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Plan your summer vacation smartly and save big

Last updated on: March 31, 2010 09:43 IST

Image: Tourists slide on a snow covered mountain of Rohtang Pass in the
Photographs: Stringer India/Reuters

Summer holidays are fast approaching and this is the perfect time to plan a vacation with family and friends. But a vacation in these times of high inflation can be taxing on the pocket. Here are some tips and tricks which can help you plan smartly and save more.

1. Plan your vacation in advance

Before you start making phone calls to your travel agent, first chalk out the vacation plan. The idea is to plan in advance. Following are the steps involved in planning your vacation right:

Step 1: Start with where you would like to go. Or look at what is being offered and choose one; Vacation ideas are everywhere on the internet.

Step 2: Then set your date of travel.

Step 3: You may book your trip yourself or book with a travel agency to save time and also money.

If you plan your vacation in advance, the savings are big

Image: Sherwin Crasto/Reuters
Photographs: Newly married Indian couples enjoy at Colva beach in Goa

In case you are booking a vacation yourself: You may check travel web sites offering special deals on hotel rates and transport. These web sites bid with major airlines for cancelled seats at a discount for you.

You can also browse the Internet, visit travel forums for tips from people who have already visited the place(s), eBooks on budget travel to get a detailed idea about your place(s) of interest.

In case you are booking a vacation through a travel agency: If out-of-the-way travel is involved, it may be wiser to use the services of a travel agency. That's because a seasoned travel agent can give you tips and suggestions when travel brings you to new and unknown places. Research the travel itinerary, additional fees, if any. Ask about a refund policy and charges if you may need to change your plans for some reason. Ensure you understand all terms and conditions. Make sure the travel agent is a company of repute.

Step 4: Figure out the cost of the trip and what your monthly payment would be in order to build a corpus for your vacation. Alternatively, finalising the date for vacation would also depend upon the amount you would like to set aside each month as cost of the trip.

If, for some reason the price or budget is not working out during peak season, try the off-season. Travelling during off-season is not gets you great bargains, but your vacation is quieter and more relaxing without the crowds.

Step 5: Start packing your travel bags at least a week in advance. Travellers in their last-minute hurry forget to pack basic things. It is rare that things go as planned, so anticipate hitches!

If you plan your vacation in advance, the savings are big. Delay in finalising a trip can cost you more in the form of highly-priced airline tickets and lodging expenses. However, booking too early also comes with pitfalls. On few occasions, there are chances of the trip getting postponed or cancelled.

Ensure you have an extra day or two to yourself before you get back to work after your holiday, especially if you have an important business commitment.

Start saving

Image: Vijay Mathur/Reuters
Photographs: Tourists stand beside medieval cannons at the Meharangarh Fort at the historic town of Jodhpur

Planning in advance gives you enough time to layout a roadmap for your much-deserved and much-needed holiday. But committing funds at one time is a problem for most of us. One way to overcome this hurdle is through SIP (systematic investment plan). Depending upon the date of vacation, you can start an investment (or open a separate account) where you can transfer a fixed sum on a regular basis.

For example, if the tenure is 6-12 months, you can open a bank recurring deposit, or even try mutual funds depending upon your risk appetite and date of vacation. You can start-off by using any idle money lying in your savings account for this purpose.

Note: Whatever budget you allocate, it is always a clever practice to set aside an additional 10-15 per cent to meet uncertain contingencies. It always comes handy. Most important, make sure you have a health/mediclaim/accident insurance policy or get one before your expedition.

Cut down on expenses

Image: Jorge Silva/Reuters
Photographs: Tourists pose in front of the Taj Mahal in Agra

There are many ways in which you can cut down unnecessary expenses during both pre-vacation period and also while vacationing.

(a) Before you go on a vacation think about cutting down on excessive expenditure such as eating out daily, watching movies at home instead of at a theatre etc. Such savings will be worthwhile for shopping at your travel destination.

You may also consider inviting your children to start contributing to the vacation fund. This way, they too would learn a thing or two about money management.

(b) While on vacation, one of the easiest ways to cut costs is on transportation.

For example, in case of a tight budget, save your money and take a road trip. Travelling by road instead of by air if the destination is not too far can save you huge money and at the same time, will give you an opportunity to experience country life. You can even consider travelling in a group/with friends -- group travel turns out to be much cheaper. You can save even more if one person in your group is blessed with culinary skills!

Some of these tips sound intuitive but most travellers fail to plan in advance and pay much higher prices consequently. Keep these in mind and start planning right away. Have a great vacation!

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