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9 Ways to Stay Within Your Vacation Budget

By: Stacy Yu

Vacation season is here!  Whether you are headed to the beach, exploring the U.S., or traveling abroad- rest, relaxation, and adventure is on everyone's mind.  Often times, once the vacation ends, a large bill is often a sobering end result.  However, with careful planning and a bit of spending discipline, there are ways to reduce spending while maximizing on fun.

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you have a fun and relaxing vacation without breaking the bank.

1. Set a Budget

Before booking any vacation, establish a limit on how much to spend on tickets, travel, lodging, food and entertainment.  This will help prevent any large surprises when it comes time to pay the bill.   For better control of your vacation spending, also consider setting a daily allowance.  Doing so will help you spread out costs throughout the entire trip.  That way, you can fully enjoy your vacation from beginning to end, while minimizing the risk of going over budget.

2. Research Travel Packages

Do your homework.  Research your destination and try to find travel packages that may be available.  Taking advantage of bundled packages from travel sites, airlines, and hotels can help drive down your overall costs, without sacrificing your vacation experience.

3. Check Local Discount Sites

Research online discount sites local to your destination.  Sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial offer many bargains for activities all over the world at a fraction of the cost.  Not only will you get some great deals, but you may also discover secret spots known only by the locals.

4. Understand Currency Exchange Rates

Understanding currency exchange rates is very important when traveling abroad and trying to stay within budget.  Currency exchange rates defines the value of one currency in terms of another.  In other words, how much of a foreign currency is needed to equal $1 USD.  Currency exchange rates are variable, and significantly impacts your ability to stay within budget.  In summary, the higher the amount of foreign currency needed to make one U.S. dollar, the less expensive the total cost of your trip.  When it comes time to do the actual currency exchange, it is also worth doing some homework.  Financial institutions, airport currency exchange services, and credit cards may have different exchange rates.  Find out which service will provide you with the most lucrative outcome, so you can get more bang for your buck.

5. Know How Money is Transacted

While most business in the United States are equipped to handle cash, credit, and debit cards, that may not be the case in other countries.  In countries such as Japan, it is not unusual for businesses to accept only cash.  In Europe, credit cards are chip and pin, rather than the U.S. version of chip and signature, making transactions difficult and sometimes impossible without cash.  Find out how most financial transactions are carried out at your vacation destination.  Preparing early will help to eliminate embarrassing situations at the register.

6. Pack Light

To save money on airline baggage fees, pack light.  Bring only the items you need.  For longer trips, identifying convenient places where you can do laundry can also help bring costs down.  If you enjoy purchasing souvenirs, leave extra room in your luggage going to your destination.  Doing so will reduce the need for additional baggage on the return trip home.

7. Eat Like a Local

Restaurants targeting tourists tend to be a bit more expensive and are often not a true reflection of the area's culture or cuisine.  Eat like a local.  Find out where area residents like to dine and explore.  It will not only save money, but it may also give you the opportunity to fully experience the local culture.

8. Use Public Transportation

When traveling, consider using public transportation.  Subways, buses, and railways are typically available in most urban areas and can be utilized at a fraction of the cost of renting a car.

9. Be Mindful While Purchasing Souvenirs

Souvenirs are a great way to remember your trip.  However, when selecting items to bring home for yourself or friends, try not to get carried away.  Be mindful when purchasing souvenirs.  Select item that will be fully appreciated by the recipient as well as cost effective.  It's the thought that counts.

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