Sunday, 5 June 2016

Weekly Column: Time to Travel

Summer is upon us and, with it, the season of graduations, weddings, reunions and vacations. While money is tight for many, it is not possible—nor should we try—to avoid all recreational spending this year. Initially, a summer full of events may feel stressful and guaranteed to derail your plans. You must sit down as a family and prioritize your invitations. Is it possible to combine several events and make a family vacation out of it? With planning, a budget, and some creative thinking, hopefully families can still attend important functions and enjoy a memorable summer.

Travelling on a Budget

Whether travelling to a family event or planning a trip with your kids, leaving things to the last moment can often cost you more. If you know in advance where you will be stopping, and if you are a collector of travel miles or similar points, book your hotel rooms using miles rather than cash. Plan your trip around where you can stay.

In the days of plenty one might have chosen a hotel rather than accepting an offer to stay in the home of a friend or relation. Perhaps now is the time to accept those invitations and realize that you can have a much better visit in the comfort of a real home. And if it isn’t overly comfortable your family will have something to laugh about when they remember the summer of 2016! If you choose to receive someone’s hospitality, be considerate and clean up after yourself and your kids. Help with the dishes and offer to contribute to the food. Be the guest that you would wish to host.

Road Trip Reminders

Setting out on a trip together is exciting. Although money might be a concern, don’t let it ruin the fun for your kids. At the same time, you must explain to them what to expect on the trip. Rather than hitting expensive theme parks or water parks, book a hotel with a water slide. Check in advance for local (free!) attractions along your route. Most communities have fun events planned in the summer; don’t overlook a good time just because it isn’t costly. Many hotels offer a coupon to local attractions, along with a free breakfast. Take advantage of these perks and save yourself a bit of money. Whatever you are planning to do, look online for a reduced rate or coupon in advance
Did you know there are apps for cell phones that can tell you the price of gas along your route? Saving a few cents/litre on a long journey does add up. Take a cooler along to keep your snacks and drinks cool, and stop at a grocery store to replenish rather than convenience stores. Check your grocery receipt to see if the store offers a discount on fuel. Just by purchasing your food before your fuel, you may be able to save.

Stop at parks, historical sites or road side pullouts with a view to fix your own lunches and let the kids run off some energy. Not only will you save the cost of a restaurant meal but you will avoid trying to control the behaviour of kids that have been buckled into seat belts all day. Pack the ball gloves or a soccer ball and have some fun along the way.

Be proactive and have your vehicle maintenance up to date before you leave on vacation. Check your spare and know what to do with it. Replace the ragged wipers and top up the windshield washer fluid at home. Don’t speed. You will save on fuel, get there safely, and avoid the wasteful cost of speeding tickets.

Gifting on a Budget

How much to spend on wedding gifts can be a delicate topic. There are various opinions but you must find your own balance between generosity and common sense. As hard as it may be, you may need to warn people in advance that your budget will not allow the lavishness you could once afford. Job losses are widespread and it shouldn’t surprise anyone. At the same time, be creative with store rewards programs, air miles and online deals to give the best gifts possible. Pool your funds with a group. Consider the interests and hobbies of the recipient and give a gift that is meaningful and economical.

As adults we have to know when something is beyond our reach. If you are already stretched to the max you may have to bow out of some invitations that are going to bring stress and simply can’t be paid for. That is a reality that many families are facing. That said, being creative and keeping it simple might help bring your family together and squeeze a little more travel and fun out of your summer budget this year. 

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