If you’re like me, you’ve just about put away your holiday decorations. You’re shocked that the stores have Valentine’s candy out already and you haven’t even considered what you’ll be doing for Spring Break yet. Summer? Summer is months away!
I know, I know, we’re all rushed and short on time. But, to get the best deal for your summer vacation in 2012, I encourage you to take a little time now. Follow the steps below and do a little homework now (Yes!, I do mean in January). It’ll put you in the best position to get the most out of your time and budget this coming summer.
Pick your summer vacation dates
When does your child’s school break up for the summer? Would a family vacation at the start or the end of the long summer break suit better? Or maybe in the middle to break up the time?
Keep in mind that there isn’t a worldwide master school vacation schedule. Summer vacation starts and ends at different times in other countries – and that can work to your advantage. In the UK for example, schools only break for six weeks from mid-July. In Germany, the summer break start date and duration varies by province. If you plan to travel internationally, timing your vacation to happen when local families are still in school will help your budget.
Set your summer vacation budget
The budget. Unfortunately forward planning doesn’t remove the hard dollars and cents constraints around vacation planning but at this early stage you can have a little fun (no, honestly, I mean it). Make a list of your desired vacation destinations. Research costs for food, transport and entertainment at those destinations – all the information you need is available on the internet, in guidebooks or from tourist information services. Create an approximate daily budget as (# people X # days X $ food+transport+entertainment). I know, you’re waiting on the fun part – we’ll get there…
Here’s the thing – which is a little counter-intuitive: you don’t have to pick a destination yet. If you’ve got this far, you’ve now pulled together vacation costs for number of destinations. With this data you might already know that Destination A is too expensive or you’re surprised at how affordable Destination B is. Now, you can narrow your list down to a two or three possible destinations and let the internet work for you to get the best vacation your money can buy.
Look for summer travel deals
This is the fun part. You’re ahead of the crowd. You’re an early bird. There are tools out there to help you use that to your advantage – particularly to help your budget. Use YAPTA or FareCompare to help you find the best price for flights. Register for deals emails on Expedia, Kayak, or Vayama. If you have a favorite hotel brand, see if they have a newsletter or email list where you can sign up for special offers. These days many travel vendors use Facebook or Twitter to post internet specials. Enroll in any and all of these that are relevant for your search and sit back and watch the information come rolling into your inbox. In the meantime you can research fun things to see and do on your vacation.
This is where the budgeting exercise above really helps. Since you already know the vacation costs without any deals, special offers or discounts, you’ll be able to identify the best offers from the dross when you see them. Remember that deals aren’t always price discounts, sometimes a deal means more goodies (breakfast, drinks, a larger room) for the same amount of money.
So there you have it. Join the early-planning crowd and save money planning your summer vacation 2012 – and let me know how you get on, won’t you?