Summer may have only just begun, but it always seems to fly by, so if you're still hemming and hawing about whether or not to take advantage of all the vacation days you've been hoarding, now would be a great time to grab a pen and paper and write down some ideas on where you'd like to go. Since money can be the big issue why we work instead of play I've worked out some seriously great hacks for you to help make that vacation possible this summer.
1. Drive Everywhere You Go
With gas prices hovering around the two dollar mark, it's finally justifiable to drive across the country rather than fly. Of course, this works better if you're cruisin' down Route 66 in a four-cylinder instead of an eight, but do the math. It still might be cheaper for the whole family to go from Boston to L.A. in a Hummer than it would be to fly. Only one way to find out, right? Bust out the calculator!
2. Fly Discount Airlines
We know, we know, statistics show it's safer to fly and all that jazz. If you insist on flying for that reason, or perhaps you just happen to enjoy it, there's no reason a discount airline wouldn't be just as effective as the one you normally use. Carriers like Spirit Airlines have consistently low fares to and from all sorts of beautiful destinations, and if you sign up for their $9 Fare Club, you get access to their ultimate in cost savings, which ranges from an average of $75 off per booking to reduced bag fares.
3. Forget The Hotel
A two-day drive typically means a hotel stay is on the itinerary. But does it have to be? Of course not! Even cheaper motels right off the interstate have a bad habit of putting a ding in your wallet, and nobody likes that. As you plan your route and figure out where you'll stop for the evening, pick out a campground where you can quickly pitch a tent for the night. It'll likely cost less than half what a hotel room would, not to mention it's a ton of fun for the kids and way more romantic to snuggle up under the stars than it is to fall asleep to the menu channel on a hotel TV. If a tent just isn't your thing, but you still think camping could be cool, many campgrounds have cabins that they'll rent out for the night. AAA club members get discounts on tons of different travel amenities like lodging, and will even design an optimized route for you, which can highlight anywhere you want to stop or anything you want to see along the way. (Yes, rest stops included!). Also my family has been doing the Airbnb thing lately and love it. We got an amazing place in Paris recently for half the price of a hotel and a bonus was it was right next bakery with fresh croissants every morning.
4. Cash In Those Miles
Got frequent flyer miles? Use 'em! What else are you letting them rack up for? Accumulate even more for next summer by using the same credit card to pay for this vacation's travel expenses.
5. Get Work Involved
You're probably wondering how in the world getting work involved can help you vacation like a boss. It really depends on the company you work for, but even if you're doubtful, it never hurts to ask. Your workplace may have something employees can take advantage of called a 'Concierge Service'. Sort of like AAA, a Concierge Service provides planning, booking and discounts to employees looking to take the hassle out of something as simple as a night on the town or a full-on family vacation. Ask a manager or your human resources department if your company has one. The worst they can say is no, right?
6. Get A New Job
Not forever. Just while you're on vacation. Wait, work while on vacation? Are we off our rockers? Not unless we're stomping grapes overseas or cuddling baby goats in the southern states. That's right, by joining a work exchange program, you can have a great time while doing something different and exciting, and have a free place to stay. Check out these excellent work exchange programs that'll help you travel for free!
7. Make. A. List
For the love of all that is good, before you do anything or go anywhere, make a list! Make several, in fact. A list of places you want to go. A list of things you need to do before you leave. A list of things you need to bring. A list of things everyone else involved needs to bring. A list of expenses. A list of emergency phone numbers in case you lose your cell phone. You get the picture. But whatever you do, make sure you cross every item off all your lists before you walk out the door. And don't forget to lock the door!
8. Serenity Now
Whether you're flyin' solo or have the whole family in tow, you will encounter aggravation. On probably more than one occasion. It might start before you even leave the house, and it might start once you're in the car battling Sunday drivers in the left lane. Just remember, this too shall pass. Don't let it ruin your entire vacation. Breathe. A positive mental attitude can mean the difference between screaming obscenities at the person doing ten under the limit in the fast lane with their blinker on, and having a ball singing along with your favorite CD or playing "I Spy" with the kids.