Guest Author - Christine Wilcox
That solo vacation is beckoning you. Maybe it was one of your resolutions for 2010, or you're contemplating it as way to spend that certain holiday in the middle of February that you'd rather not acknowledge. Maybe it's just time for you to have peace and quiet.
Before you contemplate pulling out that credit card with a "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" attitude, your vacations don't have to be a constant ding on your credit rating. And with planning, they don't have to be.
First, save for your vacations. Whether it's a dollar a day or $50.00 a month, put it aside and forget it. When you really need it, it will be there. Also consider getting a credit card that will allow you to earn miles. Most people use a credit card every month anyway. Get disciplined about spending and paying it off every month, and your miles can add up quickly. And some carriers even allow you to use miles to book entire vacations, so even though the travel may be limited, it can save you big dollars in the long run.
Second, have a range of time off. If you take 2 weeks off from work, plan a 7 - 10 day vacation so that you can have flexibility. You'll also appreciate having days at home before having to go back into the office to reset, and maybe rest a bit, from your vacation. Most importantly, however, you can sometimes save big dollars from flying on a flexible schedule.
Third, plan to purchase your tickets at least three weeks ahead. Yes, at times you can get a killer deal on a last-minute offer from an airline (and then you'll be glad for your vacation fund), but in my experience, the best ticket prices are at least 21 days ahead of the trip. But be careful - book too far ahead and you could end up paying more. If the price of your ticket changes, don't be afraid to ask the airline to refund the difference. All they can say is no, and you're no worse off for asking.
Fourth, you can save bucks on a rental car if you find a hotel that's in or near a convention center or the heart of where you're going anyway. Consider using public transportation while you're there, and really going local by hoofing it. The hotel may cost you a bit more, but saving the dollars can be worth it.
Fifth, every town has as many economical eateries as they do expensive ones. Just because you're on vacation doesn't mean you have to blow big bucks on food. Do like you would do at home - plan for one nice dinner and scope out some local favorites and places like Subway or In n Out Burger for some inexpensive alternatives. Also, if you can find a hotel that has a kitchenette, you can consider making some of your own meals for additional savings.
Be smart about your solo travel vacations, and they will always be within reach.