go crazy with your spending. If you can’t pay off your card quickly after your trip, those discounts aren’t going be worth it. 4. Being on Vacation Is a State of Mind Can’t afford a vacation right now? Trust me, you’re not alone. Now is the perfect time to take a quick trip someplace nearby or to enjoy a fabulous staycation. Take a day trip to Lake Michigan, check out last-minute hotel offers in Detroit to see if you can snag a great deal, or purchase a Groupon for a restaurant you’ve never tried before. Even if you can’t afford a hotel for the weekend or a nice dinner out, be sure to set aside a weekend, a day, or even just a couple of hours to break from your routine, kick back and enjoy yourself. Summer’s the best time of year in Michigan as far as I’m concerned, so take advantage of this beautiful weather while it lasts. Whether you’ll be traveling around the world or enjoying a margarita on your back porch this summer, enjoy!
April Clobes is Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer for MSU Federal Credit Union in East Lansing. She can be contacted by e-mail or by calling (517) 333-2254.