Planning a March Break Trip for the Family on a Budget
Vacations are a highlight for many families after a dreary grey winter, especially for March break. While planning a trip can be exciting, it’s important to plan according to your budget and be realistic with your spending. We outline a few ideas below for how to plan a cost-effective March break trip.
Set a Budget
Probably the most critical aspect of being able to go on a trip without overspending is to plan the total costs within your means, and stick to it. From this total budget, breakdown your costs into smaller categories for food, travel, accommodations, entertainment and other expenses. Examine how much each day will cost, while adding a buffer for unexpected expenses.
Plan Ways to Structure Less Spending
Plan your destination first, recognizing that the closer you travel from home, generally the less it will cost. Domestic vacations cost less than those which are out of country. “Staycations” (staying home and going on day trips) will cost the least.
If you plan to travel out of town and have family or friends you can stay with, inquire about staying with them to help keep your expenses down. When looking at flight and travel accommodations, research the prices on various travel dates. Travelling on an airline during off-peak times, such as in the late afternoon or on weekends can save you money. If you have flexibility in your travel dates, try to arrange some of your vacation on the days before or after March break, when the prices and crowds are typically less.
Limit the number of costly “touristy” attractions you will attend and plan for needed downtime instead of overfilling your schedule and adding stress. Finally, rather than going out for an expensive meal each night, considering choosing accommodations with an in-room kitchen so you can prepare your own meals.
Another area where you can reduce your costs is through your use of technology while travelling. Before you leave, decide whether you and your family can manage without internet access for the trip. If you need internet access, then find out if free Wi-Fi is included in your room or how much it will cost through the hotel. Some hotels will have a few computers for guests to use in their business centre or near the lobby. If you’re planning to use your cell phone, inquire with your carrier about the cost of a vacation data plan. Keep in mind that many companies charge outrageous roaming and out-of-country usage fees, so try to limit your use while on vacation when possible.
Involve Your Family in the Planning
It is a good idea to start by communicating to you family that you’d like to go on a trip and how much you plan to budget for it. Work together to come up with possible destinations that are within the budget and prioritize the attractions everyone can enjoy.
Next, plan how everyone can contribute to the trip. Set up a “vacation account” at the bank and put money aside for your vacation each week from your income. Alternatively, you could put out a “vacation jar” in your home and encourage everyone to contribute spare change and forgo small treats in order to achieve this much bigger one. This way, everyone can be a part of the planning as well as the rewards. If you’re in the early stages of planning and need assistance with credit counselling in the Ottawa area before your trip, speak to a professional at our office about your options.
Shop Around for Better Deals
Look for bargains online, in the newspaper, and in travel magazines where you might find coupons for lodging, food or attractions. It’s okay to contact the place you are considering to ask if they have any specials for March break.
When narrowing your search, look for hotels that are close to the attractions you are interested in. This can save you gas money or taxi fares in addition to making your time more enjoyable. Excursions from hotel destinations often involve multiple pick-ups and drop offs with a group of individuals which can be worthwhile.
Book Your Flights and Accommodations in Advance
While booking at least a month in advance is usually the cheapest way to travel, especially for flights if you are still in the planning stage, occasionally there are good last minute deals which you can take advantage of when booking. If you will be travelling out of the country, be sure to arrange for health insurance in advance. Trip cancellation insurance is also a good idea so that you don’t lose what you paid if something critical occurs that makes you forfeit your plans.
Keep Costs Down While on Vacation
Be sure to bring essential items such as band aids, medication for basic things like headaches, allergies and sunburns, and also bring sunscreen and a hat as these items can be quite costly while you are away. Be mindful of the extra costs that may exist on some airlines if you exceed luggage weight restrictions. To avoid these costs, weigh your suitcase before leaving the house to be sure.
When deciding what to bring, diversify your forms of payment so that you hold a little cash, a credit card and a debit card. Consider skipping the gift shops, where items are often overpriced and not needed. A sea shell from the beach or a rock from the riverside can be memorable, as well as the photos you take.
Contact us for Debt Help in Ottawa, Kingston & Across Eastern Ontario
At D & A MacLeod Company Ltd., we believe that it is easier to enjoy a vacation when you’re not worried about going over budget. With some planning and saving, you should be able to relax without worrying. If you’re in need of credit counselling in Ottawa or debt help in Kingston and surrounding areas of Eastern Ontario before your trip, we are available to assist. With 8 locations across the region, we are well-equipped to help you find a new beginning™.