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Planning a Summer Vacation?

Planning a Summer Vacation?

If you haven’t made your summer vacation plans, don’t throw in the (beach) towel just yet. You can still score some great deals and find ways to pay for that trip without breaking the bank.

Featured in the L.A. Times, author Max Brooks ("The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead”) offers tips on how you should approach this year’s getaway.

Take a Vacation!

Although you may think you are indispensable at work (and you may be), a week or two away from the office does the brain good.

Happiness strategist and life coach, Kristi Ling wrote in the Huffington Post that the country has become obsessed with “vacation shaming” where our concept of being successful at work is to die in front of the computer. However Ling disagrees, saying that some of the most successful companies like Netflix and Richard Branson’s Virgin Group offer unlimited time off to staff, because happy people make the best employees.

Consider Europe as a Vacation Destination

Brooks says that now is a great time to take that European vacation. Finally, after many years being devalued, US currency is finally outshining the euro. “For every $10 exchanged, you get 9.31 euros, according to a recent exchange rate,” he wrote. “A year ago, you got 7.24 euros. That means a hotel room that cost you 150 euros in 2014 — $207 U.S. — will cost you $161 a night this year if rates remain the same. Stay 10 nights and you have an extra $460 in your pocket.”

Plus with fuel prices moderating, longer flights aren’t going to be as pricey as they were years ago--making Europe more of a possibility.

Additionally, Brooks found that hotel rates in Europe were palatable, especially if you travel during “off season” such as April, May, September, October or November.

Hotel Rules Are Changing

The days of simple amenities that come with your hotel price may be fading away as more hotels are charging for necessary luxuries such as Wi-Fi and these elusive “resort fees.”

Also, if you want the best deal on hotel rates, instead of booking 30 days out, consider conducting your rate search at least 45 before you want to go on your trip.

While you can save up to 15% on hotel rates by paying up front, most hotels will only reduce your rate as long as it’s “nonrefundable.” So if you can’t make your trip, you may be out of luck in terms of seeing your money again.

What About a Cruise?

Cruisers can also save big by booking at the last minute. Brooks wrote that he was able to find a transatlantic cruise selling a concierge-class cabin (priority check-in and disembarkation plus nightly hors d'oeuvres) for two (veranda) for a 14-night cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Amsterdam for $3,368.88 for two if you're older than 55, or about $120 a day per person.

Also, another suggestion is to book your cruise during hurricane season. While that may be somewhat of a gamble, booking a cruise between June 1 to November 30 can mean huge savings if you are willing to take a chance your trip could be postponed due to inclement weather.

Reduce Vacation Stress

Although your goal is to reduce stress by taking a vacation, the planning and headaches may only add to your stress level. Experts assert that asking for help if you need it should be a priority if you feel that you are in over your head.

From the Brooks’ article, Shawn Achor writes in "When a Vacation Reduces Stress — And When It Doesn't," a February 2014 Harvard Business Review article that, "Positive vacations have a significant effect upon energy and stress. In our study, 94% had as much or more energy after coming back after a good trip. In fact, on low-stress trips, 55% returned to work with even higher levels of energy than before the trip."

How You Can Pay for Your Vacation

Dreaming of the perfect vacation but still wondering how you are going to make the numbers add up? Like many Americans, credit cards or savings accounts are typically tapped in order to make the week or two away a reality.

However, for credit union members, a special vacation loan is a great way for eager travelers to bring vacation plans to fruition.

Judy Ducharme, marketing manager at Granite State Credit Union ($333.6 million Manchester, NH) says that after a ruthless New England winter, many of her members are depending on a getaway this summer.

“We began running a vacation loan in January in the midst of a brutal New England winter, leveraging impending storms with the vacation message,” she says. “While we utilize a variety of advertising channels, social media was our main platform for a targeted “What Nor’easter” vacation loan promotion.”

She says that this call to action resulted in nearly 2,000 Facebook click throughs which resulted in over 2,000 visits to the vacation loan page of the credit union’s website and more than 2,500 visits to the personal loan page.

“In late March we refreshed the loan with the summer vacation spin,” Ducharme adds. “In addition to the vacation loan targets, we also offered debt consolidation with the same unsecured product. Basically, targeting different membership and consumer demographics with the different offerings that would best fit their individual needs.”

The notion of recharging and rejuvenation is a priority for Qside Federal Credit Union ($50 million, Flushing, NY). “We offer vacation loans to help members and their families get the special time they deserve to recharge,” explains Delilah Rettagliata, marketing manager. “It's a great option because members can spread the expense of a vacation over time instead of all at once. Sometimes this means they can upgrade a trip that was already planned, or they can plan a getaway that they otherwise wouldn't have been able to arrange.”

Credit Unions Keep Loans Priced Competitively

“In terms of our competitors, we’ve priced it very competitively, but don’t see others packaging their unsecured loans with different demographics in mind,” Ducharme says. “The social channels paired with our other member communication touch points (email campaigns, in-branch signage, plasma’s, EMC, etc) have been very cost-effective, measurable and successful.

“Qside members love our vacation loans,” Rettagliata adds. “We communicate the availability of our vacation loans well ahead of time so they can plan accordingly, and new members who are not yet aware of the product are consistently happy to learn about it. Vacation loans at other banks and credit unions often have lower borrowing limits and higher rates. At Qside Federal Credit Union, qualifying members may borrow up to $5,000 with rates as low as 9.0% APR (Annual Percentage Rate).”

By Gina Ragusa
Published April 29, 2015
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