The temperatures are starting to rise, the snow is melting, and families everywhere are starting to plan their summer vacations. But before you put in that PTO request at work, we have a few tips and tricks to budgeting for your next trip.
Here’s how to make sure your relaxing getaway doesn’t become a financial burden:
As you start to plan your summer vacation, try to keep your budget in mind. Look at your current financial situation and consider whether an international trip, a cross-country flight, a road trip, or even a staycation is right for you.
As glamorous and relaxing as those day cruises on the Amalfi Coast might look, a temporary vacation is never worth going into debt. Instead, look for vacations that won’t cause financial stress.
Find out where summer is the off-season
If you are looking to get away from home this summer, research places where summer is the off-season for tourists. Doing so can result in cheaper flights, nicer hotel options, and less crowds.
If you’re looking to try off-season travel, Outside Magazine recommends New Zealand, Bonaire, South Africa, Puerto Vallarta and Lake Tahoe.
Anticipate how much you’ll need
Once you pick your destination, start looking at how much money you’ll need to get there, explore, and get back. Look into flights, hotels or BNBs, excursions, and food cost so you can start saving.
“ … the reality is putting things on a credit card and paying it back afterward is the worst thing that you could do when it comes to travel,” Samantha Barry, Glamour’s editor-in-chief and host of the She Makes Money Moves podcast, recently told Conde Nast Traveler.
Start saving well in advance
When it comes to summer vacations, Jade Beckman, vice president of consumer loans at Mountain America Credit Union, recommends to “start saving 6 months to a year in advance. Figure out roughly what your trip will cost, then set up automatic monthly contributions to a summer vacation savings account. This might mean you have to pass up your morning caramel macchiato from Starbucks, but it’ll be worth having more peace of mind during your vacation knowing the trip was paid for up front. Another smart way to budget for summer vacations is to utilize credit card rewards. Put a lot of your purchases throughout the year on a rewards credit card – making sure you pay off your balance in full each month – and then use the cash back to help pay for your vacation or use the travel rewards points to purchase flights or hotel rooms.”
Use credit card rewards
Your credit cards can be a major tool when it comes to saving for your vacation — and actually getting there. Create a spending strategy that helps you earn credit card rewards — either cash back or air miles — to relieve some of the financial stress of travel.
Create a budget for the vacation
A few weeks before your trip, use the research we mentioned earlier to create a budget that you and your family can stick to.
Start by looking at how much you successfully put away in savings, then subtract your flights or estimated gas costs and your lodging expenses. Using that, you can decide how many times you can afford to eat out, which adventures to go on, and what other fun money you have to spend throughout the trip.
The tricky part is sticking to this budget. You might be on vacation, but your money isn’t. Try not to let yourself get carried away.
“The key to enjoying your travels while also sticking to a budget is BALANCE,” writes Katie Diedrcihs of Two Wandering Soles. “Splurges are fine when they are balanced out with days with little spending.”
Don’t worry about souvenirs
Finally, don’t fall victim to the souvenir trap. Too often, friends and family return from a trip with half a suitcase full of tchotchkes that will live on their shelf for a few years before being donated to the nearest Goodwill or Salvation Army. Skipping this tired routine can save you money and time that can be spent creating valuable memories with your loved ones. You work hard, and you deserve a vacation this summer. But don’t let financial stress ruin a relaxing getaway. Take a little time to plan before you book, and you’ll be well on your way to the perfect summer vacation.