Well, we’re back from a vacation to the Netherlands. We had a blast. We stayed at a nice little villa in a quaint little town, had one of those cute little cars that looks like it rolled out of a cartoon and we went all around visiting the parks and attractions. We also of course visited my family that still lives over there.
As summer is in full swing I’m sure you’re gearing up for vacation as well. vacations can be pretty expensive. Don’t ask me why but plane tickets to the Netherlands easily run up to $1,800 nowadays. Long gone are the days of hopping over the pond for “only” $300 dollars.
Despite the high cost of travel we did try to apply the following 5 ways to save money while on vacation. For most of you vacation season is just kicking in so I hope that some may work for you as well.
Last time we visited the Netherlands we stayed at a local camp/bungalow site at what we thought was a decent price. The price was indeed low but we got what we paid for. At arrival we learned that we had to rent the bedding and towels. Because of some security issues we could not leave the camp by car after hours which which meant that the night prior to leaving for the airport back to the States we had to park the car outside of the park. This left us wandering in the dark (with my 70(some) year old mother in law) at 3:30am in the morning, suitcases in tow like thieves in the night. What a bust.
This year we tried airbnb and what a blessing it was. We were able to rent a local house only 10 minutes away from my family. Best of all, the price at $90 a night fell below that of the park we stayed at prior ($129 a night) and below most local hotels (up to $126). Besides a hotel does not compare to a 3 bedroom standalone house with all the comforts it comes with (oh and a super-sized trampoline in the backyard).
If you’re traveling anywhere worldwide check out airbnb (no affiliation) and I hope you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as we were.
Years prior we’ve not worried much about dining expenses because, well, we didn’t have any financial constraints. This time around we did, so we actually did some local grocery shopping and ate “at home” as often as we needed to. Sure we did sample the local cuisine a little but most of the time we had breakfast, lunch and dinner in our rental property. This was another big advantage of having rented a house. We had all the usual means to prepare and store out food (it did take a youtube video to figure out how to use the ultra modern cook-top in our rental) .
3. Using points and miles
It has actually been a while since I’ve been racking up the miles but I still had enough Skymiles left for one free ticket from Milwaukee to Amsterdam. That was a savings of some $1,800! I realize not everyone can accumulate enough miles/points to travel international but one of the biggest mistakes you can make is not signing up for the points plan at whatever hotel are staying or whatever airline you are flying. These are all missed opportunities that can someday pay off.
I still have enough hotel points with several hotel chains to stay for free for probably three weeks. Every time we’ve flown to Europe we’ve always been able to have at least one person fly for free (this may have been the last though).
4. Buying tickets to attractions online and in advance
This year was the vacation for the kids. They’ve finally come to that age where they are no longer schlepping along but actually want to see and do things. We visited the most famous local attractions/theme parks. Instead of buying tickets at the gate we actually ordered to tickets in advance and with discounts. Since we had family in the Netherlands they offered to purchase tickets to the Efteling at the local grocery store saving us 30 Euro over the already discounted online price of 136 Euro. A 30 Euro discount equates to a saving of about $33.
Madurodam which is another famous attraction in the Netherlands didn’t offer discounts ordering online but a little research in advance did show me a way to get access for 4 for the price of 3. So do a little research on pricing prior to visiting attractions.
5. Creating a budget
As we live by a budget for our day to day lives we also created a budget for our vacation. We tried to plan ahead on how much we would spend on things. We know what attractions we would visit and we know what they would cost. We set a budget for eating out each day and tried to stick that as well. Budgets aren’t ironclad but they can guide you in the right direction. With that budget we were also able to pin money only once, preventing having to pay to many foreign exchange transaction. I realize walking around with cash isn’t ideal but it beats having your credit card number stolen (which has happened to my on several occasions traveling abroad.
There you have it, 5 ways we managed to save a few dollars while on vacation. All of which will apply whether you travel locally or internationally and some will certainly apply to you. I’m also sure you have plenty of other ways you may know how to save. I’d love to hear about those in the comment section below.
Good luck reaching your financial goals