There was a time when I took only short vacations, but these hit-and-run holidays are hectic and expensive. We spend two days in travel and are left with just three-four days in which to actually enjoy ourselves.
In my view, vacations are meant for relaxation. You should spend couple of weeks away from your regular life and explore a new place.
Realizing this, I decided to plan long vacations and managed to pull them off, including a two-month getaway in Thailand. I run my own personal finance startup so my work can be done from any location, but it's not as if I'm rolling in money. However, I did figure out some money hacks that help me enjoy the kinds of long vacations I love.
1. Book air tickets in advance (or travel by train)
The major expense of a vacation is air travel. I book air tickets much in advance to get the best rates. I plan my trip at least two months before the actual travel date.
For my Goa holiday, I travelled one way by train and booked return tickets by air. My three-year-old son enjoyed the train journey as well as his airplane trip, while I managed to save a significant chunk of money.
2. Redeem miles/rewards in your credit card
I am a credit card freak and earn a lot of cashback and rewards on mine. (You can check out my curated list of best credit cards). I redeem my miles and reward points on travel tickets when I earn more points by using my credit cards for travel expenses. If you are a frequent traveller, you can get travel tickets absolutely free by redeeming your miles.
3. Pay using online wallets
If I run out of reward points, then I use online wallets (PayU, Paytm, Mobikwik) to get cashback on my ticket amount.
In my recent travel to Thailand, I got 1% cashback just for using an online wallet for payments.
4. Avoid hotels
Accommodation is the second biggest expense of travel and hotels can do a real number on your bank account. AirBnB is a great alternative; if you search carefully you can find something that suits you perfectly – there are filters in place that allow you to zero in on a hotel-like gated apartment with security where there's a kitchen (we cook our own food on long vacations), swimming pool, gym, wifi and parking at your disposal.
5. Save money on forex
If you are travelling on an international trip then you must know where to find cheap forex.
Don't ever buy foreign currency at airports. You will lose almost 10% of your currency value.
I experimented with some ways to get forex and found out that the best rates were in my own country. There could be a cheap forex option in your destination country too but you might not have the time or local knowledge to find it.
It's better to find a travel company in your city to get the best forex rates. Keep 30% cash and load 70% of your budgeted holiday money in a travel card (these are offered by banks).
You will start finding new ways of saving money when you plan for long vacations. I'm now confident that I can travel the whole world without waiting for a lottery win!