First posted on 06-21-2012
High gas prices are keeping vacation travel on a short leash this year, according to a pair of surveys; but there are ways consumers can make the most of the rest of their vacation dollars, said Laura Connerly, assistant professor for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
Survey results released last month by American Express found that consumers weren’t planning to increase vacation spending this year and many are worried that gas prices may affect their plans. Vacation spending was anticipated to be about $1,180 per person – nearly $5,000 for a family of four.
According to the Principal Financial Well-being Index released June 13, 24 percent of workers surveyed said they were considering a “staycation” to save money, while 11 percent said they had planned to take a staycation. Forty-three percent of respondents said the rising price of fuel was the issue most likely to affect summer vacation plans. Still, it’s less of a concern than it was last year, when 60 percent cited fuel prices as a factor in vacation planning.
“Vacations can be an expensive item with travel costs, hotels, restaurants, and activity fees,” said Connerly. “Many people are limiting unnecessary spending and the family vacation may be on the chopping block. However, you don’t have to sacrifice fun to cut costs.”
Here are tips to reduce vacation related expenses:
Compare Prices – lodging and travel are two big-ticket items. Driving is typically less expensive than flying. Lodging options can be as inexpensive as camping or as costly as luxury resorts. Consider your options. Comparison shop for the lowest rates. When using online sites, compare several sites and be sure to read the fine print.
Schedule – Some hotels and attractions have off-season rates. Rates may drop at the first of August or September. There may be discounts for purchasing ahead of time.
Plan Spending – The most important step for keeping vacation spending under control is making a spending plan. Decide the total amount you can afford to budget for a vacation. Remember that you’ll still have all of your monthly bills to pay when the vacation is over. Prioritize items - what are the most important components on your vacation list? Would you rather spend less on food so you can afford a more expensive hotel? Can you save money by camping so that you can spend more money on shows, theme parks, and other activities? Categories to include are travel, lodging, food, activity and entrance fees, and miscellaneous. You may want to include money for souvenirs too.
Arkansas Staycation - A staycation is an alternative to a traditional vacation. Staycationers stay at home or close to home and enjoy local, regional, or state attractions. Staying close to home means that you save money on travel costs. Another benefit of a staycation is that it supports your local and state economy. The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism offers free travel guides that are a great tool for planning your staycation. Arkansas has a great variety of different types of museums, parks, and outdoor adventure. You could do something different every day of the summer. Some of my favorites are the Crystal Bridges Museum, the Clinton Library, Buffalo National River, and Blanchard Springs Caverns.
“Having fun doesn’t have to break the bank,” she said. “Enjoy your summer vacation or staycation!”
For more information about getting a handle on finances, contact your county extension office or visit http://www.arfamilies.org/arkansassaves.
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