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Vacation time is here: What can you afford in summer 2023?


Taking a trip this summer? You will find little price relief from last year and expenses running about 20% higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to NerdWallet. A vacation doesn’t have to empty your wallet, though. You can save money through proper budgeting, smart shopping, freebies, discounts and other methods. Online sources abound to help you save money.

Start by setting a budget: How much do you want to spend and is that dollar amount fit within your personal or family finances? Factor in travel, lodging, food and other expenses. This will help you determine where you can go, for how many days, and what you can do. Tropical Financial Credit Union has a vacation budget planner to help plan your dream vacation. 

Download Your Budget Sheet

More comfortable with a cell phone than a laptop? Download a budget app. Not only can you project expenses, you can track them as you travel so that you don’t overspend. Forbes has a 2023 list of 10 highly rated budgeting apps.

After you find your dream destination, do your research. Websites like Kayak, Expedia, and TripAdvisor can estimate the cost of getting there by air and staying in a hotel. If you plan on driving, use fuel-expense estimators from Gas Buddy and AAA.

Airline tickets could be the most expensive part of your trip. You can avoid paying top dollar by using websites such as Skyscanner and Google Flights to alert you of price increases and decreases. The Points Guy has more sources for finding deals.

Lower your travel expenses by redeeming rewards in your credit card and loyalty accounts. Now’s the time to cash in some or all of your points. Haven’t got a card that pays you travel rewards? Find one using this list that CNBC selected.

You can shave expenses while sacrificing very little by seeking alternatives to the typical family vacation. Let’s look at these money-saving options one by one:

•    Consider alternative accommodations: Instead of booking a hotel, consider staying in a vacation home or using services like Airbnb and VRBO to find a budget-friendly residence. The nightly or weekly rates may be lower, and the property may offer more amenities than a hotel.

•    Eat in one meal a day. The National Restaurant Association says that menu prices at full-service and limited-service establishments climbed more than 7% between April 2022 and the same month this year. You can shrink your food budget by buying groceries for lunch sandwiches one day and breakfast in the room another day. Nerd Wallet has a list of money-saving tips.

•    Use public transportation: Instead of renting a car or hailing a private car through an app, use buses, trains and subways to get around. This can save you money and give you a chance to experience the local culture.

•    Look for free activities like museums, festivals, music and art fairs, and hiking trails. Events in public spaces abound during the summer and are posted online by cities and aggregated in local calendars and websites like Eventbrite.

•    Time your ticket purchases to attractions or activities. Sometimes, buying in advance saves you money. Search the name of the city or attraction plus the words “savings through advance tickets” to find deals. Other times, waiting pays off. As the event date nears, you can find concert, theater and sports seats cheaper on reseller websites, many of which will issue alerts when prices fall. 

•    Take advantage of discounts: Many businesses offer lower prices to students, seniors, military members, and members of loyalty programs. Search the name of the city or attraction plus the words “student discount”, “senior discount” or “military discount.” Did you know that you have to be only 18 to join AARP? See online whether becoming a member will save you money.

Tropical Financial members know the wisdom of setting up a vacation savings account. Putting aside money for your vacation months in advance can help you avoid going into debt to pay for your trip.