Blowing your vacation budget: Common holiday cash grabs

Does the recent bout of chilly November weather have you flipping through travel catalogues daydreaming about a tropical vacation? You're not alone! Every winter, thousands of North Americans ditch the cold and ice and head south to enjoy some much needed rest and relaxation. However, very few manage to do it economically.

If the beaches of Mexico are calling, don't immediately hang up the phone. Instead, rethink your vacation spending habits. Travelers can enjoy a pretty decadent level of vacation for less, provided they know when and where to cut costly travel habits. Here's a look at the top ten ways people waste money when holidaying.

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1) Being lazy

While you may feel entitled to a week of doing absolutely nothing on your holiday, you might reconsider your level of laziness after you see how much it can cost you in extras and tips. Is it really that big a deal to park your own car or carry your own bags? Little expenses add up quick, so unless you're physically incapable of carrying your own weight, so to speak, opt to avoid these unnecessary services.

2) Being a chatterbox

Taking your phone with you while traveling abroad? Prepare to pay the price! The cost to make and receive calls, send and read texts, and surf the web while on vacation is often far more expensive than most people expect.

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If you need to keep your phone on while out of the province or country, consider adding a travel package to your rate plan. While this might cost you a little more up front, it could end up saving you hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars down the road.

3) Refusing to be flexible

It pays to be lenient when it comes to booking a vacation. If you're open to various destinations and aren't set on specific travel dates, chances are good you'll be able to score a great discounted rate. To make things easier, make a list of roughly five or six places that you'd like to visit. Keep an eye out for deals, or set alerts with your favourite online booking websites. Then, when a great deal comes up, you'll be ready to jump on it!

4) Only opting for all-inclusive

Think an all-inclusive vacation will help you stay on budget? Think again. If you end up eating out most nights, either because you're off on an excursion, exploring a local village, or just tired of eating the same old resort food, chances are good you'll burn through a ton of additional cash.

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If you're considering heading to an all-inclusive resort, make sure you take the time to thoroughly review the available restaurants. Do you like what's available? Are they open during hours when you'll be onsite? The same goes for prepaid meal vouchers. Purchasing these ahead of time might seem like a smart idea, until you can't manage to secure a table or your plans change and you're unable to redeem them.

5) Giving someone else free reign over your experience

Not all travel professionals are equally capable and not all friends have the same vacation budget in mind. If you're employing a travel professional or letting friends plan the details of a group or couples' trip, do your own research as well. Sometimes a quick internet or travel site search can uncover a cheaper flight or better hotel rate than the one you've been offered.

With that said, there are definitely some outstanding travel agents out there — the trick is finding one (ask well-travelled friends for recommendations). Clearly define your budget and work with them to plan a vacation that matches your wish list — and your wallet.

6) Refusing to do any research

What did we say about research?! Beyond the booking of the vacation, you will want to research your destination before you jet off. Pick up some travel guides, bookmark some online resources, and scan blogs for good deals. Look for free events, free museum hours, or special offerings. Also, keep an eye out for overrated attractions. Avoiding these sites will save you time and money.

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7) Emptying out the mini-bar

It's no secret that the peanuts and mini bottles of booze inside your hotel room are over-priced. So do yourself a favour and just leave 'em locked up. The same can often be said for your hotel's breakfast. If there isn't a continental option included in your room rate, consider eating elsewhere. Hotel restaurants are almost always overpriced.

8) Over-packing

Airlines love to hammer passengers with additional fees, especially when it comes to your baggage. Before you attempt to pack your entire closet into your carry-on, be sure to review weight requirements carefully. Most airlines allow for one free checked bag, however some may require payment even for your first checked bag and definitely for additional (or overstuffed) ones.

9) Ignoring loyalty programs

Yes, it's a hassle to sign up for these programs. Still, the benefits can often outweigh the annoyance at the checkout. Whether it's free in-room Internet access, advance notice of specials, free upgrades, or a complimentary breakfast, loyalty programs are worth looking into. Even if you never earn a free night, you might be able to use your points towards other travel-related purchases. Review each package closely to see if you're missing out on any good discounts.

10) Avoiding public transportation

Taking a taxi might be more convenient, but it's also 10 times more expensive. Hopping on public transit, whether it's the subway or the bus, will save you a ton of cash and quickly immerse you in the local culture. Keep your eyes glued to the windows — you never know what you might see while driving through different parts of town.

Think about those holidays ahead

Make sure your hard-earned holiday spending money doesn't just disappear on your upcoming vacation. Pay attention to your expenses and plan ahead in order to avoid unnecessary fees and ultimately, save money - for that next little getaway!

GoldenGirlFinance.ca is a free personal finance and education site for women.

Nothing contained herein is intended to provide personalized financial, legal or tax advice. Before implementing any financial strategy, you should obtain information and advice from your financial, legal and/or tax advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances.

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