As summer approaches, people are already scrambling to finalize their summer vacation plans. For college seniors, “Senior week,” where a bunch of friends combine their funds to go on a vacation together, usually to some Southern resort destination like Myrtle Beach, is pretty much a rite of passage. But it doesn’t come cheap. You have to factor in the cost of the hotel or beach house you’ll be renting, food and drinks, travel costs, and miscellaneous expenses. If you don’t set a strict budget for yourself beforehand, you could end up spending a lot more than you had anticipated- and as a college senior trying to establish a healthy savings account, that is something I’d much rather avoid.
Whether you’re planning a family vacation to Disney World, a solo backpacking trip through Europe, or a fun getaway with friends, your summer vacation shouldn’t be a huge investment. Yes, vacations are luxuries as in they’re not necessaries, but there are plenty of ways you can save some dough, so consider these tips.
Set a budget
Plan ahead and set a strict budget for yourself if you’re worried about spending too much money. Estimate exactly how much everything will cost and make a savings plan around that amount. According to the Bank of America, all it takes is some basic math to calculate how much per paycheck you will need to set aside to reach your goal. Divide the cost of the trip by the number of times you will be paid before the trip to determine how much per paycheck you need to save.
Check out the best deals online
Always make sure you’re getting the best deal out there- you wouldn’t want to find out later that you paid a lot more for something than you needed to. Check out sites like Expedia, Travelocity, Booking.com and Hotels.com to see if there are any discounts on local hotels rather than going directly through the hotel’s website. Or, if you don’t mind sacrificing a bit on luxury and accommodations consider an Airbnb or a traditional Bed & Breakfast, which are typically much more affordable than staying in a hotel.
Book your trip at the right time
The travel industry is volatile, and when you book can actually have a pretty significant effect on the price. According to certain studies, the best time to book your plane ticket is six to eight weeks before your flight. You can keep tabs on the fluctuating prices through sites like Hipmunk or Google’s ITA Matrix. Also, don’t forget to use your travel rewards points if you have them!
Cook some of your own meals
Eating out every day of your vacation can get really expensive! Instead of spending money at a restaurant every day on breakfast, lunch, and dinner, consider buying food at the grocery store when you arrive and preparing some of your own meals. As long as your lodging comes with a kitchen, this is an excellent option to save some money.
Travel with a group
It’s basic math. The more people you travel with, the less you have to pay when you divide the overall cost amongst yourselves. That’s one of the beautiful things about senior week. As long as you don’t let extraneous purchases get out of hand, you can save a lot of money traveling in a group. Some hotels and airlines even offer group discounts if you all book at the same time- check out Groupon for some great group discounts!
Have a staycation
If you’re really strapped for cash but you still want to have a fun summer and a respite from your busy routine, who says you have to travel far away? Staycations can be just as fun as vacations and they are most definitely more affordable when you don’t have to splurge on transportation and lodging. Try being a tourist in your hometown to get the most out of your staycation- use it as an opportunity to check out that new restaurant or museum you’ve never visited and keep an eye out for free/cheap events like concerts and festivals.