Saving for a Vacation by Prepaying

I’ll admit it. I’m not very good at saving money. I always feel like if I do this or get that, I’ll put the money back into savings someday, but someday never comes. Unfortunately, if I want to travel, it requires putting some money away… or does it?

I have found a way to not only save money for travel, but often save on costs as well. I prepurchase much of my vacation! Plus, it works on everything from hotels to rental cars to admissions to meals. How?

In 2015, I will be traveling to London, which is a very expensive city. Hotel rooms generally run over $300 per night. Dinner for two in a mid-priced restaurant can run $60 or more and I had budgeted $40 per day for breakfast. By prepaying and booking at a nonrefundable rate, however, the hotel gave us a $51 per night discount. In addition, they were having a special that if we paid $32 more per night, so still less than the traditional room rate, breakfast and dinner were included every day. Over our seven night stay, that’s a savings of over $800!

Rental car companies often give a discount for prepayment as well. When renting a car for a recent trip to Atlanta, Hertz gave me quotes for both prepay as well as paying at the time of the rental. The prepay option saved me 10% or about $20. Not a lot, but $20 is $20.

Sometimes the discounts don’t come from the companies themselves. For example, I purchase Disney gift cards to pay off Disney vacation packages including trips on Disney Cruise Line and take gift cards to pay for meals and souvenirs on our trips. Our local grocery store (Fry’s/Kroger) gives fuel points for purchasing gift cards. Right now, each $50 gift card I buy earns me $.10 off per gallon of gas. Target also sells Disney gift cards and as of right now, if I use my Target Red Card debit card to purchase them, I save 5%. While that’s only $2.50 on each $50 gift card, it adds up. 5-day park hopper passes for two adults and two kids currently costs $1,508.04; however, $1,500 in gift cards from Target would only be $1,425, a savings of $75. While I used Disney as an example, one can also purchase gift cards for Southwest, Marriott, and other travel chains as well.

With interest rates on savings accounts so low these days, it makes sense to find other ways to save money for a vacation. Planning early and prepaying for those things you know you’ll use anyway could make your vacation more affordable, allow you to “pay” over time, and give you some extra cash for upgrades and souvenirs.

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