The words “winter vacation” can bring to mind relief and relaxation, a respite amid the cold days and early nights. They can conjure up sunny afternoons slicing down ski slopes or lounging on the beach.
Picking where to go is hard. Finding the money to go can be harder. Here are some tips on making the financial part of it work.
Save for the vacation
Putting aside $100 a week for 11½ months may seem harsh, but it’s softer than trying to pay off a $5,000 vacation in three months to minimize credit card interest. Many financial institutions, including the First National Bank and Trust Company of Newtown, offer targeted savings programs that remind you to save, pay a bit of interest and release your savings on a date of your choice.
Saving can be easy. Just skip one $50 restaurant dinner a week ($2,500), drop that workday-morning $4 latte ($1,000), pack a $2 lunch instead of buying an $8 sandwich ($1,500) and you have reached your goal.
Do your homework
Get online and nail down exactly what you want to do and how much it will cost. It’s irritating to find out that the cool excursion into that quaint village is not included in the cruise price and will cost you $100 a person. That’s a lot of margaritas. Note where your lodging is located; it might require cab fare to all the good places. Check on tipping protocol in foreign countries. These little extras can add up and become big downers.
Cards or cash?
Credit and debit cards can carry fees, especially outside of the country. But you’re also unlikely to travel with 50 $100 bills in your money belt. Investigate the ATM network in your destination (your bank might have an international partnership), and see about a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee.
Buy early, but not too early. Generally speaking, somewhere between three months and 30 days before the departure date gets you the best price for domestic flights; add a month or two to each end for international travel. Last-minute bargains are rare. And if possible, try to avoid flying with the masses on Fridays and Sundays.
Speaking of timing …
For winter vacations, if you can, avoid Thanksgiving weekend and the days around Christmas and New Year’s. No one is giving you a deal then.
Instead, wait a few weeks. Check whether your child’s school has a break in February. Or see about taking the kids out for a week, provided they arrange for their schoolwork to be covered. A winter getaway — that you carefully save for — may be exactly what your family needs.
Lynn Mucken, NerdWallet © Copyright 2015 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved