Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category.

Want the Perfect Vacation without Breaking the Bank? Master the Art of Finding the Best Deals on Travel

Traveling is a lot of fun but finding the right deals and finally booking it can be time-consuming and even stressful at times.

There are now literally hundreds of places you can visit, both online and offline, to find a good deal on your next vacation, flight or cruise. So with all these choice at your fingertips, how can you ensure you can find the best deal without losing your sanity? Here are some easy tips that will ensure you are getting the best deal as well as having the perfect vacation.

Start looking at least 3-6 months out

If you have a good idea of what your timeline for travel will be, start searching for your vacation at least 3-6 months before your expected travel dates. For example, if you know you will be off work for 2 weeks in July and would like to visit Europe at that time, you can start searching for flights or vacation packages from as early as January. Some may think that is way too early, but from personal experience, you get better deals and be the first to a lot of things. For example, you may be the first to find out about early schedules, the choice of your seat on a plane, early promotions specials and more. But just because you start 6 months out doesn’t mean you have to book then. Only if you find a deal that is too good to be true should you go ahead and book it. Otherwise, you only have to check the prices for now and keep comparing them every week.  For my latest Vegas trip this past summer , I actually started looking at deals from January. This helped give me an idea of what prices were like and where they would likely be heading as we entered spring. After checking prices on multiple websites on a daily and weekly basis, I finally booked a vacation at a price that beat everything else I had seen.

If in Canada, watch CAD$ fluctuations

With the recent and constant decline of the Canadian dollar came an increase in travel prices, from flights, to hotels and everything else in between. Some vacation companies even announced that they would be increasing their rates due to the declining Canadian dollar. This was like the last warning sign for me before booking. Three days after I booked my vacation, I checked the price for the same package and it had gone up by about 10%, thanks to the declining Canadian dollar. This wouldn’t matter much if you were traveling within the same country (i.e within Canada or within the US). And vise versa, if you were coming traveling from the US to Canada, a strong US dollar will go a long way.

Look at 5 different websites at least and check them at least 2 times a week

There are a ton of travel booking and comparison websites out there and you should check at least couple of these as prices could vary from one to the next

Sign up for price alerts through email

I do this, especially with different cruise lines, and I always get good deals and promotions through emails. Be sure to sign up for these and never miss a deal. Instead of looking for the deals, they will come to you.

Ask local travel agents to match the best price you found

And just because most travel related activities has moved online doesn’t mean there is no room for traditional travel agents, who still have the knowledge and expertise to search, customize and package the best travel deals.

To conclude, finding good deals on vacation packages, flights and cruises can be time-consuming and stressful, but by following some easy tips, it’s possible to have the perfect vacation at the most affordable price possible. As vacations as a whole are not cheap – especially when booking for a full family – it is worth spending the time to find the best deal possible. The effort and time could save you hundreds, even thousands.

Go ahead and forget about booking that trip abroad: you will benefit yourself and the economy

It seems like the Canadian dollar exchange rate vs. the US dollar has been stuck around 75 cents for ever! Well, it has been at this level for at last a year and it is unlikely to change anytime soon. And with the Canadian economy not doing so well of late and job numbers being sluggish, things may get worse. Time to hold on to our money. But hey, that better not mean that we have to skip on our vacation? In fact you may!


Staycation is a great way to save momey

Staycation is a great way to save momey

Hello Staycations!

Staycations, or vacataioning in your own town, province or country in general, will help you save money and help revive the economy (local hotels, restaurants, sightseeing, gas, etc.) If 1 million people end up vacationing locally, and assuming each spends an average of $750, that is $750,000,000 back to our local economy. That is close to a billion dollar back to our economy, and given this era of slow GDP growth, this would definitely help.

In 2013, the average Canadian Canadian spent close to $2600 on a March break vacation, with 36% opting to go to the US.  And according to a 2015 BMO survey, Canadians planned to spend an average of $2038 on ‘longer vacations and weekend trips. And finally, according to the Huffington Post, Canadians spend an average of $1800 on a vacation. : about 30% spend their time in the US.

To put these numbers in prospective, some of us spend as much or more on vacationing than we do on food (assuming the weekly family grocery bill is $100 for a family of 3-4) . Understandably, this is a not an apples to apples comparison (money spent on vacations vs. money spent on food) but it gives you an idea of how much we love our vacations, especially those to the south of the border, Caribbean and Europe. In other words, it is mostly money flowing out of the local economy. Don’t get me wrong, given our brutal, dark, snowy and cold winters, we all deserve at least one major vacation every year.  But how about only one? why not spend the other locally, in your own province at least? While we don’t have any cultural sites that rival those in Europe or sandy beaches like in the Caribbean, we still have places that millions from all over the world come to visit each year (Banff National Park, Niagara Falls, Bay of Fundy, the Great Lakes, Muskoka region, 1000 Islands are just to name a few…) And I bet most of you haven’t seen half o these Canadian places if not more.

With my family, we decided to skip our annual big vacation last year. We replaced it with shorter vacations in southwestern Ontario which saved us over $2000 in total (family of 3) while still getting to have some great time, seeing and enjoying some great places (North Bay, Muskoka, Niagara Falls, 1000 Islands and more) And guess what? We may do the same this year, skipping on that big vacation down south, since our dollar is still as weak as it was last year and is unlikely to recover anytime soon.

One thing you can also do is to save some money every year for one big trip every 3-5 years, while still doing mini local vacations. For example, we plan to do a big European cruise for our 5th anniversary. In order to afford that, we have to forgo the annual vacations we take to the Carribean and the other sunny destinations in the US.


How I enjoyed an Amazing Las Vegas Vacation with a Small Budget

Unless you have planned for it, are very organized and disciplined, a trip to Las Vegas could be one of the worst things you can do to your budget.

I am one of the few lucky one(or maybe smart is the right word) that planned for this trip, almost to the penny.  That is, despite all the temptations of Sin City, I was able to deflect any damage to my budget by simply being organized and having planned my vacation budget beforehand.

But like I mentioned, this is Las Vegas and there is so much to do, see and dine that your plans may not go as planned when on the ground (or more precisely, the strip!)

That is almost what happened! I still stuck to my budget, but it didn’t go perfectly as I had planned it. In other words, although I didn’t spend more than what I had budgeted, I ended up spending money on things I didn’t plan to buy and vise versa. If you have been to Vegas, you know how it goes: you see so many things that you like, and given the environment, you end up getting these things and not worrying about money. It is like when in Vegas, it is OK to spend your money on anything that you see and like. That is some some clever marketing by the city and its casinos.

In my case and the three family members that were with me, we tried to stick to the plan. For example, we had already bought tickets to the show ‘Mystère by Cirque du Soleil before we even got to Vegas, but while there, we came across other shows that we really wanted to see. But with 4 of us, it would cost us anywhere from $300-400 to watch even one extra show. That is a lot of money and could have easily taken a big chunk from our vacation budget.

One obvious mistake we did-not me personally but the family members with me on the trip-was to shop in Vegas, and in more than one mall. Most of the items that we purchased are available locally and even cheaper in most cases. Yet for some reason we thought shopping in Vegas is cool enough and worth the price.

As for dinning out, we went all out sometimes and refused to just go for the cheapest options, and that cost us a fortune at times. But overall, we balanced it pretty well. At the end of the day, it is a vacation and one of the ways to enjoy it is to eat at some nice and upscale restaurants that offer exceptional food and settings.  It is part of the overall experience. You just can’t experience the beauty of Las Vegas without trying some of its exceptional and signature restaurants.  But if you don’t care about this aspect of your vacation, then you can settle for the more affordable fast food options.

This is not to suggest that you should be cheap while on vacation. To the contrary, you should spend and enjoy your time, after all, it is your escape from the routine of everyday life. But as per our ‘principles of successful budgeting and finances’,  being efficient and organized with your money is different from being cheap!

By the end of this trip, I unpacked my stuff and collecting all my leftover money. Lucky for me, and thanks to my ability to spend an insignificant amount on casinos, I actually had some money left. This is money I will be able to transfer to my savings or pay some bills.

Last, I believe it is important to mention how I saved for this trip: I basically employed most of the points from an earlier article I had written about ‘how to save for large purposes’ as well as from this about the same concept.

This was an unbelievable vacation, and although it was my first time visiting Las Vegas, it certainly won’t be my last. And now that I got familiar with the city, its hotels, restaurants, shows and other venues, I will be even more efficient with my vacation budget the next time I visit Sin City.