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How To Budget And Save For A Weekend Getaway

by Staff

For anyone who’s ever planned and paid for a major vacation, gearing up for a weekend getaway can feel like a breath of fresh air. A shorter trip often requires less money for all aspects, including lodging, transportation and attractions.

If you’re planning such a brief getaway this summer, you’re not alone. Bankrate’s 2023 summer vacation survey found that, of all people who are likely to take at least one vacation this year, 26 percent said they’re traveling for fewer days, while 23 percent said they’re traveling a shorter distance.

While a brief weekend getaway can make a smaller dent in your wallet than a full-blown, weeklong trip, the costs can still add up quickly if you don’t plan carefully. Here we’ll provide some tips on saving money on many aspects of the trip.

Key weekend getaway statistics

  • Of all U.S. adults, nearly one-quarter (24 percent) who make under $50,000 say they’re very likely to go on vacation this year, while more than half (53 percent) who earn over $100,000 say they’re very likely to do so. (Bankrate 2023 summer vacation survey)
  • Nearly 1 in 3 vacationers (29 percent) is choosing less expensive destinations and/or accommodations, while a similar amount (28 percent) plan to engage in cheaper activities. (Bankrate 2023 summer vacation survey)
  • Nearly one-third of vacationers (28 percent) plan to travel to a city or take a staycation in their own city. (Bankrate 2023 summer vacation survey)
  • Your hotel bill may be cheaper if you avoid staying on a Saturday. If possible, checking in on off-peak days (such as Sunday, Monday or Tuesday) can save you $45 per night, on average. (Hopper’s 2023 Travel Booking Hacks Guide)
  • Restaurants and the dining experience are a top financial priority for 34 percent of travelers this year, while 32 percent prioritize accommodations best suited for their needs (i.e., location) and 28 percent prioritize an all-inclusive stay (in which all meals and drinks are covered). (Booking.com’s Travel Predictions 2023)

Planning for a weekend getaway

Budgeting and saving for a weekend getaway can be less complicated than doing so for a longer vacation.

While your brief trip may cost much less than a lengthier one, it’s still important to create a budget to help ensure you don’t tap into savings that are earmarked for other purposes. Create categories in your budget for the components of the trip, including transportation, lodging and activities.

While you’re on your weekend getaway, a convenient way to make sure you stay on track with your spending is by logging onto your bank account through your bank’s mobile app.

Transportation

The location you plan to visit and its distance from your home are factors that affect the cost of transportation for your trip. If your destination is close enough to reach by car, you’ll likely save a bundle by driving instead of flying.

In fact, more than a quarter (26 percent) of people likely to take at least one vacation this year said they planned to reach their destination by driving instead of flying, Bankrate’s summer vacation survey found.

Roundtrip airfare is expected to peak at around $350 this summer, according to travel app Hopper, which states this is down approximately 11 percent from the peak of about $400 in 2022.

To compare the cost of flying versus driving to your destination, first determine how many miles your destination is from home and multiply that by the estimated price of a gallon of gas. Then, double that dollar amount to determine the roundtrip cost.

Once you’ve estimated the cost of gas, use a travel site like Expedia to compare roundtrip airfare prices across airlines. If you’re loyal to a particular airline, simply compare that airline’s prices against the cost of driving. Factor in any additional costs when flying, such as parking at the airport as well as using taxis, a rental car or public transportation to get around your destination city.

If your heart isn’t set on a specific weekend getaway destination, consider saving money by taking a road trip to somewhere relatively near your home. If you do plan to travel further, compare flight prices to a few different possible destinations.

For faraway destinations, consider a mix of driving and flying if you can drive to an airport that offers cheaper flights than the one nearest your home.

Lodging

Of those likely to take at least one vacation this year, nearly one-third (29 percent) said they were selecting less expensive accommodations or cheaper destinations, according to Bankrate’s summer vacation survey.

A major benefit of a weekend getaway is the significantly lower cost of lodging when you only need to book two or three nights. What’s more, paying for a hotel with amenities such as a pool or workout room might not be necessary when your short trip translates to less time spent at the hotel.

Since lodging is often one of the biggest expenses on a vacation, some travelers go into debt to pay for it. You can help avoid debt and combat high prices by giving yourself more time to save up for the trip. Where you stay can also affect the price: If you’re traveling to a big city for a weekend, consider booking accommodations outside the city limits if it translates to lower prices.

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Keep in mind:

If you’re visiting a big city and don’t mind booking your hotel at the last minute, you could save a bundle. Reserve at a big city hotel within three weeks of your check-in date for an average savings of 30 percent over peak rates, Hopper reports.

Activities

Nearly one-third (28 percent) of those likely to take a summer vacation this year said they are engaging in cheaper activities, Bankrate’s summer vacation survey found.

When planning your getaway, prioritize the activities you want to do the most and research whether there are any free attractions worth seeing. For shows, sporting events or museums, look to see if you’ll pay less when you purchase tickets in advance.

Also see if attractions offer senior citizen or student discounts. And don’t forget to check the hotel lobby for brochures that offer coupons for local restaurants, amusement parks, tours or other activities.

If you’re visiting the beach, bringing items with you can help you avoid paying extra fees for things like rental items and food. Such items include an umbrella and chairs, snorkel gear and a picnic lunch.

Financial tips and resources for travel

Whether you’re considering a weekend getaway or a longer trip, some advance planning and saving can help you get the most for your money.

  • Create a travel budget when you first start to plan for the vacation so you know where you can afford to go, as well as how much money you’ll be able to allocate toward transportation, lodging and activities. A travel budget app can help you keep track of costs and avoid overspending.
  • Research whether you can book in advance to get lower prices on things like attractions, lodging and transportation.
  • Open up a high-yield savings account dedicated solely to your vacation fund. This way, you’ll be less likely to dip into the funds for other purposes.
  • Don’t forget about your accumulated travel points. Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of cardholders have unused credit card rewards. Of people likely to take at least one vacation this year, 20 percent say they’re using rewards to cut costs.
  • Plan a staycation by visiting museums, shows, parks and restaurants in your own city. This way, you can avoid the expenses of transportation and lodging. In fact, nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of those likely to take a vacation in 2023 are considering a home-based vacation or staycation, according to Bankrate’s 2023 summer vacation survey.

Expert tips from Zach Griff, senior reporter at The Points Guy

  • If you’ve racked up points and miles from credit card spending or with airline and hotel loyalty programs, this could be a great opportunity to use them. You’ll usually find the best deals by booking far in advance, but there are almost always last-minute deals to be had, especially if you travel between the peak season and off season.
  • If you’re traveling this summer, lock in your flights and hotels now, since it’s expected to be one of the busiest summer travel seasons on record.
  • Reserve your rental car far in advance since many agencies don’t have as many cars as they did in the past.
  • Many airlines now offer flexible change policies for tickets that weren’t booked as basic economy. As such, you can even buy a ticket now and receive a credit if you eventually decide you don’t want to travel or your plans change.

More ways to budget for a weekend getaway

If you’re planning a shorter trip this summer due to inflation, you’re not alone. Of those who plan to take a summer vacation this year, more than a quarter (26 percent) reported in a recent Bankrate survey they plan to travel for fewer days.

In addition to shortening your trip, check around the house for any unused gift cards for restaurants, stores or gas stations you may have. These could help you save money on dining, shopping or gas during your getaway.

Whether you’re still saving for a near-future getaway or already planning for next year’s trip, it helps to set travel savings goals and incorporate a line item into your budget for saving for vacations.

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