Still Holding onto that Tax Refund? Consider an Affordable Vacation

By Kathleen Thompson – Were you lucky enough to receive a tax refund this year? If you still have access to that refund and are looking for a good way to spend it, you have some options.

Maybe you’ll save it for a rainy day. Maybe you’ll invest it. Maybe you’ll use it to catch up on bills, or start Christmas shopping early (it’s never too early). Or maybe you could use it for an amazing and affordable vacation- because let’s face it, we all deserve one.

In this article we share some tips and tricks for organizing an affordable vacation.

1). Take the time to do your research and make a plan.

On my latest vacation with myself and my significant other, we spent two weeks in California, visiting San Diego, LA and mid California with family. I spent a significant amount of time looking at flight deals, car rental deals, average cost of Uber, and researching tourist highlights and comparing costs. We wanted to make sure we saw all the things we really wanted to see, but also saved the most money where we could. Google Maps is your best friend when looking up “things to do in…” the destination you choose. From looking at the maps online and seeing the pinpoints of where all of our favorite things were, we printed the maps, made a list and this also showed us how to navigate a particular area.

2). Make a budget.

When looking at our maps with tourist sites, we also started making a list of costs. You have to consider your flight (if flying), cost for gas/ car maintenance (if driving), cost of rental car (or Uber/ local transportation), cost of food, cost of activities, cost of places you’re going to stay, parking (if renting car), and my favorite- Shopping. There are lots of costs associated with any vacation, so by making a budget and a list, you can decide what is most important to you and where you may want to spend your money. For example, maybe for most of your trip you want to try Airbnb to save money, but one day you want to splurge on a night at a fancy resort? Maybe you want to eat dinner out at a nicer sit-down restaurant, so for breakfast and lunch you look to eat meals at local markets, or food trucks? It’s all about finding the right balance and reviewing your budget before you hit the road.

3). Use for flights.

Kayak is amazing for booking flights. In our experience, this website always has great deals and shows you which airline has the cheapest rates for when you are trying to fly.

4). Book your flights on a Tuesday and fly during unpopular hours.

Two roundtrip tickets, flying out in Mid-July on a Tuesday were $340, per person. That was a steal and we really lucked out! We also flew out at 5:00am in the morning and spent the night in the airport to avoid having to pay for a hotel. Not the most comfortable night we’ve ever had, but it was a fun experience, we saved money and were able to sleep on the plane.

5). Use Airbnb! (Or stay with friend and family).

We like to travel to places where we know people because a). We get to visit them and b). They usually let us stay in a spare room, free of charge. Our second week we stayed with family and helped buy groceries to feed ourselves- also saved money this week because we weren’t eating out every day.

For the first week- we decided to use Airbnb as opposed to hotels. When searching for hotels- we found that the cheaper hotels were far away from the attractions we wanted to see, and were not in the safest areas. The hotels by all the attractions were very expensive, even during week days, so we took time to research Airbnb. For those of you unfamiliar with Airbnb- they are a company based in San Francisco that operate an online marketplace and hospitality service for people to lease or rent short-term lodging including holiday cottages, apartments, home-stays, hostel beds, or hotel rooms. Similar to searching for a hotel, on their site you can type in the destination you’d like to visit, how many people are staying, and the dates you’d like to stay, and it provides you a list of lodging options. You can also adjust the price to what you’re looking to pay.

We looked for places that were under $100 a night and were closest to the areas we wanted to visit. Navigating the site is fairly simple and you can find the best places by reviewing the photos of the options, and looking at the reviews left by travelers on the host’s page. Reviews give you the best insight of how your stay will be. Some places can be as low as $69 per night (Sometimes even less). This is how much our first Airbnb rental was, because our host was just starting her site. Hosts that are just starting usually give special rates to start their business and to find more people to stay with them.

The Airbnb’s we chose we’re close to our favorite tourist sites, some of them had private pools and gym areas, some offered breakfast (which saved us from eating out) and the hosts were all extremely helpful in giving recommendations and were easy to reach by phone if we had questions, or wanted to check-in early or late.

Also, when you sign up, you get a $40 coupon towards your stay if you refer a friend and your friend books a stay through Airbnb. The friend who books gets a coupon also!

We have even more travel tips to share in a follow-up post so stay tuned!

Written by Kathleen Thompson, Associate Accountant, Davis & Hodgdon Associates CPAs.

Davis & Hodgdon Associates CPAs has been assisting Vermont individuals and business owners with tax consulting and retirement planning for more than 25 years. Call our office in Williston 802.878.1963 or Rutland 802. 775-7132 to schedule a tax planning strategy session today.

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