With summer on its way, you may be stressing about what you'll do for those two short (or long, depending on how you look at it) months while the kids are off. Many people take off somewhere fun - to another country or to cottage country - but many just stay home. Staying home can be the most frugal way to spend the summer, but knowing how kids are, they get bored within the first week. My first summer with the kids off school I spent a ton of money chauffeuring them around to expensive places in hopes of not losing my mind with "I'm bored" reverberating through my ears. That wasn't a smart move and planning ahead can save everyone a ton of money. If you are getting away, there are ways to save too, with proper planning.
Getting the Money
Many people save a certain amount each month for their summer vacation. While this is a great strategy for next year, it won't help you now. Figure out where you can cut costs this month and maybe the next few to get you money for your summer vacation. This could be not shopping any clothing sales, not putting away your retirement savings for a few months (not advised) or even eating budget meals for a few weeks. Consider where you can make extra money at work or selling stuff on Kijiji.
Make a Plan
It sounds so very simple but summer goes by so fast and before you know it, you've done nothing or you've spent too much. Decide as a family what you want to do the most. Let the kids choose one or two places they'd like to visit (i.e., the zoo, amusement park) and narrow down the money dwindling places to what is in your budget. This is of course, after you've decided on a spending budget for the summer. See what extra money you have available and when it is coming in so you can plan appropriately. After you've done this, prioritize items in what order you want to do them. You can number each activity from one to ten for example, knowing that the number one activity will be done for sure.
Write it on the Calendar
Once you know what activities you are going to do, schedule a date for each one, spacing them out so that you aren't doing everything in one month and nothing in the other month. Have a rain date in mind as well. This also gives everyone something to look forward to and you know you'll have the money allotted for this activity ahead of time.
Don't Forget Hidden Costs
When you are planning your activities, factor in everything it will cost you. For example, heading to an amusement park isn't just the admission cost. Don't forget the parking, the food, the drinks and the souvenirs you might buy after listening to an hour of whining. Also, for any trip that might be out of your city, don't forget to factor in the fuel costs. While you might think camping is cheap, there is a ton of equipment you might need, which could cancel out any potential savings. If you are travelling, don't forget to budget airport packing, bag check fees, meals during travel and more.
Do It All At Once
While I said above you should space your activities out accordingly, there may be instances where this isn't the best option. For example, if you live outside of the major city where the majority of the attractions you'll be visiting is, you might be better to get a hotel and stay over and do them all in one week, rather than spending the fuel costs over and over. This is something you'll have to balance out yourself. If Toronto is one of the cities you'll be visiting, a CityPass is the best way to go to get the best value for your dollar on seeing all of the attractions. If you are getting out of the city to a cottage or somewhere farther away, booking two weeks instead of one could potentially save you a ton of money. If you are flying somewhere, an extra week added to your vacation is not that much more since the flight is paid no matter the duration of your vacation. If you are booking a cottage or hotel, often there are deals for an extra week or night that won't cost you as much as the original booking.
See If Anyone Wants to Join
Sharing a summer rental with someone is a great way to get deluxe accommodations and not pay deluxe prices. Not only do you get friends to come along on your vacation, you can save money by having more people there. Many resorts will offer a group rate if there are a number of rooms booked and hotels will also offer a block of rooms at a discounted rate. Similarly, a cottage that houses 12 people isn't much more expensive than one that houses six people, but the price isn't usually double.
The best way to save money on any vacation is to plan ahead. Don't just hope for the best and not expect to spend money! Bargainmoosers, how do you budget for your summer vacation?
(Photo credit: Faungg)