There are a few things that Michael and I do well together-and I’d say that our best joint quality is planning vacations. I really can’t even take the credit-Michael is the MASTER planner! I don’t know if it’s his background in the military or his training for preparing for trials, but this man has an inner travel agent that could probably plan the logistics to move an army.
You can hear us talk about how we save up and what our general tips are in the video, but I wanted to give you a few more details and put it in print on the blog.
HOW TO SAVE FOR A VACATION
We save for our vacation like anything else-it’s a line on our monthly budget. After everything else is allotted for, we look at what we have left over and we set a number we’re comfortable with. Depending on the kind of vacation we want to take, it could take a couple of months or over a year (or more) to save up. I recommend keeping the money in a savings account for this sort of thing, or even a short-term CD, NOT an actual envelope!
WHERE WE DO OUR RESEARCH
Michael and are big fans of actual books. Part of the fun of the planning process is going to a bookstore like Barnes & Noble, getting a coffee, and perusing our options. The book series we’ve turned to over and over have been Fodor’s, Frommer’s, and The Lonely Planet. Many of them come with pull-out maps and mini-guides that are great to keep in your purse during the trip.
There are also some great websites to use as well. We love reading all the personal reviews on Expedia, TripAdvisor, Travelocity and Orbitz. I know there are lots of other great sites, but those are the ones we’ve come to know and trust. Michael particularly likes booking our travel using Expedia.
TIPS FOR RESORT TRAVEL
Here are just a few that we’ve discovered over the years:
◊Get meals included in the room rate-depending on how many people are staying in the room (like a family of four), it might be more budget-friendly to get breakfast included–and it cuts down on the stress of having to figure out where to eat first thing.
◊Another great meal tip–after checking in, head to a local grocery store with an empty suitcase, and fill it up with easy to fix, quick meals and snacks. Don’t forget to buy paper plates, plastic cutlery, napkins, bottled water, sodas, etc. We always have the hotel give us an empty refrigerator and we stock up on all kind of sandwich fixings, breakfast items, snacks and so on.
◊Another way to eat cheaply is to stay on the club level or concierge floor. Again, it’s more budget friendly for a family than for two people, but many hotels offer not just breakfast, but heavy appetizers, drinks (not just alcoholic), and so on. When we went to Bermuda, the Fairmont Southampton’s club level had a full breakfast, afternoon tea, evening appetizers, and nighttime desserts. There were many days we didn’t eat anywhere else!
◊If you do leave the resort to eat, go where the locals go. Prices are usually less, and you’ll get a better feel for where you are.
◊Don’t forget to budget for extra resort fees and taxes. Those should be listed in the room rate when you book the room, but it’s always a good idea to double check.
◊Do NOT valet park-especially if you’re leaving the resort and coming back a few times a day. Get some exercise and self-park!
◊Finally, do NOT start a tab for room charges. It’s too easy to lose track of what you’re charging and you’ll be in for quite a surprise when you check out. Better to pay cash as you go IF you do pay for extra things at the resort.
TIPS FOR SIGHTSEEING VACATIONS
I’m not sure which type of vacation is our favorite, but we’ve definitely done quite a few of the “sightseeing” kind of vacations. We’ve taken the kids to London a few times, Scotland, Paris, San Francisco, as well as quite a few cruises, starting when our youngest was 17 months old…I feel like we’ve dragged them all over! Here are a few tips we’d like to share with you:
◊Plan, plan, plan!! Overplan!! Make a day by day itinerary of what you think you want to accomplish each day, and don’t forget to include when and where you want to eat. Even if you stray off the schedule, it’s good to know you have a framework. And planning helps eliminate unexpected costs along the way!
◊Book excursions on your own-if you go through a tour company or cruise line, you’re paying higher fees because you have to pay a middle man. It’s better to go on the cruise line (or tour company’s) website and find out where they’re going. Then contact the destination yourself and arrange for a visit. Not only will you save on fees, but you can also just grab a taxi at the port or take public transport in a city and save yourself waiting with 100 other tourists for the private buses!
◊Purchase as much as you can in the way of transportation tokens, admissions to tourist sites, etc–most things can be purchased in advance online, which means you’re buying less when you get to where you’re going. It also helps you avoid long lines, get reduced prices for buying in advance, and getting into things that may be sold out if you wait until you’re on vacation.
◊For sightseeing vacations, take a city tour on one of those double-decker buses as soon as you get in the city. It helps you acclimate to your destination, and you might end up deciding that the one place you HAD to visit wasn’t worth the trip, which will free up some time (and maybe money) later on in the vacation.
◊Lastly, don’t forget to budget for transportation to/from the airport, long-term parking at the airport, etc. That’s an area that many people forget about, and depending on the location, can add up fairly quickly.
These tips are just the tip of the iceberg-we’ve come up with quite a list in the 20 years we’ve been traveling together! Please feel free to share some of your own in the comments below-and suggestions for another video/blog along this topic!