10 Travel-Tested Tips That Can Help You Stretch Your Vacation Dollar

With gas prices hitting record highs and inflation worries rising, the much-celebrated summer vacation could be tough for many Americans to fit into their already-strained budgets this year. But by putting the right game plan in place and employing some tried-and-true dollar-stretching tactics, large numbers of vacation-ready consumers can manage a getaway that doesn’t take too heavy a toll on their pocketbooks, despite all the current economic challenges.

When planning and taking your much-deserved summer sojourn, consider these 10 tactics that can help you make your vacation dollar go farther:

1. Embrace flexibility — The No. 1 way to make your vacation dollar go farther is to be as flexible as possible regarding when you’ll be taking your vacation, where you’ll be going on your trip and what you’ll be doing during your getaway. Such flexibility can allow you to save money by choosing less-in-demand travel times, destinations with lower airfares, and activities that might be offered at a discount while you’re there. Combine a high level of flexibility with a persistent watch on leading discount-travel sites and newsletters such as Groupon Getaways, Travelzoo and Gate 1 Travel, and you could end up finding great deals on your vacation travel, lodging and activities. And perhaps even better, you can enjoy the savings while exploring amazing destinations that you might not have visited otherwise.

2. Consider a ‘staycation’ — While obviously not as exotic as long-distance travel, being a tourist in your own town can deliver many of the same advantages we all seek in a vacation — such as relaxation, fun and family time. And with a staycation, you can enjoy all of these while learning more about your hometown and saving money on lodging, dining and activities. Further, taking a staycation can make it much easier to keep an eye out for deals and discounts in the weeks and months leading up to your time off, allowing you to stretch your vacation dollar even more.

3. Stay with friends — If your family has close friends living in a destination that you’d love to visit, making arrangements to stay with them during your vacation will not only deliver big savings on lodging, but also give you a chance to spend time with/catch up with people you enjoy being around. In addition, by staying with friends, you’ll have easy access to insider knowledge about some of the best things to do and places to visit in the area.

4. … or journey together — Alternatively, if you and your friends are interested in visiting the same destination, financial advantages can be realized by taking a vacation together. Among them, using a property-rental site such as Vrbo.com or airbnb.com to book mutual accommodations can deliver savings, as sharing a house or condo can often be much less pricey than booking separate hotel rooms. Such lodging can also allow you to cook meals together rather than always dining out, trimming down another big vacation expense.

5. Locate lodging outside the city center — No matter whether you’re booking a house, a condo or a hotel room, the price will typically be much steeper when you stay in the city center. But by staying in a suburb or otherwise outside the city, you can typically harness substantial savings on your lodging rates. This is especially viable in larger cities with well-established and thorough public-transit systems, as you can still get around such a destination fairly easily if you can find accommodations near a train station or bus stop.

6. … or even stay outdoors — Vacationers who enjoy camping and have the gear needed to do so can ramp up the savings even more by booking a campsite for a fraction of the cost of a hotel room or condo. Especially for outdoorsy types, staying in a campground can make the vacation even more fun, and it typically offers proximity to a range of outdoor activities. For U.S. travelers, a great place to start the search for a campsite is at recreation.gov, which offers nationwide booking for campsites overseen by the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies.

7. Find free (and fun) activities — Some of the top attractions and activities in many destinations can be accessed and experienced at no charge. Examples of these can include parks, walking tours, community events, and natural attractions like the beach or hiking trails. And by performing a little research before the trip begins, you can have a selection of these free-of-charge options on tap for your vacation party’s consideration.

8. Limit your eating out — Meals tend to cost a lot more in restaurants than they do when you can cook them up yourselves. If your hotel, condo or house has a kitchen, consider buying groceries and either packing up occasional picnic meals or doing some cooking at your rental property to cut down on eating expenses. Either way, you’ll spend less on meals and avoid having to spend as much of your vacation money on tips, too.

9. … and avoid dining in the most tourist-y areas — Of course, a big part of the fun of a vacation is sampling the local flavors, so you’ll likely want to splurge for the occasional meal out and about. And when you do, you can typically dine for significantly less by avoiding restaurants at the attractions themselves or in the areas most frequented by tourists — and you can still get a taste of some of the most popular regional dishes.

10. Do without the drinks and desserts — When you do dine out, ordering appetizers, desserts and drinks (especially alcoholic ones) can really run up the cost of your meal. But by passing on these as often as possible, you can stretch your vacation dollar — potentially even enough to cover eating additional meals out.

Arthur State Bank offers accounts and services to meet a variety of financial needs. To help you achieve all your financial goals, the bank offers in-person service as well as a range of convenient digital solutions. To learn how Arthur State Bank can help you with banking needs ranging from checking and savings and more, visit arthurstatebank.com.

Man doing his banking online

AnnualCreditReport.com is the only source for free credit reports authorized by the federal government. Every 12 months, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each agency.

Your credit report has your credit history for all of your credit accounts as well as any credit inquiries and public record court information such as collections. In addition, the report provides personally identifiable information such as your name, address, and employment.

Be sure to carefully review all three reports to identify any problem areas that you may need to clean up prior to applying for a mortgage. If there is any incorrect information, follow the reporting agency’s rules to correct it or add a notation to the report to explain the situation.

Your FICO Score is a score combines data from several areas include payment history, the amount owed, length of credit history, new accounts. Many lenders use this score as a guide. This score is not provided as part of the free annual credit report.

Learn more about how your credit score impacts your ability to secure a loan.

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Couple looking over finances

Primary considerations for setting your housing budget require an assessment of your income, debt and current savings for the down payment on the home. The following are generally recommended guidelines; however, you should meet with an Arthur State Bank lender to get personalized mortgage information.

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Couple meeting with lender

The pre-qualification/pre-approval letter is included with any offer you make on a house to inform the seller that you have met with a mortgage lender and you are prepared to make an offer. The letter states that based on certain assumptions, the bank is prepared to lend you up to a specified amount of money for a home mortgage.

When choosing a loan officer, we recommend going local to work with someone who understands your community’s real estate market. This blog on first-time home purchases includes questions to ask your lender that may be helpful when preparing for your meeting.

Helpful Resources:

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Realtor shaking hands with a client

When a house is sold, the seller typically pays real estate commission to both the listing agent and the selling agent. It is extremely beneficial for the buyer to use their own real estate agent. Loan officers can often recommend selling agents in the area; ask your officer about realtor referrals when discussing your loan.

A good realtor will know the local market and can help you find an ideal home based on your budget, location and desired features. During your search, understand that you will most likely need to compromise on some items, so it’s important to identify your critical needs versus your wants.

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Couple searching online for a home

Additionally, when you start with the house search and work backwards, homes can often go off the market while you’re completing steps 1-4. While browsing homes immediately can be tempting, we recommend following these steps in order so that, once you find your dream home, you’ll be well-positioned to take action immediately.

When you find the home you want and you think you are ready to put an offer on it, you will want to make sure you have all the information you need to make a solid offer.

  • Evaluate the neighborhood.
  • Drive by the house at different times of the day.
  • Examine how other houses in the neighborhood are maintained.
  • Consider any potential traffic or other disruptive noise.
  • Is there ample parking for you and visitors?
  • Read the details in any Homeowner Association agreements (HOA fees and rules).

Make sure to do a preliminary check of house details:

  • Check the water:
  • Does it have good pressure?
  • How long does it take to get the water hot?
  • Is it well water or city water?
  • Turn light switches on and off.
  • Open and close doors and windows to make sure they work properly.
  • Review previous utility bill expenses.
  • Consider the property tax bill.

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Family meeting with realtor at new house

When writing an offer contract, be sure to pay attention to all of the details.

Offer Price:

Your agent should do a market analysis that pulls data on recently sold comparable houses. The best comparisons will come from the same neighborhood.

If you are asking for the seller to pay some of the closing costs, remember that this cost plus the sales commission determines the net amount you are offering the seller for the house.

Work with your agent on your negotiation strategy. There are many things to consider, such as how badly you want this particular house, whether it is a buyer’s or seller’s market and an assessment of the seller’s motivation to get the property sold.

There isn’t one best strategy.

Be sure to document in writing everything you want included with the house, such as appliances, etc. Your agent should guide you through the contract step-by-step.

Contingencies:

  • Home inspection.
  • Mortgage.
  • Final walk through (24 hours prior to closing).

Proposed closing date. Typically, this is 30-45 days from an accepted offer.

A good-faith deposit is required for the offer. This is typically between 1-10% of the purchase price of the house. The deposit is kept in escrow until closing and the money is applied to the purchase price of the house at closing. If the house does not close due to one of the contingency clauses, the buyer receives their money back. However, if the buyer decides not to close on the property, the seller may get the deposit money.

Attach your pre-approval letter to the offer.

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Two people in professional meeting

The clock starts ticking for everything documented in the contract, including mortgage application, inspections and closing date.

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Woman advising other woman on mortgage application

You will need to decide which mortgage to select prior to the application.

Plan for the following potential fees:

  • Application fee (many banks and mortgage companies charge an application fee; however, there is not an application fee at Arthur State Bank).
  • Credit check.
  • Appraisal (may be paid at closing).
  • Loan origination fee (paid at closing).

Once you have approval for your loan, make sure you don’t change anything that will impact the status of your mortgage. Banks do a final check on credit and jobs just prior to closing, so now is not the time to change jobs or make another purchase on credit such as a car or furniture.

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Home inspector going over findings with home owner

Depending on the size of the house, an inspection can cost on average between $300 to $1000.

Many real estate contracts specify how problems uncovered in the inspection will be resolved, up to a certain dollar amount. Should necessary repairs exceed that amount, the buyer has the option to cancel the contract without penalty and receive their deposit money back. Another option is for the buyer and seller to renegotiate who will pay for additional repairs.

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Woman happily holding keys to her new home
  • Homeowner’s insurance is required by the lender prior to closing on the loan.
  • Turn on utilities in your name, effective the closing date.
  • Change your address with the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Make moving arrangements.

Three days prior to closing:

  • You should receive your final Closing Disclosure from the closing agency. The final Closing Disclosure shows a column for the seller and a column for the buyer. All closing charges and credits for both the seller and the buyer are documented in the closing statement.
  • Review the closing statement for accuracy prior to coming to closing.
  • The final amount in the buyer’s column shows you the amount of money you need to pay at closing.

The closing office will provide specific payment instructions. Closing funds have become recent targets for cybercriminals. If you are asked to use a wire transfer, call the office and ask to speak to someone you have been working with to double-check the instructions.

Closing day:

In South Carolina, the closing will usually take place at the attorney’s office. Everyone signing for the mortgage must be present to sign the closing paperwork. Make sure you bring the following:

  • Cashier’s check or proof of payment for wire transfer.
  • Driver’s license.
  • Checkbook, just in case there are any additional items that were not on the closing statement.

Be sure to understand this information:

  • How and when you will pay:
  • Your mortgage.
  • Your property taxes.
  • Your homeowner’s insurance.
  • Any HOA dues.
  • Who to call with any questions.

The best practice is to go through the homebuyer’s roadmap in this sequence. However, if you jumped ahead early in your journey, just circle back to address the steps you missed.

Arthur State Bank’s loan officers are closely tapped into local real estate markets and experts at helping clients get what they need on terms that work for them. We also offer mortgage specials for first-time homebuyers.

To start planning your journey to your dream home, try out our mortgage calculator. If you’re ready to talk to a loan officer, contact Arthur State Bank to request personalized mortgage information today. Don’t forget to ask about our first-time homebuyer offer.

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