Vacationing on the Cheap

We all deserve to get away this summer. And you don’t need to go far to find amazing destinations right here in the Midwest. The five Great Lakes provide scenic wildlife habitats and plenty of opportunities for hiking, camping, and other low-budget outdoor activities. Half the thrill of traveling in the area is enjoying sites like covered bridges, beaches, historic lighthouses, and migrating birds that cost little to no money at all.

It will be even easier to kick back and relish the journey if your finances are in order before you hit the road. Let your inner accountant take over and visit one of the 350-plus Currency Exchange (CCEA) locations throughout Illinois so you can let loose once you’re officially on vacation.

Prepare Like a Pro

A true budget vacation will require just that – advance preparation to account for all of your family’s planned expenses, will a little set aside for the unplanned ones. A full assessment of your travel costs will give you a clearer idea of how many extra dollars there are for vacation fun. Don’t forget to factor in parking, ride services, tips, and entertainment.

It’s always a good idea to consider the cost of making transactions so your plans work to your advantage. A little homework can help you avoid those small, unexpected expenses, like higher ATM fees on the road or hidden transaction fees on your credit cards. Some transaction fees are to be expected, but find out what the ATM fees are in the state where you’re headed, as charges can vary. Every dollar saved means more vacation fun!

Negotiate Better Midwestern Hotel Prices

Have you ever wondered why costs seem to vary for the same hotel, depending on where you look? As helpful as the internet is for trip planning, those numbers can also be misleading. Lodging is one area where it often pays to explore your options and make sure you’re getting the best deal.

Before booking a room, check the price on or another hotel aggregator. Then call the hotel where you plan to stay to see how the prices compare. Even if you find a lower rate after making a reservation, some hotels will refund the difference. If 20 minutes of research saves you $40 on a room, then wasn’t the effort worth it?

Use Travel Budgeting Apps

There are many ways to track your spending from the road. An old-school journal is a great way to preserve travel memories as well as your cash. In addition, these six different budgeting apps for travelers recommended by can make budgeting easier, faster, and more fun while away from home:

  • PocketGuard automatically updates and categorizes what you’ve spent in real time.
  • Tripcoin shows your daily expenditures in each trip category.
  • In addition to tracking expenses, TripMate provides hotel and other booking-related information.
  • Wally connects with your financial accounts so you stay up to date on your cash flow.
  • Doing a group trip? Budgeting is trickier when expenses will be divided up at a later date. Apps like Tricount and Splitwise let your travel partners enter their individual expenses so no one gets stuck with too big a bill.

Road Trip Savings Tips

Road trips can be a very cost-efficient way to travel. But gas has a way of adding up. To budget accurately, you’ll need a sense of what the total cost of gas will be. First, estimate the total miles you’ll drive and divide it by your miles per gallon. That tells you roughly how many gallons of gas you will use. Then multiply that amount by the price of gas. That gives you the estimated cost of gas for your road trip.

Next, consider these other cost-savings tips for extra peace of mind while on the road:

  • Pack snacks and water to avoid unnecessary spending at pit stops.
  • Keep your tires filled to get the best mileage.
  • Upload an app to find the cheapest gas stations so you can plan accordingly.
  • Consider joining a cashback rewards program to save a little on every gallon.

Get Finances in Order Beforehand

Taking that extra step to stay on top of your finances is one of the best gifts you can give yourself this summer. Before leaving town, consider loading funds onto a prepaid debit card at a nearby Currency Exchange. That way you won’t have to worry about either running out of cash or overspending on a credit card. In addition, you can cash any kind of check and keep enough in your wallet for tips and smaller items.

While you’re there you can set up electronic bill payment so you won’t get stuck with any late fees while out of town. Check out our other services online to find out what other pre-trip money needs we can help you take care of so your trip is as enjoyable and economical as possible.

Vacationing on the Cheap

With over 350 locations, many open nights, weekends, and holidays (and several stores with 24/7 availability), you can rest easy knowing your financial needs can be taken care of when you need them most. We’re in the heart of every community. Don’t believe us? See for yourself.