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Budgeting Your Vacation

One of the considerations that attracts many people to vacation packages every year is the relative ease of budgeting. Paying an all-in-one price for your vacation saves time you might have otherwise to spend researching flights, transfers and hotels and may also save you money – the big holiday providers enjoy economies of scale when booking airline seats and resort places that are not available to the individual vacationer.

However, there are pitfalls of which you should be wary. Vacations tend to fall into two types: the ‘All-Inclusive’ variety and ‘European’ variety. With either type of vacation you might wind up paying a little (or, if the worst happens, quite a lot) more than the vacation price per head that you see advertised on the web.

‘All-Inclusive’ vacations are generally the ones where budget is most easily controllable. This type of vacation is usually based around an enclosed resort which has all the amenities for a great vacation on site. Everything – flights, rooms, meals and even access to most facilities – is included in the price you pay up front. Typical of this kind of vacation is a stay at a Disney vacation resort: once you’re in the Disney resort most activities and features are free, with the odd exception of services such as the use of business centers – which are only used by a minority of the vacationers on site.

There are a couple of disadvantages to ‘all-inclusive’ vacations. For a start, they are by their nature a little inflexible. Everything on site is open and available to you, and there will probably be a certain number of trips and excursions to places of interest beyond the resort perimeter, for which you may have to pay an extra fee. But resorts are often relatively remote, in areas that are not otherwise of great interest. If you’re the kind of vacationer that is happy just to relax at the beach or by the pool for a couple of weeks and enjoy the amenities of a resort, an ‘all-inclusive’ vacation is ideal, and represents excellent value for money. If you’re a more footloose kind of traveler who likes to be independent and adventurous, you may find such a vacation limiting.

If you feel like doing a little more exploration on your own initiative while still enjoying the budgetary benefits of booking your break through a provider, you might consider a ‘European Plan’ or ‘flights and room’ type of vacation. These are pretty much what the name suggests: the vacation provider uses its purchasing power to obtain good-value flights, rooms and a European style breakfast – beyond that, what you do when you arrive at your vacation destination is up to you. ‘European Plan’ vacations are, obviously, much cheaper than ‘all-inclusive’ vacations, but you have will have to pay for your own activities during your stay, and at least some of your meals.

The secret of securing a great deal on a ‘European Plan’ vacation is to work out exactly what you are going to wind up paying for on top of the initial fee. Check whether the package includes transfers from airport to hotel (these days, they usually do), and work out which meals are included in the price. A typical package such as this will include flights, transfers, hotel room and breakfast every day. If evening meals are not included, many package companies offer you the opportunity to book one for every night of your vacation for an additional charge. If you decide that you’re going to organize your own evening meals, it’s worth doing some research about dining opportunities close to your hotel: if all the restaurants in the area are too expensive for your budget – or too down-market for your taste – you might prefer to have meals in your hotel’s dining room.

There is a third option, and it’s one that is seen as increasingly attractive by many US vacationers: the self-catering break. In a typical self-catering vacation deal you get the flights, transfers and accommodation – and you organize the cooking yourself. This kind of vacation usually represents excellent value and flexibility. There are, of course, some downsides: you have to do some of the chores that you’ve come on vacation to avoid! It’s also worth checking, before you travel, the location and opening times of grocery stores close to your accommodation: your airline isn’t going to be too happy if you turn up at the departures desk carrying bagfuls of supplies!

The key to controlling your vacation budget is research. Invest a little time looking into the options open to you and you will find it much easier to stick to your spending goals. It also pays to book your vacation through a large, established vacation provider such as Apple Vacations or Travel Impressions. These guys have an established brand image to maintain, and will be much more careful than many small providers to give you all the information you need.

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