Plan Your Winter Vacation Now to Save Money

If you plan to take a winter vacation and haven’t already booked the trip, start planning the trip now. The longer you wait, the more it will cost, especially if you want to go skiing or visit a popular warm-weather destination like Hawaii or Cancun. Use these tips to get a jump on the planning.

Choose Your Dates Now
Winter vacations can occur anytime between Thanksgiving and April, so you have a lot of flexibility, but you should check your children’s school schedules and your office conference schedule now to rule out date conflicts and find a few possible vacation windows.

If you can, avoid the major holidays like President’s Day, New Year’s, MLK Day, Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas. These are the most popular winter vacation times, and prices rise just for those occasions. My husband and I chose the second week of December, which is a nice shoulder week when most places are empty.

Research Winter Vacation Locations
Hawaii and ski resorts are the two most popular winter destinations. They’re also the most expensive options. If you want to go skiing, either look for something close to home to cut down on fuel costs and travel time, or look for a smaller resort that isn’t as popular.

If you want something tropical, consider one of the smaller Caribbean islands, Mexico, or parts of Central America like Belize and Costa Rica. Although you do need a passport, your dollar will stretch further. In some countries, you don’t even need to change your money. Due to cruise ship traffic, the dollar is often preferred to the local currency.

Check travel sites like Luxury Link and Priceline for package deals to both cold and warm winter locales. Often the savings is considerable. Check Craigslist for vacation rentals. Book now to ensure the most date flexibility and a wider range of affordable options.

Set a Budget
Once you’ve got some ideas, look at your finances and figure out what you can afford. “Afford” means without raiding your emergency fund, reducing your retirement or college funding, or running of credit card debt. One bonus to planning now is that you have time to save up the money for the trip, or can pay it over time by buying the plane tickets one month, paying the deposit on the rental another month, etc.

With your budget in mind, book the trip. Remember, food and entertainment also have to come out of that budget, so don’t blow the whole thing on travel and lodging.

Request the Time Off
If you have kids, request the time off from work as soon as possible. The popular dates will also be popular with other parents. Even better, go on a vacation without the kids. You’ll save money, have more date flexibility, and it will do wonders for your relationship.

Whether you bring the kids or not, make sure you get approval before booking anything.

You may think that September is too early to be thinking about a January vacation, but now is exactly when you need to start planning to ensure you get the best deals on the best spots. What are your top winter destinations.

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