“Don’t save your tax refund check — spend it on travel,” says The New York Times. And who are we to argue with that?
An article in yesterday’s Travel section, titled “How (and Where) to Take a Tax-Refund Vacation,” notes that with Tax Day approaching (April 18 this year), and the average tax refund hovering around $3,000, tour operators are rolling out specials in hopes of gobbling up a piece of those checks.
But of course that’s not news to travel agents, many of whom told TMR they see Tax Day as a good opportunity to reach out to their customers and suggest the best way to spend that money is on a Bucket List trip.
“I tell people that a refund makes a great deposit to guarantee the stateroom or resort they want at today's prices,” said Cruise Planners franchise owner Chuck Flagg. Rather than scrambling to find what you want at the last minute, “use that refund to invest EARLY. It is much better to invest in travel memories rather than more stuff!”
Lisa Chambers Fletcher of Signature Escapes, a member of the Gifted Travel Network in Davidson, NC, takes Tax Refund Day to an even bigger audience, pitching it as a way for accounting firms to thank employees and the families who put up with them after four long months of 12-hour-plus days.
One accounting firm client “takes everyone on a three-night all-inclusive resort stay to celebrate the end of tax season,” Fletcher said. The firm pays for all employees to attend and invites them to bring their spouse or a guest, although they must pay for them. “It's a great group booking every year (2016 was 60 people) and the result for the firm is that their turnover rate for employees is extremely low. I guess the company that plays together, stays together! It could be a good group marketing opportunity for other travel professionals!”
Angela Kelso reported that her clients, “a sweet couple who got married last December and booked a delayed honeymoon trip in May to Ireland—their top Bucket List item”—reaped the tax reward. They were nervous about having the final payment in on time, but the husband called last week very excited to say he had filed early and received a refund check he can now use. “He was SO excited,” she said. “This was a big deal for this young couple.”
At Island Dreams Travel in Lawrence, KS, Beverly Falley took the time to offer a lesson in financial planning, noting that overpaying your taxes so you get a refund is “a terrible savings plan.” But those who have already gone down that road “have just demonstrated that, yes, you CAN afford to take a vacation! The refund check and the amazing promotional specials available through travel agents make it easy to create lasting memories for yourself and your family.”
And Meg Howell, operations coordinator at DayTripper Tours, took the idea to heart and went a step farther. She booked a trip of her own.
“I was able to split my return in half this year,” she said. “I was a good little adult and put one chunk into savings for the rainy day fund, and took the second half to work for me on an upcoming European vacation!”
But perhaps the most successful story we heard was from was Sande Bloom at Amare Travel in Little Rock, AR, who has a large group cruising in September that has a very active Facebook page. She said a single post about it being a great idea to use your tax refund “to encourage new members to deposit and current guests to make payment resulted in five new bookings and six rooms paid off! Final pay on this trip isn't until the end of July, so I would say it was pretty successful!”