Hard to believe that over a year ago we were sitting at home, waiting eagerly for a sign that the COVID-19 pandemic would be under control and life could return to normal. Even now, no one has any idea how long this pandemic will present significant health risks.
Now that vaccines have become more available, we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and many are itching to resume pre-pandemic activities. The activity at the top of most people’s list is traveling.
I’m one of those individuals and am eager to start traveling again this summer. Traveling has always been a big part of my budget. Throughout my travel experience, I have learned some valuable tips that have helped me save money.
Aside from saving money when traveling, be sure to check on the latest CDC guidelines for travel. If you travel abroad, as of this writing, the CDC says, “All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board a flight to the United States.”
For travel within the United States, the CDC recommends you only travel if you are fully vaccinated. And of course wear masks and maintain social distancing.
Once you’ve researched how to travel safely before heading out, consider these financial tips before booking your next vacation.
Flying days and shopping airlines: I have tried to always minimize my cost for flights. Why spend more money than you have to? Typically, I have found that Fridays and Sundays are the most expensive days to fly. Flying out on a Thursday and coming home on Monday is an easy way to save money.
However, if your work schedule doesn’t allow for that, flights in the morning or night are typically cheaper than during the middle of the day.
If you don’t have loyalty to an airline, shop flights for all airlines. Search engines have made it easy to compare flight prices from a variety of airlines. Just because you booked one airline to get to your destination, doesn’t mean you have to fly the same airline on your return flight.
Sometimes you can find cheaper deals if you are flying different airlines to and from your destination. Watch out for the hidden fees. The flight could appear to be cheaper at first, but after you add the hidden fees for baggage and seating, it may no longer be the least expensive option.
Lodging location: Picking a place to stay has become an overwhelming process. You have so many choices, between the traditional hotel, B&B, Airbnb, etc. Regardless of the type of place you are staying, it’s important to consider the location relative to things you plan on doing in that city.
The common misconception is that it’s best to book the cheapest option available, disregarding that it will cost additional money for a rental car, Uber, public transit, etc. to get around.
In some cases, you might save money by staying at a centrally located place because you don’t have additional transportation expenses. This can provide convenience and more time for you to cross items off your bucket list.
Credit card points: Credit cards are not for everyone. However, if you are comfortable using a credit card, some offer rewards including cash back, vacation deals and airline miles. These rewards can help you save on expenses for your trip.
From my own personal experience, I use credit cards that give me airline miles to help cover the cost of getting to and from my destination. Nerdwallet.com is a great resource for finding the appropriate credit card for you.
Set a budget: Before booking your next vacation, I recommend setting a budget that you can afford and are comfortable spending.
A lot of people like to splurge while on vacation, which is understandable. Having a budget ahead of time helps eliminate those surprise costs and gives you an idea of what you will be spending.
Travel insurance: Travel insurance has become even more popular since COVID-19. Most of the time when booking a flight or a place to stay, you will be prompted to buy travel insurance.
This is an extra cost that can offer some financial security if something comes up before you leave for vacation. However, it’s important to read what the policy will cover, as it may not cover everything you believe it does. Once you understand what the travel insurance policy covers, it should help you make a good financial decision.
No matter which destination you choose, these five easy tips may help you maximize your travel budget and get the most benefit from your hard-earned dollar.
Matthew Charles is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER professional and an active member of the Financial Planning Association of Greater Kansas City. He serves as a Wealth Advisor for Mariner Wealth Advisors in Overland Park.