Where do you want to go, and what do you want to see? After two years of the pandemic, many people are ready to start traveling again. Taking time off work and going somewhere with family, friends or on your own is the fun and exciting part of life many of us have been missing! But before you start your trip, it’s important to plan ahead so you can return from vacation rejuvenated — and not stressed about additional credit card bills.
A getaway might feel like a luxury you’re not sure you can afford. This is a great opportunity to speak with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional to help you create a vacation budget and action plan, review your current financial situation and verify that the vacation you have in mind fits with your short- and long-term financial goals.
Here is a quick guide to get you started on budgeting for your next vacation:
- Nail Down the Details
Determine the vacation location and the maximum amount you want to spend. If there are multiple decision-makers, make sure to sit everyone down and talk about where you want to go. Simply put, location matters. For example, traveling to an international destination, such as France, will likely cost more than traveling within the U.S. Keep in mind that big cities tend to be more expensive than rural areas. As you begin to plan, take transportation methods into consideration. Remember, driving is not always cheaper than flying, especially when you factor in gas prices, amount of time spent and lodging costs for overnight stops.
Timing of your trip will also affect the price: peak season versus off season, weekdays versus weekends. When working out the details, don’t forget to include costs during your trip and all the hidden extras. Things like food, activities, entertainment, tolls, parking, Lyft/Uber, checked bag fees, resort fees, tips for service, souvenirs/shopping, taxes, and the charger you need to buy because you forgot to pack it, are all things to consider. Lastly, think about additional costs such as a babysitter or pet sitter and keep a buffer in the budget for unexpected expenses.
- Start Saving for Vacation
You can be creative on cutting costs to make saving a bit easier. Research the cost of activities and attractions prior to your trip and see what discounts come with booking in advance. When looking for lodging, check out Airbnb options instead of resorts and search for local grocery stores or convenience marts for snacks and breakfast items. And for food, dine where the locals go — these restaurants may be both more exciting and more affordable.
Once you have a dollar amount for your vacation budget, creating a savings timeline puts your plan into action. For example, if your planned vacation budget is $3,000 and you have six months until the trip, then you need to save $500 per month. Keep that monthly savings going and you’ll have a head start on next year’s vacation fund. If you expect a bonus or tax refund money, or if your income fluctuates, adjust your monthly savings accordingly.
- Make Monetary Considerations
It’s easy to overspend during vacations, especially if you’re paying for things on a credit card. If you want to use credit cards and rack up those points, make sure to log into the card app daily and keep tabs on your spending. Another way to monitor your spending is to use cash. Carry an envelope with your daily spending funds. It’s a classic method, but you do run the risk of losing the envelope with your cash in it.
For international travel, be sure to research the currency exchange. It is usually best to stick with domestic banks and exchange currency before you head abroad. If you’re planning to use credit cards, check with your credit card company to make sure you won’t incur any foreign fees.
Vacation is a time to take a break, relax and de-stress. If all this talk of money, budgeting and diligently saving for a vacation causes you stress, then consider some alternatives:
- Staycation — You don’t have to leave your home to have a good time. Go explore your hometown/city through the eyes of a tourist.
- Camping trip — If you have camping gear, or can borrow camping gear from a friend, this can be a cheap and fun getaway.
- Connect family or friends — Your parents’ extra apartment above the garage is like a free Airbnb. Or if you have friends who love you lots, perhaps they’ll let you stay at their beach house.
You can have a great trip and be financially savvy at the same time. Budgeting can take some practice and may feel hard at first, but your future self will thank you for acquiring that skill. If you want to find a CFP® professional to help you plan, or would like more budgeting, savings, or financial planning resources, check out LetsMakeAPlan.org.
Taking time off is good for your health and your productivity. Start planning for your vacation today!