How to Plan and Budget for Your Winter Vacation

Winter, for some, is the toughest season to endure. Shorter days and less sunlight can lead to stress and depression, or at least make you yearn for a break.

A dose of Vitamin D and a bit of rest and relaxation may be just the ticket. So if body and mind are ready, the question becomes: Where are you headed and how can you get there without breaking the bank?

If by air

If your destination involves a flight and you have flexibility, you can save a bundle by dodging high-demand holiday travel. A bit of research will disclose the cheapest travel times; generally it’s during the middle of the week. You may also wish to defray costs by redeeming rewards you’ve earned on your credit or debit card.

International trip

A sunny beach in a foreign country may sound great. Check your passport to make sure it’s still valid. If it’s close to expiring, the length of time it takes to process a renewal varies, but you can get an estimate on the current wait time. If you are in a rush, expedited service is available for a fee.

Also, if you are going to be out of the country, it’s a good idea to alert the financial institutions that issued your credit or debit cards, such as BankFive. Otherwise, it’s possible that automated fraud-monitoring systems will shut down your access, resulting in a “card declined” scenario overseas.

Over the mountain and through the woods

If your vacation plans include driving to a ski resort or otherwise over a mountain pass, do yourself a favor and winterize your vehicle. It’s no fun peering through a windshield that your wipers have quit clearing. While overnighting at the lodge, you’ll also thank yourself for remembering to leave the wipers raised to keep them from freezing to the windshield.


If you are a road warrior, perhaps you’ve built up points through a hotel loyalty program. Consider cashing them in. While hotels are sometimes the easiest and most convenient choice, you may wish to consider short-term rental alternatives such as Airbnb or VRBO. In a similar vein, a site such as TripAdvisor offers helpful accommodation and restaurant tips by location.

Save money on meals

You can save significantly if you go for a vacation rental that includes a kitchen, meaning you can occasionally cook your own meals and pack lunches and snacks for your excursions.


Stay-at-home or close-to-home vacations are another option for budget-conscious travelers. Sometimes local getaways can satisfy that desire for a change of scenery without seriously straining your wallet. Are there state or national parks nearby? Is there a local or regional hotel with a terrific pool or entertainment?
If dealing with all these details seems like too much effort, you may want to consider booking a package deal at a winter resort. You might even score an extra night’s lodging, free ski-lift tickets, or a discounted spa visit.

Make sure to check out the fine print. Then go enjoy yourself!
Peter Lewis, NerdWallet

© Copyright 2015 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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