Planning a vacation is fun. Budgeting for one isn’t. If you’ve got a destination picked out, don’t start packing your bags until you’re sure you can afford the trip. Here’s how to plan for your expenses and make sure you have enough money saved to enjoy a stress-free vacation.
Estimate and Track Your Spending
Figure out how much you want to spend on a trip. If you have $1,200 for a three-day vacation—and you spend $500 on a flight, hotel, and rental car—that leaves just over $230 per day to spend on food and fun. Keep this in mind as you make reservations. Then, be diligent about tracking your spending each day so you don’t go over budget.
Remember Surprise Expenses
You’ve budgeted for plane tickets, a rental car, hotel room, food, and activities—what else could you be forgetting? As you compile a list of vacation expenses, remember to include these oft-forgotten ones:
- Parking or public transportation
- Hotel Wi-Fi
- Carry-on or checked bag fees
- Spontaneous activities
Lower Your Expenses
Travel can be cheap if you do it right. Here are some pointers:
- Earn miles with a travel rewards credit card, and slash the price of airfare.
- Keep the trip close to home. Driving rather than flying to your destination is almost always cheaper, especially if you’re traveling with a group.
- Book your trip during the off-season when hotels and activities typically cost less.
- Consider alternatives to hotels, including vacation rentals, hostels, and staying with friends.
- Shorten your trip. You’ll spend less money and miss fewer days of work if you consolidate your vacation into a long weekend.
- Book last minute to snatch great deals on flights and attractions. Of course, this only works if you have a flexible work schedule.
- Travel with a group and split the cost of a hotel and rental car.
- Research cheap places to travel. If you want a get-away, but you don’t have a set destination in mind, be flexible. Check airline and travel websites for package deals that can save you big bucks.
Start Saving Today
While creating a vacation budget can help you manage your spending, you should always have a little cushion room. Here’s how to bolster your savings before you leave on your trip:
- Determine how much you need to save each month. For instance, if you’re planning a $1,200 vacation in six months, you must set aside an extra $200 per month to meet your goal.
- Commit to “no spend” days where you don’t buy anything, not even a cup of coffee.
- Stop eating out.
- Sell any unused belongings.
- Cancel rarely used subscriptions.
- Open a high-yield savings account.
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