Everyone wants the vacation of their dreams, but few can afford it. How can you give yourself and your family an unforgettable experience without it feeling cheap and underwhelming?
The solution is to take steps to extend the budget you have, and get much more vacation for the money than you thought you would. Here are several tips for determining the vacation that fits your budget, and how to squeeze as much out of that vacation budget as you possibly can.
How much vacation can I afford?
Just the thought of planning a vacation can create feelings of overwhelm and anxiety. Especially if you are planning for more than one person or one day. To help, we’ve developed an interactive vacation budget planner to help you determine your vacation budget with relative ease. The steps are as follows:
- Enter your income
- Share your target percentage
- Choose how much you want to spend in each category
- Print or save your budget outline
Get as detailed as you like. Remember, the more details you have beforehand, the better you will be able to plan and account for your vacation expenses.
Create your custom vacation budget now!
Tips to Save and Extend Your Vacation Budget
Planning a budget and executing on your plan are not enough. When you reach your destination, it’s your job to stay within budget. Determine the cost of everything (yes, everything) before you are on vacation. That way, you can come home without having a dark cloud of debt looming over your head.
How much do you need from each paycheque?
Using the vacation budget planner, you can determine how much you need to put away on every pay day. Of course, you also need to know the date of your anticipated journey. If you know the date is in the far future or in a few months, you can calculate the amount needed from your cheques. To do this, count how many cheques you have coming to you. Then, divide the cost of your total expected expenses (travel, lodging, food, etc.) by the number of cheques en queue.
Open a Vacation-Specific Account
Whether you put all your savings into an envelope or open a new savings or checking account, you need to make sure your savings are going to the intended expense. Whichever money-holding method you choose, you must decide the money remains there for vacation only. Do not give into the temptation of using the money for birthday gifts or other things that come up. If you’re planning for vacation, you might as well plan out all of your expenses.
Find Creative Ways to Save
Flights are obviously more expensive than taking a bus, train, or your own vehicle. If you are planning an international vacation, plan it out as far in advance to reduce the amount coming out of your pay.
Now that you know where you’re going and when, get creative in your approach. Seek out savings at your destination by:
- Lodging at a friend or relative’s house for a night or two (if not the the whole time)
- Go camping for a fraction of the cost of a hotel
- Stay in low-cost lodging such as hostels
- Consider couchsurfing (best for travelling in groups of one or two)
Do some Recon
One of the advantages of planning ahead of time is the ability to research the town and its relevant events prior to your stay. That way, you can incorporate activities from the location that help you stay in budget.
- Attend free events like parades, public celebrations, or festivals
- Take your family to free or low-cost destinations like state parks, beaches, and monuments
- Use apps to purchase reduced-price tours in the area
- Ask a resident (best if you know them) to purchase tickets to theme parks using their resident discount in advance for you
Doing a little bit of research can go a long way in saving you cold, hard cash.
Towing the Line on Vacation
The temptation is strong to spend a lot of money once you arrive at a vacation destination. Tourist traps are aptly named for a reason, and they are everywhere. If you bring a credit card with plenty of room on it, odds are you’ll fly back home with that card maxed out, or close to it.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Here’s how to stick to a budget despite constant vacation temptation.
- If you reserve a hotel room with a kitchenette, you might pay more for the privilege, but cooking several meals in-room will more than make up for it.
- Get snacks at a Dollar General or Target rather than the vending machine or the hotel gift shop. You’ll save a ton of money.
- Avoid room service. The prices are outrageous, portions are small and you have to tip the porter.
- Pack food and ready-to-eat meals for the road trip, so you can skip restaurant food or fast food. You’ll eat healthier and get to your destination more quickly.
- Ask around about local restaurants rather than the flashy touristy places, as you’ll pay less and get more authentic, higher quality food.
- If you see a food truck, hit it up. They’re not that expensive, you get a lot for the money, and it’s often delicious.
Consider taking a bus, rail or train between the hotel and the amusement park or vacation spot. If you can skip the rental car altogether, you’ll save tons of money.
There’s always a music or cultural event, a museum, an art gallery, or a craft fair going on somewhere, and these events are often free or very inexpensive. Ask the concierge at the hotel for a coupon book.
Don’t go overboard on the souvenirs. It’s important for you and your family to bring mementos back, but a few things go a long way. And skip the expensive districts, as you’ll pay way more for clothes than a mom-and-pop shop.
Exchange fees will eat you alive when travelling overseas, so try the following to get around some of them.
- Use your debit card at an ATM internationally, as the fees will be lower taking cash out once than using a card over and over
- Make sure your credit card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees on top of the exchange rate
- Ask about tipping rules in the country you’re visiting, as tipping may not be customary at all or may be much less percentage-wise
Way More Vacation Than You Bargained For
Following all these rules will give you far more vacation than your budget strictly allows. This will improve your experience and make things more fun. Plus, less stress on the pocketbook means less financial-related anxiety later on. You don’t want to spend the next year paying off your vacation before you can take another one. Start with the vacation budget planner to start saving for the vacation of your dreams.