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Spring Break is upon us which can only mean one thing: it’s time to start planning that dreamy summer vacay. Most people come back from vacation ready to plan for the next one. Because who wants to go back to work without something else to look forward to??

Today we’re bringing you a few ‘smart-money’ tips to prepare you to take that trip you’ve been anxiously awaiting all year to take.

1. Set your budget. Decide where you want to go, and start getting estimates on cost. Define your worst-case scenario, then set that as your goal to work towards. This is a crucial step before you begin planning. Make sure to include other various items you may want to purchase for your trip (new GoPro, selfie stick, etc.).

2. Make sure your passports are current. The stress and extra cost ($60 and up!) of expediting passports for you or your family can be avoided by planning ahead. Keep in mind that you MUST have a passport to travel to Mexico or Canada, or any of the non-US Virgin Islands (relatively recent rule change). 

3. Give up a few lunches out per week. At least! Where we live (Virginia), we’ve found that eating lunch out 5 days a week costs approximately $75-100 per week. Say what?! Imagine if you cut that back to bringing your lunch 4 days a week, you’d be saving about $50/week! Now let’s say that there’s 4 months, or 16 weeks, between now and your vacation…that is $800! You can do a lot for $800.

4. Do your flight research. We highly recommend Hipmunk or Kayak to compare flight prices. I’ve always heard a rumor that flights are best booked on Tuesdays, so play around and see what you can find! Also, another tip, I wouldn’t pay for Business Class or First Class when you purchase your ticket, unless you know that they won’t be available on travel day. Usually, if there are upgraded seats available, you can purchase them relatively cheap on the day of travel (and it usually includes your first checked bag for free!). 

5. Sign up for hotel rewards cards. Let me be clear here…NOT CREDIT CARDS. I’m speaking of the hotel points cards that hotels give you for free. If you’re a rewards member, you get extra perks at most hotels such as free wi-fi, meal or drink credits, free cabanas, etc. Ask before you go! Those little extra costs will add up over your trip, so it’s best to get them for free if you can! Also, side note, most hotel chains are now giving Travelocity and other discount travel sites a run for their money. If you’re a rewards member, Marriott is price-matching + a 25% discount if you book through them, rather than one of the other sites. This includes last-minute booking! Other hotel chains (Hilton, Starwood, etc.) are also participating in programs like this for their rewards programs. Which leads into the next tip…

6. Decide if a hotel is what you want to do. There’s all kinds of lodging available now. Homeaway and Airbnb both have great options if you prefer a larger space! Just make sure to check reviews, and that the space is what you’re looking for from a size standpoint, and that it’s in a location you want to be in.

7. Prepare vacation activities ahead of time. If you know that you want to take a tour, or do a sunset cruise, learn to surf, whatever you want to do….plan ahead! There’s two good reasons for this. First, you guarantee yourself a slot for that particular activity. Second, you can prepare your activity budget. If you know before you leave how much $$ you need to have, you can plan accordingly, rather than be stressed because something was wayyyyy more expensive than you thought when you get there. Usually you can call the concierge a few weeks before your arrival to get the necessary information and book!

8. Pack accordingly. Baggage overage fees are insane. Such an unnecessary expense. Take what you need to take to enjoy yourself and feel confident, but don’t overdo it. Use that extra money to buy yourself something cute on your trip!

9. Set out a jar or envelope with a picture of your destination on it. Then take any extra money you may have laying around, bonus money, gifts (tell those relatives you want $ for your birthday this year!), etc. and put it in there. That’s your vacation play money. Keep it in front of you so you are inspired to save!

10. Have a ridiculously good time!

Written by Blaire

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