12-05-2016 07:30 AM
Content provided courtesy of USAA.
By Chad Storlie
The idea of a cold weather vacation brings smiles of skiing, snow shoes, cold evenings by a roaring fire that is too often followed by dollar signs throwing snow balls at the budget for a fun, snow filled adventure.
Good planning, a reasonable agenda, and lots of good ideas aid significantly in keeping a winter vacation on plan, on budget, and on track. Use these ideas to plan a fun filled, family focused, and budget friendly winter vacation.
Winter Vacation Budget Tip #1 – Dates & Days Of The Week Really Matter. The dates of winter vacations range an incredible amount for vacation budget planning. The Christmas Holiday is usually from mid-December to the middle-to-end of January. Additionally, the President’s Day Weekend and Spring Break are also times when hotels, ski equipment rental and ski lift passes can rise by 30-40% above the non-peak rates. For vacation planning on a budget, find the dates furthest away from major holidays – the last week of January to middle February is a good time to save.
Winter Vacation Budget Tip #2 – Don’t Over Plan Your Trip. If you are planning a winter activity based vacation with outdoor hikes, skiing, or snow biking, then plan, at most, three (3) activity days with a follow on rest day. If you are not fully used to the ski slopes, then planning more than three ski days in a row may not fully utilize some of your expensive lift ticket time. Save on your lift ticket expenses and plan on a quiet, restful day to get ready for more skiing, fishing, or snow shoeing.
Winter Vacation Budget Tip #3 – Stay in a Place With a Kitchen. Food in resort mountain towns tastes wonderful and it will quickly destroy your vacation budget. Plan to stay in a hotel or condo with a full kitchen and bring the essentials, easy to make dinners & lunches, and lots of snacks. This will save you time and money to have your food with you. This also helps to have snacks that can help kids stay motivated and focused in the cold weather.
Winter Vacation Budget Tip #4 – Vacation Bundles May Be a Good Deal. Vacation deals for hotels, rental skis, lift tickets, and meal vouchers are offered in hundreds of combinations at major winter vacation destinations. Price each piece of the bundle separately and if you can save 10-15% less in total than the individual pieces priced together, then your bundle is probably a good deal. And always, always make sure that the bundled prices do not have any extra terms, exclusions, or restrictions (such as your date of visit) that make the prices invalid.
Winter Vacation Budget Tip #5 – Use The Internet and Phone for the Best Hotel Prices. Hotel prices are something that used to continuously frustrate me because I could never find a reasonable price. Now, I find 3-4 locations that will all do equally well and then I get on the phone with the hotel management and ask if they can beat their direct competitor’s prices. Sometimes all four will adjust their prices between 5-10% and sometimes only two. By having four different options, I always have a good negotiating position. Even with the Internet, most service providers will negotiate especially if you are a return vacationer.
Winter Vacation Savings Summary. Negotiating, using bundled prices wisely, taking a condo with a kitchen, choosing off-peak dates wisely, and not over-planning your trip with extra expenses are the best ways to keep winter vacation budgets under control. Remember too, that small ski locations sometimes offer the best family environments and reduced prices, too. Have fun, stay warm, and eat an extra s’more!