How to Plan a Summer Vacation

summer vacation

While a summer vacation may seem light years away—especially if you’re reading this from somewhere in the Northeast that’s still occasionally pummeled with snow—in just a few short months school will be wrapping up, the days will be long and sunny, and you’ll be wishing you started planning your summer vacation earlier! While planning ahead is a big part of preparing for an affordable and enjoyable summer vacation, it also gives you something to look forward to as you wait for winter to say its final adieu.

A family summer vacation should be a relaxing, fun-filled time for bonding and re-energizing, but too often families find their vacations to be just as stressful, if not more so, than their daily routines. This can be due to lack of planning, chaotic itineraries, unhappy family members, and the number one cause: overspending.

Whatever your budget, your summer vacation can be stress-free if you take the time to plan ahead and vow to be flexible with your itinerary. Follow these simple steps to make for a better summer for all!

  1. Set Your Budget – You Still Have Time to Save!

    When planning your budget, don’t forget to take everything into account: transportation, lodging, entertainment and attractions, food, and shopping. The best part about planning your budget ahead of time is that you still have some time to save up! While you don’t want to overestimate how much you can expand your budget in the few months leading up to summer, you certainly can save a few hundred extra bucks if you cut some things out between now and your vacation. For instance, perhaps you can forgo that $5 morning latte or cancel your gym membership and opt to run outside. Maybe just throwing all your change in a piggy bank will help you to reach your goal.

  2. Finalize Your Destination and Transportation Plans

    Not the most efficient method of transportation.

    Not the most efficient method of transportation.

    With your budget set, you can decide on a final destination. Likely, transportation will be a big factor in this decision. After all, flying across the country is bound to cost a lot more than driving a few states over. You also don’t want to forget about ground travel in your destination city: a sprawling metropolis like Los Angeles is a lot more difficult and expensive to get around than a small city with ample public transit like Boston. However, if you’re driving to your destination anyway, maybe you’ll save money by avoiding taxis and expensive subway tickets. Make sure to do your research before making a final decision.

  3. Find Affordable Accommodations

    There are many affordable accommodation options out there, but they may take some outside-the-box thinking to come by. The massive resorts and expensive hotels will often be the most visible, but unless you’re planning a spa getaway, your lodgings might not be the most important part of your trip. Some alternative options are bed and breakfasts, motels, camp grounds, and short-term rentals. Rental homes or apartments are great because they also give you the opportunity to cook a lot of your own food, which will ultimately save you lots of cash.

  4. A Golden Gate Bridge Cruise is one of the many attractions available at a discounted price!

    A Golden Gate Bridge Cruise is one of the many attractions available at a discounted price!

    Use an Attractions Pass to see the Sights

    The best and more affordable way to see any city is to use attraction passes. In many top destinations, you can see all the top attractions at discounted rates with one pass. For instance, a Boston attractions pass features admission to the New England Aquarium, a Fenway Park Tour, the Boston Museum of Science, the Old State House Museum, and many others for a total of 50 attractions. Meanwhile, a San Francisco Attractions pass offers admission to 30 popular San Francisco attractions, including the California Academy of Sciences, the Golden Gate Bay Cruise, and San Francisco Trolley Tours.

    One of the best features of these passes is that the offer the flexibility and versatility you’ll need to ensure a fun vacation for every member of the family. Visit Smart Destinations to see the available attractions at all nine destinations: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Oahu, Orlando, San Diego, and San Francisco.

  5. Find Free or Cheap Local Activities.

    Of course, in most destinations you’ll be able to choose from some free or very affordable attractions that are open to the public. Many museums offer free days, festivals and street fairs are big in the summer months, and activities like hiking or relaxing on the beach can always be accomplished at minimal costs. Make sure to check local websites just before your visit to see what’s going on that could be of interest to you and your family.

  6. Be Flexible.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Flexibility is key to planning a successful summer vacation. Whether this means choosing a less expensive destination, sacrificing a fancy hotel, traveling during the “shoulder season,” or letting your kids pick a few of the activities on your itinerary, you’ll be glad later on that you were flexible. Giving up some of that control, or perceived control, will help you to relax and enjoy your vacation regardless of whether the circumstances are perfect or not.

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