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How To Vacation On A Budget

Aug 18, 2007
Vacation season is in full swing and American families are hitting the road - hard. According to AAA's annual vacation cost survey, the combined lodging and restaurant costs for vacations have jumped up 3.7% since last year, making this year's vacation price higher than ever before.

The average cost of food and lodging for two adults and two children is $269 per day. It's the lodging rates that hit the hardest, going up 7.9% since last year. Meals, on the other hand, have slid down 1.3%, making eating on the road a bit less expensive, but not enough to counteract the spike in lodging.

According to AAA, the most expensive vacation spot is Honolulu, Hawaii with an average food and lodging cost of $584 per day. New York City and Miami Beach rank second and third, costing $524 and $409 per day respectively for a family of four.

However, there is hope for U.S. travelers who wish to go out west. According to the AAA survey, Albuquerque, New Mexico averages only $165 a day, Wichita, Kansas costs a mere $169 a day and Mesa, Arizona costs $180 a day for the four person family making these three cities the least expensive travel spots.

Although these prices may seem great for 2007, they are a far cry from when AAA began tracking vacation costs in 1950 when the average cost for a family of four was a mere $13 a day. Today families can only hope to catch a meal for one at such a low price.

Another unpleasant truth is that food and lodging are not the only costs involved in a vacation. Hidden costs such as tolls and parking must also be considered as well. Entertainment is yet another cost that may go under the radar as well as souvenirs, maps and travel guides.

With gas prices on the rise, the fuel it will take to get to your summer hotspot will also add to the vacation expenses. It is important to plan ahead and budget for this cost by utilizing a fuel calculator - a variety of which may be found online. Simply knowing how much you will spend on gas may affect your other vacation expenses.

The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association put together an estimate of a typical weeklong vacation gas costs and the numbers may be a bit of a shock to your wallet. The cost of a week long trip in a light-duty truck or SUV towing a trailer comes to $1,376 while a personal car plus a motel makes $2,182.
However, if you chose to forgo driving and try to save with taking to the air, personal driving, airplane and rental car amount to a staggering $2,725, making air travel a far more expensive choice. You may also opt out of driving by taking a cruise ship, but this will hurt even more and can put you under $9,399. The RVIA suggests taking an RV on the road as it saves up to 74% on other vacation options.

RV traveling is not the only way to save on your vacation, but is one of many tactics to keep your vacation inexpensive while still keeping the fun.
Many families take trips in two days, staying at a hotel half-way to their destination. A great way to avoid such mid-way lodging costs all together is, if possible, to wake up early and drive through the day. Although you may not enjoy hitting the road at 5am, thinking of the money saved on lodging will help you sleep better that night.

Also, bringing food and drink along for the ride cuts food costs. Once you arrive at your destination, locate a grocery store and prepare most of your food at your home away from home. Dining out for all vacation meals will incur a large cost that can easily be avoided.

Especially when traveling with children, bring your own entertainment such as movies and board games. Consider lodging where entertainment is "built-in," such as a beach, mountain or lake.

Finally, seek out discount rates for airlines and hotels. Many hotels and airlines offer discounted rates when large vacancies exist. However, keep your guard up as there may be some deals that really are too good to be true. Look out for offers that are non- refundable or do not disclose enough information about your travel options.

These budget tips will ease vacation expenses, making you more relaxed. Careful planning can immensely cut your on-the-road costs, leaving more for on-the-road fun.
About the Author
Charlotte Buelow is a contributing business writer for Goliath. Goliath is one of the Internet's largest collections of business research, news and information. Learn more about
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