“Making dream vacations a reality:” Saving on popular destinations

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Kimball Benson opened his Education Week session by sharing the phrase, Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”

Kimball J. Benson speaks about making a vacation to Hawai'i a reality. Photo by Elliott Miller
Kimball J. Benson speaks about making a vacation to Hawai’i a reality. Photo by Elliott Miller

Benson shared that he thinks traveling can be a reset button for people and helps them to remember their priorities. After a two-week trip with his family, Benson said life slowed down and he remembered what is really important.

“Life began to fall back in priority for me,” he said.

But traveling can be a daunting task for many people, usually due to the high costs associated with airlines, hotels and gas prices. According to Benson, however, individuals don’t have to have a six-figure income to travel a lot.

While some expenses in traveling are difficult to cut, there are ways to make vacation less costly than many people think.

“A lot of people think vacation is too expensive because they make it too expensive,” Benson said.

Benson offered four lists, one for saving on general travel and three for saving on the popular destinations Hawaii, Disneyland and Europe. The following are condensed versions of Benson’s original lists.

Traveling on a budget 

  1. Plan: Benson emphasized the first step to traveling is deciding what the big goal is. Budgeting ahead can help make large travel expenses more manageable.
  2. Prioritize travel: Benson recommended that being serious about traveling means budgeting other things to make travel a priority.
  3. Utilize credit cards: Benson was very clear this step should only be used if and when individuals feel comfortable. However, individuals who do feel comfortable with credit cards can capitalize on travel-reward cards like Delta SkyMiles or Capital One Venture.
  4. Look for any and all connections:  Benson suggested at least getting advice from any friends of friends around the area, and these connections can sometimes lead to finding a free place to stay or accessing opportunities at a lower rate.
  5. Avoid tourist spending syndrome: Planning in advance what to save and what to splurge on can help tourist avoid spending more than they realize while on vacation.

Hawaii

  1. Save and wait: According to Benson, visiting Hawaii is all about timing. Airfare and hotel rates fluctuate, so let the deals guide the timing of trips.
  2. Travel during the off-season: Because weather in Hawaii basically has no off-season, there aren’t a lot of disadvantages to going when travel is less popular.
  3. Purchase a package: Looking into travel packages on islands like Oahu and Waikiki where there is a larger surplus, can sometimes save money in the long run.
  4. Book paid activities in advance: Tourists who plan to do things like surfing, kayaking or parasailing can sometimes save 10-20 percent by booking online.
  5. Rent wisely: Visitors can plan ahead to see if they need a week of rentals or just a day rental.
  6. Consider alternatives to hotels: Vacation rentals, condos, bed and breakfasts can all cut the cost of lodging while on vacation.
  7. Try unconventional eating out: Instead of eating at restaurants that capitalize on vulnerable tourists, think about eating at fresh fruit stands, food truck vendors or other unique spots. “I don’t go to Hawaii to eat at Chili’s,” Benson said.
  8. Remember that the best parts of Hawaii are free.
  9. Splurge intentionally: Benson said it’s OK to splurge when it’s planned out. Activities like the Polynesian Cultural Center can be costly but are manageable if the rest of the trip is budgeted.

Disneyland

  1. Choose the cheapest airport: Because there are so many airports close to Disneyland, visitors can find cheaper flights.
  2. Consider suites: By finding places outside of walking distance from the park and using a shuttle, suites can be cheaper and allow people to cook for themselves instead of always eating out.
  3. Stay current on Disney yearly promotions.
  4. Look for package deals that save: Travel agencies sometimes have hotel and ticket packages that can cut down costs.
  5. Try the beach: The beach is free and can be a good break from the park. Benson said his family will take a week trip, but only get tickets for three days and alternate the park and the beach.
  6. Consider meal options: Eat big at a continental breakfast, and then have a light lunch.
  7. Go during the “less-busy” time: Benson said there is really no off-season at Disneyland, but visitors should avoid summer and all holidays.
  8. Find inexpensive souvenirs: Benson cuts down on the price of souvenirs by buying them in advance and giving them to his children the first day of the trip or checking shops outside of the park.

Europe

  1. Get rate quotes in U.S. dollars, not euro.
  2. Find a focus: Do a region instead of burning up time and money in nonstop traveling.
  3. Save on museum entrance fees: Research the travel bureau and look for deals.
  4. Purchase a city pass: Big cities often have a visit card that are a flat rate for multiple attractions. If you can visit all the attractions, the card is usually worth the money.
  5. Get cash from ATMs: Estimate what you need and get it all at once since there is a fee for each withdrawal.
  6. Use a credit card and know if there is a fee for international transactions.
  7. Don’t be afraid to haggle in markets and at street vendors.
  8. Cut the car and cab: Europe has very good public transportation like buses and metros.
  9. Don’t overtip: 10 percent is generally enough, but research the specific country to know what is appropriate.
  10. Consider a rental or hostel over a hotel.
  11. Learn to love lunch: Because lunch is usually cheaper, eat big at lunch and light dinner.
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