10 tips to a debt-free family holiday
Nothing kills a holiday glow like a holiday debt. And it's not just the travel costs and accommodation that can be the culprit - eating every meal out, entry tickets to see the sights and souvenirs for the kids all take a chunk. Here's how to keep that holiday buzz and avoid the blowout.
Planning and persistence are the key - do your research and don't be afraid to ask for a better deal, but there are also clever tools to help you plot your finances towards a sanity-saving vacation.
Eyes on the prize: Narrow down your ideal destinations to three choices, then use a savings goal calculator to see how long it will take you to get together the funds.
Investigate discounts: Credit card and car/home/health insurance membership often entitles you to discount entry tickets, meals and accommodation - don't leave home without seeing if you can take advantage of one of these offers. And before setting off check to see if you can get a discount online. Many theme parks, zoos etc have online only deals so hunt around before you go and save.
Don't count your chickens: If you're counting on a tax refund to help you find some holiday funds, get a good estimate so you aren't caught short. You can't plan your holiday budget with a crystal ball, so use an income tax calculator for a clear idea of what's up your sleeve.
Look into low-cost attractions: Are there museums, parks, beaches or historical sites you can visit for free? A great day out doesn't need to involve an entry fee.
Reap the rewards: Used wisely - that is, by paying it off every month - a credit card with a good rewards system is an excellent tool. The best deals are often to be had with frequent flyer points, so if a holiday is on the cards, resist that hand-held vacuum you can get for free and put the points towards a plane ticket. Compare rewards programs to see which card can take you furthest.
Give the kids some fun money: Offer a set allowance each day for the kids to spend on whatever they'd like - treats, souvenirs etc - but once they've spent it, that's it. By giving them a little financial freedom, you won't have to enter into pleas for extra expenses.
Eat like a local: There's no better way to experience a slice of local life than eating at a local restaurant or picking up some local treats at the supermarket for breakfast rather than at the expensive buffet breakfast at the resort. Sure, in some parts of the world you'll need to be a little more health wary but a family of four can save a stack of cash by eating off site for a meal or two while away.
Budget with a prepaid travel card. Using your credit card or ATM card overseas can be expensive, especially when you're only guestimating the exchange rate you'll be charged. Prepaid cards can help you to plan for your holiday spending. Because you lock in the exchange rate before you leave, you'll know exactly what you're spending and will be sure those $50 Ray Bans are only costing you $50 rather than coming home a credit card statement showing they weren't such a bargain after all! Compare prepaid travel cards on Mozo here.
Utilise free credit card travel insurance. If you've got a premium credit card, chances are that it comes with complimentary travel insurance. And often as well as the primary cardholder, your spouse and any dependents will also be covered as long as you've purchased some of your and your families prepaid travel costs using the card. Of course be sure to read the fine print of any insurance coverage before taking off as there are some exclusions to cover (such as skiing) so you'll want to make sure that the free insurance coverage offered is right for your holiday. If you'd prefer stand alone travel insurance compare prices online rather than going through a travel agent or airline as these often include hefty commissions.
Shop with a purpose. If shopping is high on the travel agenda, before you even step a foot inside a shop write out a shopping list and a shopping budget. This will help you stay focused on what you really want (or need), and not on the sale racks where you'll end up with 3 dresses instead of the jacket and jeans that you were really after.