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  #1  
Old 04-20-2011, 02:29 PM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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How do you afford to go on vacation?

(Note: This is for people who are making ends meet and are even saving but by no means rich or even well-off.)

I mean it. I know it's a weird question, but here's my issue. We make a decent salary between the two of us. We save, we buy things we both need and want. We don't over extend ourselves and never live beyond our means. Both of us have used cars, for example. And we have money for vacations...

but not for airfare. And that is what kills us. I would love to travel the country more often (our out of the country!), but airfare is outrageously expensive. I just on a whim checked travelocity airfare to DC in September - $460 per person. That's a thousand dollars that I can't spend on the actual vacation at all. No way I'm spending that kind of money for a week. And it would be really hard for me to spend $1000 + other vacation expenses all at once, anyway.

When I have told people in the past, they point out how cheap that is per mile, as if that's supposed to comfort me - I could drive waaaaaaaaaay cheaper than that. And of course we end up driving nearly everywhere - up to about 5 or 6 hours, is our limit, though we have done a seven hour trip to Toronto. But driving obviously comes with its own set of problems.

But I hear people all the time telling how they are taking their whole family to Disney, or some other place - 4 or 5 or 6 people! And I begin to suspect that everyone else is in on some kind of conspiracy where they know how to get cheap airline tickets and I am the only one who doesn't know how.

So am I missing something? Do you all just get packages or something? Is there a trick I don't know? Go to travel agents? Please help!
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  #2  
Old 04-20-2011, 02:45 PM
ZipperJJ ZipperJJ is offline
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Huh...I personally just consider it part of the cost of traveling. I thought nothing of spending $1000+ on a first class ticket (that's one ticket) from Cleveland to San Francisco...because flying is part of the fun of a vacation for me and I wanted to be comfortable.

I didn't think too much about it when I went to Vegas or Chicago either. When I go on vacation I want everything to be smooth and simple, and cost is secondary.
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Old 04-20-2011, 02:48 PM
robert_columbia robert_columbia is offline
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Train travel can be cheaper, and less of a hassle. It's fun too, you can see the countryside and meet lots of interesting people hanging out that you simply wouldn't have the opportunity to on a cramped plane trip.

I have put part of a vacation on a credit card, and paid it off later (I had NO problem making payments until I saved a little more and then wiped it out). If you have your heart set on a vacation, and you need it for life balance, sometimes it's worth it.

Comparison shop - talk to travel agents. Are you a member of AAA? They are travel agents too - give them a call. I got 10% or so off a rental car and a round-trip Amtrak ticket for $250.

Last edited by robert_columbia; 04-20-2011 at 02:49 PM..
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Old 04-20-2011, 02:52 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
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It's hardly ever been the airfare that kept me from traveling, but rather the cost of hotels, every meal out, and so on. Cruises can be fairly economical in this regard, but of course you can only travel this way to where the ships go.

As for the people taking the whole family to Disney or some other faraway destination involving air travel, some do it on credit, while others are simply doing really, really well in their lives and have never had financial setbacks. Probably everyone knows at least one person/family like this--they have savings in the bank, IRAs, the house they used to live in and now rent out--even while they fly a thousand miles for Comic-Con type events, and the whole family goes to Europe, all within a couple of years.
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Old 04-20-2011, 02:54 PM
bouv bouv is offline
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I'm surprised airfare is that much for you...I went to DC just a month ago and flying out of Burlington airport my airfare was about $340...I thought flying out of Albany would be cheaper...not that $340 is a ton cheaper, but that's $200 savings for two people.

And yeah, I imagine it's just something other people know is there and they budget for it...it sucks, but that's part of travel. Also keep in mind places like Disney offer package deals for families, so things like hotel, food, and sightseeing/attractions (which will probably be 90% Disney) might be cheaper than a random hotel and food and sightseeing/attractions for five people.
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Old 04-20-2011, 02:56 PM
tdn tdn is offline
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That seems pretty expensive to me.

I fly to Florida every December, and that's about what I pay. But only at that time of year. I just flew to BWI for less than $200 -- and I got money back.

Have you tried Orbitz?
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  #7  
Old 04-20-2011, 02:57 PM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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Originally Posted by ZipperJJ View Post
Huh...I personally just consider it part of the cost of traveling. I thought nothing of spending $1000+ on a first class ticket (that's one ticket) from Cleveland to San Francisco...because flying is part of the fun of a vacation for me and I wanted to be comfortable.

I didn't think too much about it when I went to Vegas or Chicago either. When I go on vacation I want everything to be smooth and simple, and cost is secondary.
How? Are you rich? We just don't make enough for cost to be secondary. That's not to say that we don't indulge and enjoy ourselves but for me plunking down $1000 for a two or four hour part of the vacation is pretty outrageous.

And yes, I like trains and we may do trains next time. I was just wondering about how people afforded flights.
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:01 PM
Hampshire Hampshire is offline
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We (me,wife,son) try to get down to Florida once a winter from Minnesota. We have usually been able to find round-trip tickets for around $200/ea. (I see some currently available for $208.) We're usually flexible on the days of the week for flying since specific days are definately more expensive.
We also buy airfare a few months in advance so we're spending on airfare now and spending on the actual trip later.
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:03 PM
Hermitian Hermitian is offline
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Originally Posted by Anaamika View Post
(Note: This is for people who are making ends meet and are even saving but by no means rich or even well-off.)

I mean it. I know it's a weird question, but here's my issue. We make a decent salary between the two of us. We save, we buy things we both need and want. We don't over extend ourselves and never live beyond our means. Both of us have used cars, for example. And we have money for vacations...

but not for airfare. And that is what kills us. I would love to travel the country more often (our out of the country!), but airfare is outrageously expensive. I just on a whim checked travelocity airfare to DC in September - $460 per person. That's a thousand dollars that I can't spend on the actual vacation at all. No way I'm spending that kind of money for a week. And it would be really hard for me to spend $1000 + other vacation expenses all at once, anyway.

When I have told people in the past, they point out how cheap that is per mile, as if that's supposed to comfort me - I could drive waaaaaaaaaay cheaper than that. And of course we end up driving nearly everywhere - up to about 5 or 6 hours, is our limit, though we have done a seven hour trip to Toronto. But driving obviously comes with its own set of problems.

But I hear people all the time telling how they are taking their whole family to Disney, or some other place - 4 or 5 or 6 people! And I begin to suspect that everyone else is in on some kind of conspiracy where they know how to get cheap airline tickets and I am the only one who doesn't know how.

So am I missing something? Do you all just get packages or something? Is there a trick I don't know? Go to travel agents? Please help!
Well, there are lots of variables. The number of people traveling does shift economy toward the car, but for small numbers of people (1 or 2) it is not a clear winner. Example: It is 1080 miles from NYC to Orlando. If your car gets 20 miles to the gallon, that is 54 gallons at $4 a gallon for a total trip cost of $432 not counting wear and tear on the vehicle.

Airline prices, depending on when and where you are going, are very variable. I've seen tickets going from DC to Jacksonville at about $120 round trip before.

Many people also shop around for airfare tickets and pick during cheaper times. My wife and I bought tickets a couple of weeks off of the "prime season" for european travel and the tickets were $600 instead of $1300.

Many of those trips involving 5-6 people were probably planned out a year ahead of time and were picked at an optimum time to make the tickets as cheap as possible.
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:03 PM
pbbth pbbth is offline
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We do this in a couple of different ways. The first is that we try to time travel during off seasons or other times when airfare is reduced. For example, we took our honeymoon to Finland during November, which meant that it was really cold already but the winter sports hadn't really started up yet so we paid about $600 a person for a nonstop international flight. To make that same trip in May we would have paid more than $1200 per person. We didn't get to go skiing while we were there but we got to go dog sledding and snow tubing and all sorts of other fun stuff so we don't feel like we missed out by being there during the off-season. If you pick someplace a bit closer or that is more of a tourist destination you can travel internationally for a pittance. During some times of the year you can fly out of JFK to Iceland, Ireland, or England for about $400 a person.

The second way is that we have frequent flyer numbers with a few different airlines so we get constant updates from them on cheap flights. I get emails from both American Airlines and JetBlue telling me about their crazy faresaver flights all over the country sometimes for as little as $75-$80 round trip per person depending on where you want to go. More than once I've been able to take a trip in the next 60 days for less than $100 because they are desperate to fill that plane to keep it from flying empty.

Otherwise we just try to avoid flying whenever possible. If we want to go to DC there is a bus that goes from Penn Station to DC in about 4 hours and it costs $15 a person, which is an absolute steal. We can get similar deals to go to about a dozen big cities within driving distance of New York City. The bus takes longer but isn't any less comfortable than the plane, so we really jump at the opportunity to take the cheap as dirt bus rides whenever we want to travel nearby.
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  #11  
Old 04-20-2011, 03:07 PM
Machine Elf Machine Elf is offline
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Originally Posted by Anaamika View Post
When I have told people in the past, they point out how cheap that is per mile, as if that's supposed to comfort me - I could drive waaaaaaaaaay cheaper than that. And of course we end up driving nearly everywhere - up to about 5 or 6 hours, is our limit, though we have done a seven hour trip to Toronto. But driving obviously comes with its own set of problems.
Keep in mind that the cost of driving is more than just the cost of gas. Add in insurance, maintenance, and depreciation, and the national average is over 50 cents per mile. So from upstate NY, a driving round-trip to DC costs about $450. If there's two of you in the same car, then I guess the cost per passenger is $225, about half of the airfare you mentioned. So yes, driving's cheaper, but not exactly dirt-cheap.

Quote:
But I hear people all the time telling how they are taking their whole family to Disney, or some other place - 4 or 5 or 6 people! And I begin to suspect that everyone else is in on some kind of conspiracy where they know how to get cheap airline tickets and I am the only one who doesn't know how.
The conspiracy, I'm convinced, is that no one seems to be saving for retirement. Seriously, surveys consistently show that people aren't saving nearly enough money for retirement, and that probably helps out with the luxury family getaways. My wife and I are maxed out on our contributions; if we stopped them altogether, we'd have an extra $20K a year (after taxes) to blow on trips, new cars, or cocaine.

When I was a kid, family vacations were three-week voyages out to the western US in a station wagon towing a pop-up camper, staying at campgrounds for maybe $5 a night. We ate at a restaurant maybe once a week, and the rest of the time Mom cooked a complete dinner at our campsite. I saw and did incredible things at some of our country's most amazing national parks. I have fond memories of those trips, and thanks to a lifetime of aggressive saving, my parents retired 10 years ago as millionaires.
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:09 PM
Beadalin Beadalin is offline
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I sign up for fare watcher deals through Travelocity, so that I get an alert whenever a fare to a particular destination drops below X. Generally I use $250 - 300 as the threshold for when I want to be notified that I could fly somewhere for less than that. You can also get broader notifications about cheap fares in general if you don't have a particular destination in mind.

I'm paid every two weeks, which means that every six months, I get a "skip check," (my term) -- I get paid three times in one calendar month. Those "extra" checks get put toward luxury items like travel.

We also book accommodations through VRBO, which cuts way, WAY down on hotel costs and gets us better accommodations -- our big thing is having a kitchen so that we don't have to eat out for every meal.

We're also big fans of road trips, but with gas prices being what they are, it's often a wash compared to flying.

Depending on where you're going, flying into a nearby destination and then renting a car or going by train makes sense. Flying to Vegas is usually dirt cheap, and from there you can drive to California or other states. Earlier this year, we flew to Dallas and drove down to the Gulf coast of Texas because it was much cheaper than flying directly to anywhere further south.
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:10 PM
tdn tdn is offline
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Originally Posted by Hampshire View Post
We also buy airfare a few months in advance so we're spending on airfare now and spending on the actual trip later.
Quoted for truthiness. Splitting it up like that makes the financial burdan more manageable.

Also, try shopping for tickets at different times. Prices can change at a moment's notice.
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:10 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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Originally Posted by tdn View Post
That seems pretty expensive to me.
I agree that those numbers seem high. I just checked Southwest Airlines from Albany to BWI leaving September 1 and returning on September 7. The cheapest but most restrictive ticket is $49 each way. So the two of you could travel for 200 bucks.

But as to your larger point, the airfare is just part of the cost of traveling. I know that my brother doesn't make a huge salary so some years he drives his family somewhere in the northeast for vacation. But they've been to Disneyworld twice, Las Vegas/Grand Canyon once and San Francisco once.
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:12 PM
jayarrell jayarrell is offline
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I'm not too surprised about the cost of airfare going up; it's been in the news recently in the SF Bay Area how the price of oil is causing airfare increases.

Besides comparing prices with the online Travel agencies you can also try contacting a regular TA. Sometimes you can get lower airfare by also purchasing hotel or car through the TA. Did you try pricing out undesirable times (like midnight arrivals)?

As far as being able to afford to go anywhere I pretty much don't until I have the money to pay for the trip. I've got a Florida trip planned for October and I'm expecting to pay a lot for airfare, but we've been saving up for it for two years. The only reason why we are going is because our credit card had enough points for a free cruise and if we don't use it by the end of the year we lose the voucher.

Also, not all airlines are in Travelocity and similar sites. Try checking Southwest and (I think) Virgin.

Last edited by jayarrell; 04-20-2011 at 03:14 PM..
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:13 PM
Palo Verde Palo Verde is offline
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We drive long distances. We pack up the kids, hop into the minivan and drive. The (4) kids are used to it, and we do our best to make it fun.

We've found that listening to books on tape make the hours fly by (the Harry Potter ones are especially good, the guy who narrates them is amazing!). I make little bags with treats (a piece of candy, a toy, a coloring book) and hand them out every few hours, so the kids have something new to mess with.

We drive a thousand miles to my parents' house (about 16 hours) and stay over night in a cheap hotel, all 6 of us jammed into a tiny hotel room. We do this a few times a year and have since the kids were babies. They are use to it and look forward to it as a fun time. Memories are made of moments like this.
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:14 PM
Barrett Bonden Barrett Bonden is offline
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Are you close to a major airport? It might (or might not) be worth driving a couple hours in order to avoid a connection and lower your ticket price.

$460 seems a little high for the cheap end of fares to DC, although I don't know where you are starting. Have you been checking fares regularly? Are you signed up with Travelocity and individual airline sites to receive notices of fare sales, particularly for airports close to you? Stalking flights months in advance and buying early is definitely helpful.

Flights on weekends (including Friday) and during "regular" hours will be typically be pricier than flights on weekdays and early or late hours.

I'm told that Wednesdays are good days to buy. (My brother just pinged my family today to let us know that fares to Dallas had dropped for his wedding weekend.)
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:15 PM
Sateryn76 Sateryn76 is offline
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We don't fly anywhere. We drive. From NW Indiana, we've driven to Orlando, Williamsburg, the Smokey Mountains, the Ozarks, the Poconos and this summer we'll be driving to Maryland. Sometimes, we've done it over two days, but we've driven to all of our vacations as a family.

With two kids, plane tickets are crazy expensive, so we don't buy them. That cuts off some vacation places like California and overseas, but most of the USA is within our reach. And until we can afford to pay catch, I'm okay with waiting. My hubby and I have taken planes to California and Vegas, and three of us got one trip to Sedona in before my son was born, but so far we've been content to pay cash and drive.
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:16 PM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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Originally Posted by pbbth View Post
Otherwise we just try to avoid flying whenever possible. If we want to go to DC there is a bus that goes from Penn Station to DC in about 4 hours and it costs $15 a person, which is an absolute steal. We can get similar deals to go to about a dozen big cities within driving distance of New York City. The bus takes longer but isn't any less comfortable than the plane, so we really jump at the opportunity to take the cheap as dirt bus rides whenever we want to travel nearby.
This of course is a big deal. Albany is by no means podunk but we do not have the opportunities NYC does, and never will, with NYC right there. And I wish we could, since we are equidistant between several large cities.

I do save for retirement. I know I have to - I have no one to take care of me. I have no kids, and certainly no one in my family will do so. So yes, that takes a good portion of our disposable income - I have money going to a 401K, and two separate savings accounts that I put money into every paycheck.

And my SO is for some reason categorically opposed to the bus. Yes, this will have to change, with the cost of gas rising again.

Oh, and one more thing - I try to put as little as possible on credit. I don't mind chargin a few things like hotels and stuff on credit, but I want most of my vacation to be paid for. Credit is for when the fridge breaks and you need another one ASAP. Or if someone in my family dies and I need to fly out there. I don't feel it is for luxuries.

I certainly am game for taking the train to NYC and flying out of there...it is an added inconvenience but not one I am totally against.

Last edited by Anaamika; 04-20-2011 at 03:18 PM..
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:16 PM
tdn tdn is offline
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Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
I agree that those numbers seem high. I just checked Southwest Airlines from Albany to BWI leaving September 1 and returning on September 7. The cheapest but most restrictive ticket is $49 each way. So the two of you could travel for 200 bucks.
I just checked the same thing on Orbitz and found a round trip ticket for $183. Stops in NYC, unfortunately.
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:17 PM
Amara_ Amara_ is offline
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We also view the cost of the airline tickets as part of the cost of our vacation. We book way in advance and try to be flexible with dates. I completely agree that airline (and accommodation prices!) are lower in off season.

Sometimes Costco or other places have really good deals on airfare/car or airfare/hotel combos too.

Sometimes driving to an alternate airport makes sense too.
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:18 PM
Tastes of Chocolate Tastes of Chocolate is offline
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When we start thinking about a trip, the travel portion is just part of the cost.

1)Travel (car or air)
2) Hotel
3) Food
4) other expenses


Airfare usually isn't the big part of that. If I'm going someplace for a week, and airfare is say $400/person - 2 people =$800.
If I'm going someplace touristy, I assume I'm going to be paying $130+/night for a room, $900
Food - Probably averages $35/day per person - $490
Other - car rental, enterance fees (a 2 day ticket for Disney World is $162/adult), etc = probably another $600/person

On the other hand, if I'm looking for the "get me the hell away from snow" winter break, I can spend a lot less money, including airfare, by being flexable about where and when I go. Last year, we went to Vegas for 5 days, and chose Vegas because it was one of the cheaper places we could find to go. Try Kayak.com, and start poking around, looking at different locations and dates.

It's when you have to be at a specific location, on specific dates, that the costs really rack up.
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:18 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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Originally Posted by tdn View Post
I just checked the same thing on Orbitz and found a round trip ticket for $183. Stops in NYC, unfortunately.
I think some airlines like Southwest and JetBlue don't publish their airfares on the websites like Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, etc. So you need to check their websites separately.

Last edited by Dewey Finn; 04-20-2011 at 03:19 PM..
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:19 PM
Sateryn76 Sateryn76 is offline
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Oh, and as stated above, rentals through places like VRBO and HomeAway can be great money savers. Having a kitchen, combined with a quick trip to a grocery store, save tons of money. Each of us are allowed X amount per day for tickets, souvenirs, meals, etc., and eating at home doesn't count toward that.

Plus, the extra space is a sanity saver. We got a three bedroom one block home off the beach in Ocean City Maryland for $1640 total for the week. That money came from the tax refund, and the spending money is saved up since last year's vacation.
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:22 PM
Dangerosa Dangerosa is offline
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I'm not your target, because we are pretty well off. But I've had this conversation many times.

I know people who never eat out so they can vacation every year. I know people who feed their family of four for $200 a month - and vacation. I know people who live in hovels and vacation. Drive ten year old cars and vacation. Buy all their clothes at Goodwill and vacation. And - yes - don't save for retirement and vacation AND put it all on their credit cards.

In other words, if vacationing is a priority for you, you fit it into your budget. If it isn't, you buy shoes instead and everyone wonders why you can spend so much on shoes.

But that said, there are tricks. Some people use airfare rewards cards for EVERYTHING and get their airfare cheaper or free. Some travel enough for work to rack up the miles - and often use a hotel rewards program too. Some watch for alerts and fare sales and travel on short notice when a deal comes up.
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:25 PM
Swallowed My Cellphone Swallowed My Cellphone is offline
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Originally Posted by Anaamika View Post
We save, we buy things we both need and want. We don't over extend ourselves and never live beyond our means. Both of us have used cars, for example. And we have money for vacations...!
We save, we buy things we need... and we prioritize the things we want. If we want to go somewhere by plane, it's a higher priority than some of the other things we may want. So we save accordingly.

We're kind of non-consumers though, so our spending habits are different than the average North American. We had occasion to examine our spending habits recently, we're a marketing person's worst nightmare. So while we're by no means rich, we tend to have plenty for fun spending.

The other thing is, we plan way in advance and keep an eye out for seat sales. Most people decide where they want to go, book the days off work, and then try to find an affordable flight that fit$ their date$. Instead, we have a few different places in mind, and we have a vague idea of when we want to do it, then if we come a cross a seat sale - perfect! We book our cheap flights and then sort out the rest.

For example, we thought "Hey, it might be nice to go to the west coast sometime in the fall. We should go to City X or City Z." A seat sale came up for one of our destinations, City Z, and in the right time period (you must be flying between Aug. 1 and Oct. 1). So we based our plans on the opportunity, allowing us to save 40% on air fare.

Last edited by Swallowed My Cellphone; 04-20-2011 at 03:27 PM..
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:25 PM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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I keep forgetting more things. I know all of those things about the car, but the difference is, I am already paying some of those costs - whether the car goes with me or sits in the lot I pay for insurance, for example.

Now I just checked SW for airfare to DC for the same time frame, and it's $200, which is a vast improvement. What does this mean, though; it says:

Business - 518 (not going to do this)
Anytime - 493
Wanna get away (web only) - 203

Does that mean I can't specify dates on the last one.
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:25 PM
China Guy China Guy is offline
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I get where you're coming from. I think for you, it's a case of you can't justify spending that much versus whether or not you can really "afford" it.

It's part of the cost for me. Having to fly at the summer full fare economy and pay for 5 tickets between China and the US was a ginormous expense. But if I factor in the need for my kids to connect with their aging grandparents, other family, and acclimize to the US, it was well worth the cost. Likewise I flew all 5 of us from Seattle to Denver for our first Christmas in the US to be with family, and the head of the clan was elderly and in poor health. It was the chance for all 5 of us to see her before she passed away last week.

I'm very frugal by nature so it kills me to buy 5 tickets, but sometimes it isn't the money. I'm also fortunate to be able to "afford" it although certainly not well off enough that it does not mean skipping something else. For example, we have a mini-van but no second car. I commute to work via a shuttle. Buying a second beater car would be more convenient but not worth the money.
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:27 PM
Tastes of Chocolate Tastes of Chocolate is offline
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Originally Posted by Anaamika View Post
I would love to travel the country more often (our out of the country!), but airfare is outrageously expensive. I just on a whim checked travelocity airfare to DC in September - $460 per person. That's a thousand dollars that I can't spend on the actual vacation at all. No way I'm spending that kind of money for a week. And it would be really hard for me to spend $1000 + other vacation expenses all at once, anyway.
Did you pick September at random? Did you happen to pick Labor Day weekend? I just found flights from Albany to DC, in June, for $217 / person. $230 in September, for a non-stop flight.

Last edited by Tastes of Chocolate; 04-20-2011 at 03:27 PM..
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:30 PM
mske mske is offline
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Originally Posted by tdn View Post
Also, try shopping for tickets at different times. Prices can change at a moment's notice.
This is true. Although there are no guarantees, the airfare for your itinerary should drop over the next couple of months, then shoot up again a few weeks before the actual date. There are airfare predictor sites on the web that will provide a general sense of where fares are going, as well as alerting you when they go down (or up).

We flew 2 adults and 2 kids (plus one lap infant) to Disney in the fall of 2009. We paid $208 return/person direct flight (Buffalo - Orlando) on JetBlue. I think we booked maybe 4-6 weeks out. Obviously it was a risk, but when we first booked our accomodations several months in advance of the trip, the flights were more than double.

And how did we afford this? We saved for three years to do it. We've started saving to do the trip again in another two. It would be nice to do it more often, but it is the reality for us.
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:30 PM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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Originally Posted by China Guy View Post
I get where you're coming from. I think for you, it's a case of you can't justify spending that much versus whether or not you can really "afford" it.
Yeah, that is a really hard hurdle to get over. Both of us come from families that just never, ever flew anywhere if they could avoid it. Vacations were simple affairs. It is very hard for us to look at, say $1000 or $2000 for a vacation and not think "Well, we could put that towards savings or some other necessary cost". I know that the 4 or 6 days is really fun but it seems crazy to blow all that on just a few days.

Another problem is that he has a really hard time getting days off. He can't just put in for them and expect them. I can get almost any days off, thankfully.

Chocolate, I totally picked September at random. I have this idea that it is more expensive close to the date so I picked a date far enough away that it should not be a problem.

Last edited by Anaamika; 04-20-2011 at 03:31 PM..
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:32 PM
kushiel kushiel is offline
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It also depends where you travel. Most people here go south for a week every year, but they're going to the tourist traps in Mexico and the Caribbean. It's cheap to go there especially since doing so became so popular that travel agencies end up chartering the plane. I frequently hear of people hanging out at the resort and chit-chatting with other tourists and finding out they live 2 hours away. Most people don't do a week in Paris every year.
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  #33  
Old 04-20-2011, 03:36 PM
Hello Again Hello Again is offline
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Originally Posted by Anaamika View Post
Now I just checked SW for airfare to DC for the same time frame, and it's $200, which is a vast improvement. What does this mean, though; it says:

Business - 518 (not going to do this)
Anytime - 493
Wanna get away (web only) - 203

Does that mean I can't specify dates on the last one.
No. If you click the link it tells you what it means: the ticket is not refundable, there's no priority seating, and you cannot change the date of your ticket after purchase, without paying additional fees.
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  #34  
Old 04-20-2011, 03:36 PM
Swallowed My Cellphone Swallowed My Cellphone is offline
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Another problem is that he has a really hard time getting days off. He can't just put in for them and expect them.
Oh, now that does make it hard. Can he get them if he puts in really early?


Uh, that wasn't supposed to sound smutty.

Last edited by Swallowed My Cellphone; 04-20-2011 at 03:37 PM..
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  #35  
Old 04-20-2011, 03:37 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is online now
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I just looked at Orbitz for flights a month out (May 31 with a June 6 return flight) and I found a flight from Albany to Washington for $148.
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  #36  
Old 04-20-2011, 03:46 PM
Swallowed My Cellphone Swallowed My Cellphone is offline
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No. If you click the link it tells you what it means: the ticket is not refundable, there's no priority seating, and you cannot change the date of your ticket after purchase, without paying additional fees.
There are often two or three tiers. The more expensive bookings usually allows you some flexibility. If you're a business dude that has to fly to meet a client at a power meeting, it makes sense to have more flexibility. Meetings get rescheduled, you get a scheduling conflict, markets collapse, etc. You pay a higher price for the piece of mind of being able to reschedule your flight to a different time or day (or month) without a penalty.

The cheap seats that we sometimes book give you no such options. Get the flu and can't fly that day? Tough titty. Your loss. Miss your flight? Too bad. Sucks to be you.

My mom gets senior citizen tickets that are both cheap and are open ended tickets. She gets a return ticket and can come back whenever, she just has to call ahead to book her actual seat on the plane.

Last edited by Swallowed My Cellphone; 04-20-2011 at 03:46 PM..
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  #37  
Old 04-20-2011, 03:48 PM
Airk Airk is offline
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Some bizarre ideas in this thread about credit cards and vacations.

Rule #1 of credit cards: Don't put anything on them you couldn't pay then and there if they didn't take credit.

Rule #2 of credit cards: DO put EVERYTHING on them that you would be buying anyway. This: Builds credit. Lets you keep your money ~30 days longer than you otherwise would (a marginal amount of interest accrues). Costs nothing. Let's you rack up whatever kind of bonus things you credit card gives you.

So carrying this back to vacations and affording them... a lot of credit cards will let you pile up airline miles or some equivalent by using them. If you're serious about vacations, it might behoove you to find one of these cards and use it according to the rules above. This will help you pay for your airfare (or you hotels if you pick a card with that kind of benefit, etc.).

Otherwise? Shop smart. Get bargains on airfare. Find cheap but acceptable hotels (I stayed in downtown San Fran for less than $90 a night). Stay with friends. Use public transport where possible instead of renting a car. You'll need to put in some work, but there's no reason to pay outrageous sums for travel/lodging/food/whatever. If you find a great deal on a hotel, you can spend a little more on airfare if you need to, and so on.

And yes, you'll be dipping into your savings a bit. But you know, it's for something you enjoy (in theory anyway. If you don't enjoy it, you may way to reconsider how you use your time off.), and in that regard, isn't really any different from thousands of other luxuries. Set aside for them.
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  #38  
Old 04-20-2011, 03:48 PM
even sven even sven is offline
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I'm a poor grad student, so my situation is not quite like yours, but I do manage to travel despite not being in a great place financially. I get around it by being a cheapskate traveler, which works great but requires some flexibility (I've avoided kids and mortgages for the moment, thank god!) Of course my biggest plan is I travel in cheap places- I've decided to spend most of my upcoming vacation in Zambia rather than pricey South Africa, for example. You can travel reasonably well in China and India for less then ten bucks a night, and if you can scrounge up fifty bucks a night you can live like a king. I doubt I'll ever get to Europe. But I have fun!

Right now, http://www.kayak.com is the place to go. It takes me a long time to buy tickets, because I look at every possible departure-return combination and will also gladly take cheap public transit out to whatever airport is cheapest to fly in and out of within a day's travel. For example, I live in DC but my next big flight goes out of NYC. No problem- I'll take book and a cheap bus up there if it will save me a hundred bucks. Kayak makes it easy to search nearby dates and other airports. To give an example, I just bought a ticket to Cape Town. Flying on my preferred dates out of my closest airport would have been over $2,000. But by messing around, I found tickets for $700. I'm seeing tickets to Nairobi in May for $800 right now, which is pretty awesome.

I'm seeing tickets on Kayak right now from $200. BWI is the only cheap way to go in DC, but there is easy ground transport into the city- a bus goes straight from the terminal to the metro (it does take a while.)

There are a number of airline special sites. If you are willing to be flexible about dates, you can find some awesome deal. My mom is a master of finding stuff like RT to London for $200. You just have to be at the right place at the right time and have flexibility about the exact dates.

To save money on the road- it's all old backpacker tricks. I spend a lot of time sleeping in airports, browsing the cheap rooms on Hostels.com, taking local ground transport and eating street food and making picnics from exotic (and cheap) stuff at grocery stores. This doesn't mean I don't have fun. Most hostels have perfectly nice private rooms much cheaper than a chain- the DC Hostelling International (usually a classy operation) has doubles for $55, and there are cheaper private room if you don't mind getting funky. I splurge on a few nice, truly memorable meals. But if the goal is "food in the stomach" I'll go to the hotdog stand just outside rather than the museum cafeteria. I also tend towards low-cost attractions- I'm just as happy seeing the Kathmandu valley on a bumpy local bus rather than arranging an expensive guided trek.

Anyway, I live travel a bit closer to the ground than most are comfortable with, but that's gotten me to 20+ countries. But even if you are not quite as flexible, there are still a lot of cases where you can get the same thing for a cheaper price.

Last edited by even sven; 04-20-2011 at 03:49 PM..
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  #39  
Old 04-20-2011, 03:49 PM
Hello Again Hello Again is offline
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Originally Posted by Swallowed My Cellphone View Post
There are often two or three tiers. The more expensive bookings usually allows you some flexibility. If you're a business dude that has to fly to meet a client at a power meeting, it makes sense to have more flexibility. Meetings get rescheduled, you get a scheduling conflict, markets collapse, etc. You pay a higher price for the piece of mind of being able to reschedule your flight to a different time or day (or month) without a penalty.
To be clear, the OP named three tiers used by Southwest, then asked what the last one means. I was explaining what the last one means. That was not supposed to be a definition for all three of the tiers. Just the last one. And just for Southwest.

And the information is available on the SW website. Which is where I got it.
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  #40  
Old 04-20-2011, 03:51 PM
Moonlitherial Moonlitherial is offline
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Originally Posted by Anaamika View Post
That's not to say that we don't indulge and enjoy ourselves but for me plunking down $1000 for a two or four hour part of the vacation is pretty outrageous.
You've gotten some good advice on reducing airfare costs, but this is important too. It's not paying $1000 for 2-4 hours of your vacation but for having your vacation in the location of your choice.

You've got to mentally add all your costs together and divide them by day or you'll never justify the flights. Flying is a necessary evil for getting to far away places, only rarely is it an enjoyable part of the vacation so you're not paying for that 2-4 hours but for the destination.
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  #41  
Old 04-20-2011, 04:00 PM
Hello Again Hello Again is offline
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My credit card gives me "points" which translate to "statement credit" (ie, they strike the charge off your statement) on travel purchases . I earn the points per dollar spent, except that when I purchase travel on my credit card (such as my subway farecard, which I buy every month) it gives me double points on those purchases.

Since I never carry a balance, the $315 credit I put towards my last vacation was something for nothing.
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  #42  
Old 04-20-2011, 04:15 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is offline
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Interesting thread.

I grew up in a Car Family, and perhaps because of this, it hardly ever occurs to me that I might fly somewhere for a vacation. I think I absorbed the idea that flying is just what rich people do. Almost all of the places I've ever been on vacation have been reached by car (though, with a few, it's taken more than a full day's drive to get there).
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  #43  
Old 04-20-2011, 04:19 PM
Shot From Guns Shot From Guns is offline
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Originally Posted by Anaamika View Post
I just on a whim checked travelocity airfare to DC in September - $460 per person.
Like everybody else, that number sounds really, really off to me for a "cheapest possible flight." I just spent almost a year dating a guy in Baltimore, and my flights between MKE and BWI were always about $170, round-trip, including all the fees and taxes (but not counting any upgrades I added on later). Flying on odd days and times helps (e.g., go Thursday night instead of Friday morning). Being flexible with your dates helps. Taking nonrefundable tickets is pretty much necessary.

even sven's suggestion of kayak is probably your best bet for really researching and comparing fares. If you want to stick with just one booking engine instead of a metasearch, I'd personally recommend Travelocity; however, I don't know that they'll be as good for your airport as for mine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by robert_columbia View Post
Train travel can be cheaper, and less of a hassle.
Well, it depends on the distance. For shorter trips, trains are definitely quite reasonable. But when you start planning cross-country trips, IME trains are not only much slower but much more expensive. Albany to D.C. might be short enough that it falls under the "reasonably priced" heading, though, and it might fall along the heavily trafficked eastern Amtrak corridor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Machine Elf View Post
Keep in mind that the cost of driving is more than just the cost of gas. Add in insurance, maintenance, and depreciation, and the national average is over 50 cents per mile.
The 2011 reimbursement rate is $0.51/mile.

I've driven (well, ridden) from Baltimore to Rochester. Albany to D.C. would be fairly similar--it would be about a seven-hour drive, but that's really not bad at all, especially if you've taken long car trips before. Just bring lots of music, snacks, etc. and your only immediate cost is the gas. Sure, it will put more wear and tear on your car, but that's what a car is for.
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  #44  
Old 04-20-2011, 04:21 PM
Swallowed My Cellphone Swallowed My Cellphone is offline
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Originally Posted by Hello Again View Post
To be clear, the OP named three tiers used by Southwest, then asked what the last one means. I was explaining what the last one means. That was not supposed to be a definition for all three of the tiers. Just the last one. And just for Southwest.
Yes, and I was just adding that it's fairly common practice, but the names of the tiers can be different depending on the airline (like Porter in Canada calls them "Freedom", "Flexible" and "Firm").

Generally, the most affordable fares are the ones that lock you in, with the least flexibility.
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  #45  
Old 04-20-2011, 04:33 PM
MeanOldLady MeanOldLady is offline
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I Priceline like a motherfuck.

If you're not a risk-taker like I am, Priceline, Orbitz and any other travel site offers bundled hotel and airfare packages that don't rely on bidding on the unknown. Last year I Pricelined my way (no bidding) into three night stay in Los Angeles with roundtrip airfare and a rental car at Christmastime for something like $450. And I procrastinated. Using travel sites to combine vacation packages will help you save a lot of money.
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  #46  
Old 04-20-2011, 04:50 PM
Swallowed My Cellphone Swallowed My Cellphone is offline
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Originally Posted by Shot From Guns View Post
Well, it depends on the distance. For shorter trips, trains are definitely quite reasonable. But when you start planning cross-country trips, IME trains are not only much slower but much more expensive.
No kidding! Trains are great for a short hop. Say Toronto to Ottawa or Montreal (which would be a 5ish hour drive). But cross country? Not at all practical for the cost. Let's say I take a week off work and I want to go to Vancouver. I'm starting in Toronto.

Flying, I could leave on Friday night after work and come back on a Sunday. It's a five hour flight each way. Cost: $1,200 round trip. That gives met a week in Vancouver.

The train takes 3 days and 10 hours each way. Cost: $1,060 round trip. That gives me one day in Vancouver, the rest is in the train. Whee, fun holiday. Saved me a whole $140.

Last edited by Swallowed My Cellphone; 04-20-2011 at 04:52 PM..
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  #47  
Old 04-20-2011, 04:53 PM
CrazyCatLady CrazyCatLady is offline
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Originally Posted by Moonlitherial View Post
Flying is a necessary evil for getting to far away places, only rarely is it an enjoyable part of the vacation so you're not paying for that 2-4 hours but for the destination.
For a lot places, this.

For a lot of other places, you're not so much paying for the destination as you're paying for the luxury of not spending two entire days trapped in a car and arriving both at your destination and at home exhausted, cranky, and full of leg cramps.
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  #48  
Old 04-20-2011, 05:42 PM
Disheavel Disheavel is offline
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A lot of great information here already, but I didn't see it explicitly stated, but we usually choose our destination based on the cheapest tickets we can find. And plan the vacation from there. For instance, we found that for some reason tickets into Dublin were really cheap and two weeks later out of Italy (Venice) was really cheap so we just need to get between the two and there is our vacation. We were initially looking at London being the destination and round trip in and out of there is $1400, but out tickets plus two one ways from Dublin to London to Venice come out to $950.
That is to say that being as flexible as possible is our best way to find deals. Kayak.com and +/-3 day searches with nearby airports are your best friends! Also, we are all about the museums and the restaurants and hotel/apartment/B&B are always the cheapest we can find in a good location. We rarely eat in a true restaurant and never buy food that isn't worth it. Farmers markets and grocery stores are an experience all on their own! And this is also true with going to Nebraska and Texas and Florida!
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  #49  
Old 04-20-2011, 06:13 PM
Yarster Yarster is offline
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To state the obvious, flexibility is key to making this work for you. I do a combination of everything stated.

1) Charge everything possible to a credit card that gives frequent flier miles and then pay it off each month. I have a job that requires business travel and you can bet I go out of my way to book flights on airlines that count to get the real miles of the actual trip, plus the miles from the money spent on buying the tickets and all associated expenses of that trip. This results in my airfare being free approximately every other year.

2) Use the travel sites suggested to find a great deal and book the tickets well in advance. This makes paying for the trip less painful because you pay airfare now and the actual trip months later when you take it. I often book six months ahead. I also use the price of the airfare to dictate the time I will fly, often how long I plan to stay, and sometimes the destination as well.

3) Once the airline has been booked, THEN book the hotels, and see what you can start doing to save on the trip. Is there public transportation you can use at the destination that doesn't require a car, particularly if you pick certain hotels? Are there certain hotels with kitchenettes that allow you to prepare food rather than eat out all meals? That can make a huge difference.

4) Once you know all that, start to figure out the types of things you want to do and budget for those. While it's fun to be spontaneous, I also like to do lots of things in the same area of a city on the same day, and given that I have limited days and money, I pick them carefully. Some museums are free on certain days of the week. All things being equal, go to those museums on those days. AAA has free guides for most every city if you have a membership or know someone who does.

I have the reverse problem. I start with the fixed cost of the airfare once I book it, and then figure out how 'nice' the rest of the vacation can be based on what I've already spent for that rather than the way you are doing it.
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  #50  
Old 04-20-2011, 06:19 PM
Ca3799 Ca3799 is offline
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You seem to be getting a lot of advice on shopping for rates already.

Sounds like you should increase your vacation budget a little, too.

When my check hits the credit union, the credit union skims some off the top for me- some goes to a vacation fund, some to a Christmas fund, some goes to other accounts. Maybe skimming some spare change off of your paychecks will make the airfare feel less budget-busting.
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