It’s no secret that Americans have a tough time planning, taking and even justifying their vacations. Putting it off was the “normal” for busy families and ambitious singles for as far back as we can remember. COVID just changed all of that. Now that most Americans have their tax refund in hand, it’s time to create a travel budget. You earned it, and travel is a vital part of a balanced life for more reasons than we can go into here. In short, just book it.
My job is to help corporations and individuals create wellness and travel wellness programs and routines so they can have a stress-free, healthy and productive life-work balance at home and during business trips. Now, here’s how to make the most of your money when it comes to taking a vacation.
4 ways to make the most of your travel budget
1. Know your credit card travel benefits … AND USE THEM. Many credit cards – especially those linked with popular travel loyalty programs – are doubling or even tripling their points. These are opportunities to get more value from your existing points and even brand-new benefits you may not know about.
Just this week, I booked a flight for my daughter and me using United’s MileagePlus program. I’d been hoarding those points for a rainy day, but the time is now. I’m traveling from DC to my home country, Poland, using 120,000 points for a business class ticket that would’ve cost me a fortune otherwise. Other airlines are offering similar opportunities, so it pays to know your benefits. Many airlines are even offering discounted mileage when you’re traveling with children!
2. Book early to enjoy flexibility. It’s no secret that hotels, resorts, cruise lines, airlines and tour companies are suffering. Most, if not all, are eliminating or changing the rules for rebooking, cancellations or changes. They’re making it easier than ever to hit that ‘Book Now’ button with relaxed policies. But those will disappear soon, so make sure you read everything.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for perks, such as early check-ins, late check-outs and more. And when it comes to cruises, you can book out into 2022 and 2023, which means they are running out of space FAST. If you’re even considering cruising, get those bookings underway now, with tiny down payments to hold your spot. Some are as low as $50.
3. Choose a worthy vacation destination. What does that mean? Well, some countries are far more dependent on tourism dollars than others. You can not only invest in your well-being, but you can also make a stark difference for a local economy. Many are going so far as to pay you to visit. If you want to look beyond the obvious Caribbean destinations, consider visiting states that are “open for business,” for example, Texas, California (Disney Land), Florida, Las Vegas or European countries. This summer, the European Union is opening the door to fully vaccinated Americans.
4. Always (and I mean ALWAYS) use a travel agent. Yes, they still exist, and they’re thriving. People are tired of waiting on endless holds and trying to resolve travel disruptions from massive corporations. Travel agents specialize in destinations, airlines, cruise lines and resorts. Their expertise is second to none, and you’ll always have a lifeline when something goes wrong. Also, many suppliers reward travel agents with perks and benefits that no one else can get; travel agents can extend those benefits to you. I never travel without one.
Time to start planning.
So, one of the many lessons we’ve learned this past year or so is to never take travel for granted. We should all be prioritizing the opportunity to experience new cultures, cuisines and voices. A vacation is the cure to not only an over-stressed, over-worked life but also to understanding and broadening our perspectives after having spent more than a year cooped up in front of the news. You’ve got the means, now make a plan. Are you ready to start on your travel budget?