Stick to Your Vacation Budget This Summer
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
Our personal finance contributor, Michelle Singletary is here to talk about budget-friendly vacation tips. Hi, Michelle.
MICHELLE SINGLETARY reporting:
BRAND: Can you, budget-conscious woman that you are, have a nice time on a vacation while pinching pennies?
SINGLETARY: You most certainly can. Now, you know that was what I was going to say.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SINGLETARY: What else can you say?
BRAND: I know, why did I ask? Why?
SINGLETARY: One of the country's biggest penny pinchers. Listen, I definitely believe in taking family vacations, but do it within your budget constraints. If you can't afford to go out of town, you can have a vacation in town. You know, shut off all the phones, put away the cell phones, and go to the museums or the park. If you got some money that you've saved away, then certainly, you can take a road trip. But do it within a budget, and you can have a nice vacation, even if you have to pinch pennies.
BRAND: Now, do you advocate saving for the vacation, or paying off the credit card later?
SINGLETARY: I don't think it's a problem with charging it while you are on vacation, as long as you have the money in your account to pay for it when you get back. Because otherwise, this is what happens: people go on vacation and they're so tired and so stressed out, and they just throw caution to the wind and they go, oh sure, we'll have that extra steak dinner or do whatever. And then they come back, and they've got several hundred, if not thousands of dollars on their credit card bill that they can't afford to pay off that next month. And that's not a smart thing to do.
BRAND: Well, how much do people pay on average when they're vacationing?
SINGLETARY: Well, according to a survey by AAA, the average family of two adults and two children can expect to pay about $261 a day for food and lodging. And lodging rates actually are going up about nine percent, up to about an average of $141 a night.
BRAND: Two hundred and sixty one dollars--so food, lodging--does that include gas and fun and everything else?
SINGLETARY: No, it does not. Just food and lodging. So you can see that a family could spend quite a bit if they aren't budgeting well for this vacation.
BRAND: Absolutely. And Michelle, what are some last minute money-saving tips you may have for people, especially looking at gas prices just sky-rocketing these days?
SINGLETARY: Well, one thing is, I always check all the travel Web sites, like Expedia, Travelocity, Hotels.com, and I compare that. And then I go to the Web sites of the actual hotel where I'm going to stay, and often times on those hotel sites themselves, it's going to be cheaper than those sites. And then sign up if you're flying, sign up for the instant messages. There's a lot of the airlines are doing, they will notify you for certain rates on particular routes. And listen, you should also think about traveling mid-week, like a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. If you travel late at night or early in the morning, you can get cheaper rates.
So with gas prices going up, that also means airline costs are probably going to go up. So these are the kinds of things that you need to do to trim some money off that budget to, you know. Put it in your bank account when you get back home.
(Soundbite of laughter)
BRAND: To pay off that vacation?
SINGLETARY: That's right.
BRAND: Yeah, well, we won't be paying it off, because we will have saved for it.
SINGLETARY: Well, you will have saved for it. Do not go on vacation if you've not saved for it. And I know there's some stressed-out people out there, but you'll be more stressed if you go on vacation and charge and you don't have the money for it when you come back.
BRAND: Michelle Singletary is our regular guest for conversations about personal finance. Her latest book is Your Money and Your Man: How You and Prince Charming Can Spend Well and Live Rich. Thanks, Michelle.
SINGLETARY: You're welcome.
BRAND: And if you have money questions for Michelle, please send them in. Go to our web site, npr.org, click on the contact us link that's at the top of every page, and be sure to include Michelle in your subject line.
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BRAND: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News, with contributions from Slate.com. I'm Madeleine Brand.
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
And I'm Alex Chadwick.