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Do You Know Ten Ways to Save Money on Your Summer Vacation?

 As the chill of winter wanes and the cool breath of spring appears on a softer breeze, one’s thoughts turn to the quickly approaching warmth of sun drenched summer, longer days, verdant gardens, full bloom flowers, and the hope of relaxing in a hammock amidst the chirpings of birds and crickets. As jubilant memories of past summers evolve and entwine with the nearing season, thoughts of woods, lakes, beaches, long walks at night, fire flies, and visits with friends and family all fill our  thoughts and hearts as we move forward to  summer vacation. As these ripening fantasies are just starting to gain momentum, the harsh reality of the present enters as their opponent. How am I going to afford a summer vacation? How can I take time off from work? Where can I go that I can afford and enjoy all the things I like to do? Will I even be able to take a vacation?
 Taking a vacation is a must for stress reduction, relaxation, and rejuvenation.  So, do not skip your vacation, but rather, look for cost-effective options that suit your budget and lifestyle. Here are ten ways to help you afford a vacation and some suggestions to get you started:
1. Vacation close to home. With the soaring price of gas and rising transportation costs, you may want to consider taking your vacations close to where you live. Almost every geographical area is steeped in history and culture, and local communities offer free summer concerts, festivals, and events. Each state has a Visitors Center full of free information, and the local Chambers of Commerce can be of great value when planning a local vacation. Searching the internet for events and local happenings is free and fun. Don’t wait for out of town friends and family members to visit. Take advantage of the local attractions in your area. You may be pleasantly surprised at how much fun you will have.
2. Join an association or organization that offers travel discounts. Many associations, groups and organizations offer travel discounts for their members. These benefits can include “buy one/ get one free” travel fares, discounts and upgrades at hotels and with rental cars, and deeply discounted dining coupons. Many associations offer 10- 50 % discounts on an array of opportunities for shopping, services, sports, and events as well. Be sure to check on all the discounts available to you through your membership associations.
3. Volunteer or go on an adventure vacation. Are you thinking you might want to see Nepal? You can go on a service mission trip very inexpensively and help children in orphanages or help farmers plant on the terraced slopes of the Himalayas. Have you always wanted to see the Mayan pyramids? You can volunteer to help with a local archaeological group to clear the ruins and excavate remains. You can go on a hiking trip with pack llamas in South America for a fraction of the cost of the usual trip, or cruise the rivers of Laos with a plant-savers group on an inexpensive tour. Use the internet to find these wonderful travel and service opportunities.
4. Spend less on rooms. There are youth hostels all over the world that welcome people of all ages. Every state and most foreign countries have public camping facilities that are inexpensive, and many have cabins or lean-tos for rent if you are not inclined to use a tent. There are monasteries in Europe that have sparse, lovely, rooms for inexpensive prices, and they are usually filled with interesting history. You can negotiate room prices, and be sure to ask to see the room to determine if it meets your expectations. If it is not what you expected, many hotels and motels may offer you a free upgrade.
5. Travel with a group. This may be the least expensive means of travel as you have the benefits of sharing spaces and fares with others. The more people in the group, usually the less you will pay for the tour or trip. If you do not want to go on a guided tour, you can still travel with a group of friends and share expenses, driving, gas, and rooms.
6. Cook or bring your own food. Three meals a day at restaurants can cost a small fortune and be the greatest expense of your vacation. In addition to being expensive, you may not eat the healthiest food at restaurants, or restaurants may not be easily available to you while traveling. It is very easy to pack healthy and nutritious “road food”, cook some of your meals if you are camping, or rent a house or condominium with cooking facilities included. You will have healthier meals, make choices that you like, and decide when you want to eat.
7. Use the Internet to find deals. Everything for planning and executing vacations can be found on the Internet, and the best opportunities for discounts are sometimes found on vacation destination websites. If your departure date is flexible, you can get deeply discounted airline or train fares because you can accommodate carriers by filling empty seats. If you want to travel outside of the traditional vacation months of July and August, say in June and September, then cruises, hotels, and special attractions offer many discounts.
8. Look for combination deals. Many of best known travel combinations include hotels with cars, cruises with airfare, and the European favorite of the bed and breakfast. These same combination deals have grown throughout the world to include travel and lodging combined with tours, special events, chauffeurs, and a host of other amenities. Ask if your hotel, airfare, or tour can be combined with other benefits and amenities. Sometimes credit card companies and membership associations offer these services.
9. Travel to places during their “off season”. Have you ever dreamed of a Jamaican vacation? The time to get the best deals in the Caribbean and most islands north of the equator is during your summer, as their busiest tourist time is during winter months. The airline fares will be reduced and you will avoid the crowds. Do you want a ski vacation for your summer jaunt? Go to New Zealand or South America during your summer and ski during their winter months.
10. Think outside of the box. Wherever you may travel, take the time to plan your trip, take alternative routes, and stay in unknown places. Instead of staying in Cancun, Mexico, travel a little further south down the coast to the romantic town of Carmen de Playa, enjoy the Mayan ruins, and glean travel savings. Read travel magazines and travel guides that can be obtained for free from your roadside assistance programs, from local, state and international travel bureaus, and from the library. Reading travel guides gives you ratings on the costs of everything from lodging to meals and local attractions. Look for free events, natural beauty, unchartered beaches, and ask the local people where they like to go and what they like to do, since they are the experts in their area. Explore on your own and see what you can find!

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