I get it. You’d spend almost anything right now to change the scenery for a week or two this summer.
But the good old-fashioned local vacation is anything but a money saver right now.
Demand for local car, truck and RV rentals, Airbnbs, campsites and more has shot through the roof — and so, prices have jumped. It isn’t uncommon to hear about the same cabin or cottage you rented last year costing 30 to 40 per cent more this year for the same length of booking.
So, should you still go ahead if your local vacation costs as much as your pre-pandemic luxury trip?
The answer is yes, possibly. The benefits to your mental health and well-being of taking a break somewhere a bit different are unequivocal — and, if you have excess savings due to decreased spending during the pandemic, you might be able to foot the bill without whipping out your credit card.
Still, going wild and spending more than you can afford would be hard on your peace of mind — hard enough to outweigh the tonic of a local vacation.
My advice is to be on the lookout for whatever savings you can find, so that you head into vacation mode without financial guilt. Here are a couple of ideas.
Set out a budget before you book
Wherever my travels — to Greece, Vancouver, California, a cottage in Muskoka, Halifax, London, New York or Nicaragua, and this year, Prince Edward County — I’ve always set out a clear intention around my spending for each vacation; food, accommodation, entertainment and more. It’s never with a mindset of limitation. Rather, it’s about maximizing the enjoyment I can get.
The way I’ve done it in the past is to leave a pile of flexibility in my plan so that I’m not constrained, and I’ve always banked in a buffer in case the costs come in higher. If I don’t need the buffer, then it gets put toward my next trip. But it’s sure nice to have in the event I want to rent a paddle board or kayak for the week at the last minute.
Next, I cross-reference what I have in my big-ticket item savings account relative to my budget, and then start to tweak if the costs are higher than what I want to spend. And I never tap into emergency savings! Those are for legit emergencies.
Be flexible with location and timing
The greater the flexibility you have, the more likely the chance you can save. Perhaps driving 35 minutes farther could result in saving $ 50 per night, or simply waiting until it’s not the long weekend could result in your car rental being 40 per cent cheaper. Use the calendar on the various booking systems to determine optimal location and timing.
To save even more, shorten your booking. Going away for five days versus seven could add hundreds of dollars back to your budget. Scaling back the level of luxury will have the same impact.
Check local listings, and not just the main vacation property rental sites
Some folks post their rentals on social media and local swap-and-save sites. If you live in my neighbourhood, you’ll even find paper advertisements for vacation rentals stapled to wooden electrical poles. Word-of-mouth can be another awesome referral source. In all of these cases, speak with the owner about the booking and negotiate — price, duration, perks and more.
Travel rewards aren’t just for flights
Many travel programs let you convert rewards into car rentals, hotel stays, groceries, restaurant purchases and more. If you’re sitting on a pile of points, why not use them up? Historically, points become less valuable over time, which means there’s an incentive for you to use them up rather than hoard them for a future trip.
Coupons, promotions and unused gift cards are a fantastic way to save. The first two require a fair amount of Googling, but the savings can help offset the costs of your Vrbo rental. Use up all those gift cards you’ve been collecting for coffee, groceries, etc.
If you don’t have the money to book a local holiday, you can still staycation right at home. To get the most out of your time off and to feel rested, it needs to really feel like a vacation. Turn off your work emails, wake up and go to bed at slightly different times of day, plan out your days with leisurely activities, treat yourself to takeout, a game of golf or some new flowers for your garden, get lots of rest and maybe read some books rather than crush another TV series.
The bottom line is this; you probably need a vacation after all that’s gone on in the past 16 months. So, take one that’s safe, affordable and guilt-free. The primary goal is to get rested and feel better — and that’s worth spending money on.