Want to turn a romantic dream vacation from a fantasy into a reality? Heaven knows you've earned one, but you don't want to go broke taking it. Don't worry – with some planning you can still have a wonderful time without a lingering pain in the wallet. Try these simple travel tips:
- Travel at Off-Peak Times – If possible, schedule your vacation away from the off-peak periods for whatever destination you choose. Even though you may not be looking at a typical family destination, there is still a ripple effect from kids being out of school. Discount plane fares are harder to find and many destinations are fully booked, so avoid going on holiday during school holidays.
Consider the periods right before school is out (mid-April to mid-May) and just after school starts (late August to the end of September). Similarly, for winter destinations, try to go before the kids are out in mid-December, or after they go back to school in early to mid-January.
- Be Flexible – If you can afford flexibility, you can approach savings in several ways. You can opt for the excitement of the unknown – search destinations immediately before your trip and take the best deals available to you. Cruises and tours are especially desperate to fill spots on under-booked voyages. You can have airlines and other sites notify you of last-minute fare deals, and with some quick online research, you can plan a spontaneous romantic getaway.
If you are too much of a planner, retain your flexibility by considering alternate destinations. Let's say you want to plan a beach vacation and would prefer Hawaii. If deals aren't available at the time you want to go, consider other beach destinations such as the Florida Panhandle. Have your top three or four destinations ranked and take advantage of the best deal you can find with your chosen options.
- Package Deal – Incidental expenses can add up quickly and take a large unexpected bite out of your budget – such as taxis or car rentals, tips and amenities, exchange rates and all sorts of hidden fees. Shop around for package deals, especially when going to resort destinations. Many will include most amenities, and perhaps even meals, with the cost of the holiday. Check out MoneyTips' list of travel and airline credit card offers to earn frequent flyer miles and points that can be redeemed for free or discounted flights or accommodations.
- Do Your Homework – The Internet is full of useful travel sites and online resources to help you with researching, selecting, booking, and planning vacations. Start there, and follow up on the local level. Once you have decided on a destination, call the local hotels asking for any unadvertised specials or discounts. Skip national booking numbers as they are less likely to offer anything compared to local owners.
- Consider Hotel Alternatives – Try skipping chain hotels and look for deals on bed and breakfasts, apartment and condo rentals, or house-sitting options. Sometimes you can get amazing accommodations that are better outfitted than hotels — and if there is an available kitchen, you can save large amounts of money by grocery shopping and cooking some of your own meals. With a little forethought, you and your significant other can prepare a romantic dinner for yourselves and take a long walk on a beach or in a secluded forest.
In general, you're better off on either end of the planning scale – either do your planning in great detail to save money beforehand, or be prepared to go spur-of-the-moment and take advantage of the best deals that are available at the time. Your tolerance for risk and adventure will help you decide which path is best for you and your significant other – although if you're smart, your significant other's tolerance is probably what you should consider the most.