When you decide to take a vacation, what’s the first thing you plan for? You think of a location, a time, how long you’ll be there, transportation, who’s feeding the pets and bringing in the mail – all the fun stuff to plan. But once you arrange a dream vacation, you’re left to calculate the expenses. Suddenly your long-awaited, picture-perfect trip becomes a budgeting project with spreadsheets on dining limits and how many snow globes you can bring home.
When it starts to become more of a hassle, you may want to take a step back and make sure you have your money ducks in a row. When the ducks are aligned, you can start to set realistic spending goals so your getaway is a happy-go-lucky, trouble-free excursion. To get you underway, take a look at these steps...
How much do you plan to spend?
Your vacation doesn’t have to be expensive, but you need to determine how long you should save for the trip. Is this a 2 week expedition through 10 European cities or a 5 day escape to your grandparent’s beach condo in Florida? Whatever your plans are, write down an overall cost estimation. A good tip to go by is overestimating your budget – it’s a good feeling when you fall under your spending limit.
Where are you going?
A trip overseas will have more travel cost than a trip to the nearest lake, but deciding on a destination far in advance will help you plan your budget accordingly. For some, traveling is half the fun of taking a vacation, unless you have children*; then it’s just the anxiety of when you’ll reach your destination.
Are you flying? Driving? Taking the train? Gather information on how much it will cost for your choice of travel. You’ll also need to determine lodging, dining and entertainment costs. If you drive, you’ll be stopping for food and gas, unless you have children*, then you’ll also be stopping for souvenirs and tours to the Jelly Belly factory.
Create a spreadsheet
Creating a budget with certain categories will help you determine how much your vacation is going to cost - everything from plane tickets and hotels to food and miscellaneous expenses. Try allocating more money on the categories you feel are more essential. Do you require a lavish hotel with several amenities or are you satisfied with a bed and shower? Maybe you can get away with a one bedroom suite and roundtrip ticket to Cancun, Mexico, unless you have children*, then you’ll need to account for the additional plane seats and separate hotel room you’ll be adding once you arrive at check-in.
Look into hotels, airlines and car rental companies early! There may be special rates at given times or you could apply for a discount with some companies. According to Hopper, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the best days to book plane tickets. If you are traveling domestically, you’ll want to book your tickets between 21 and 121 days in advance. International travel depends on the region, but ranges from 66 to 200 days in advance (CheapAir.com).
The best thing you can do when planning for a vacation is stick to your budget, figure out how much you need to save each month, and create a backup budget in case the unexpected happens. You may already know how hectic planning a trip can be, but if you follow your budget, your dream vacation can come true.
Once you start planning your vacation, if you find that it’s difficult to save money, check out our Vacations Savings Club Account. You’ll be able to focus on planning the trip, as funds are automatically deposited each week or month (you choose!) into a holding account with a generous savings rate.
You can also organize your budget with financial software, such as Quicken. It will allow you to easily change your budget and manage accounts, while keeping your info nice and neat.
* We love traveling with our children, but sometimes they can get a bit cranky! J
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