Posted on Thursday, 14th April 2011 by

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How much can you afford to spend on vacation this year?

Ouch!!! Gas prices went up 20 cents in one day where I live, one station raised the price twice within 2 hours!  I had travel planned for Cape Cod, Colorado, Seattle and Alaska this year.  I was wise, or maybe lucky, enough to get the airline ticket for Cape Cod just before the prices started going up.  Airfares to Seattle and Denver are already approximately $100 higher than late last week.  Of course that’s still far less than the increased cost of gas to drive to those cities not to mention how much time I would spend driving and the lodging along the way.  So it’s time to go back and look at just how much of my budget I can afford to spend on travel this calendar year.  If you’re like me you probably plan to do the same thing.

My family lives about 400 miles away, friends I would love to visit live 300 miles from my home and with gas increases it is going to take a larger chunk of my monthly budget.  In the past these visits to family and friends were easily planned and did not impact monthly expenses, however planning is a now a must if I don’t want to blow my monthly budget.  Not wanting any surprises that would require a withdrawal from my savings, I decided it is time to figure out how much I have for travel this year and adjust my travel plans accordingly.

Once I determined how much of my budget I can dedicate to travel this year, given rising food and gas prices for everyday activities, I estimated my travel plan costs for the year.  I estimate that airfares will increase $100 over the historical two year average if it’s west of the Mississippi, and $50 if it’s east of the Mississippi. Any driving will be estimated at $4 a gallon, dividing the distance by the manufacturer’s MPG rating multiplied by two.  Ten hours on the road is more than enough for one day.  I use that as a guideline to determine lodging for the road trips.  I normally fly if it takes more than 10 hours to get to my destination but if it’s a remote spot, flying may not be the best mode of travel.  There’s also the expense of a rental car if I decide to fly and that can be high for remote spots or less popular vacation areas.  Generally, a figure between $250 and $350 will get you a suitable vehicle for a week. There is always the option of choosing economy cars if your looking to save a little.

You shouldn’t be afraid to use public transportation if that will meet your needs.  For instance, when we go to Provincetown on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, public transportation meets all of our needs.  A bus takes us from Boston Logan airport to the ferry terminal and a ferry to Provincetown drops you in the center of town.  Most lodging is within easy walking distance.  Just don’t get carried away when packing your bags.  The ferry fare is around $80 for a round trip.  If you plan to spend all your time in Provincetown, there is no need for a rental car.

After I determined what I could fit into my budget for this year, I canceled the plans for Alaska and replaced it with another destination that is more affordable and will allow me more flexibility. I sign up for airfare alerts to the places I plan to visit, Kayak and Airfare Watch Dog are two web sites that offer money saving opportunities.  They will give me a jump on any last minute airfare sales.

Saving on local transportation at your destination takes advanced research and planning.  You will need to look at the options for the location you are visiting and determine what best fits the activities you plan to participate in.  If it’s a resort hotel you are staying at, you may not need to spend a penny on local travel.  Check with the resort hotel to see if they have shuttle service from the airport and ask if they provide transportation to the local shopping areas. Many resort hotels provide shuttle service as a benefit of staying at their hotel.  If you plan to go to a popular spot but you’re not staying at a resort, choose a hotel that is central to your planned activities and you may not need a rental at all.  But if you plan to go exploring for a day or two during your weeklong getaway, check to see if Enterprise has an office near where you are staying.  When I go to Honolulu I can walk to the Enterprise office and pick up a car for the day.  The cost for a one day rental is about $15 more than the one day parking fee at most Honolulu hotels.  That is a bargain.

If you want be adventurous and let your budget be your guide, as a retiree you can take advantage of those last minute vacation deals.  Royal Caribbean recently offered Balcony cabins for the price of an Inside cabin on the Oasis and Allure of the seas on cruises to the Caribbean in April. You might also find last minute flight specials to European destinations this Spring.  Explore the websites for all the hotel rewards programs and frequent flyer programs you are enrolled in and sign up for their emails on vacation offers.  If you have an American Express card, they also offer vacation deals.  You may find a fantastic getaway on last minute deals.  I found a vacation package to Australia, 9 days (11 including the flights to Australia) visiting Sydney, Melbourne and the Great Barrier Reef starting at $1799 for 3 star hotels that included domestic flights in Australia and round trip airfare from Los Angeles.  This deal is still available through early June.

The bottom line is to plan a vacation that will meet your desires without exceeding your budget.  Below are some websites that can help you find a great vacation getaway at a price you can afford!

Airfare Alerts:

Package Deals:

Request a FREE Retirement Benefits Summary Analysis online at http://federalretirement.net/assistance.htm.  A benefits specialist will prepare your personal retirement analysis detailing your total benefits and expenses verses total retirement income from all sources. A sample analysis is available for your review.

Learn more about your benefitsemployment, travel, and financial planning issues on our site and visit our Blog frequently at http://fedretire.net to read all forum articles.

Visit our other informative sites

The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances. Travel policies and packages are subject to change without notice. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact travel providers and hotels at the time of your bookings to confirm pricing, itinerary, and all costs. The comments and observations are limited to the author’s personal experience and your results may vary significantly. This article and replies to comments are not intended to substitute for professional travel services. Our reply is time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change.

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