A summer vacation is a perfect opportunity to rest and restore after months of hard work and hustle. However, these days, your ideal summer destination could come with an inflated price tag. But don’t fret! There are plenty of ways to save money and have summer fun all at once. Check out this guide to summer vacationing on a budget and start planning your next getaway today!
Creating a Vacation Budget
Travel costs can add up quickly, but with the proper vacation budget, you can avoid overspending and minimize any effects on your personal finances. The first step in this process would be to check your existing checking and savings account balances against any incoming expenses to determine the general dollar amount you have available to start planning. You should also factor in the desired vacation timeline as the budgeting process begins. If you are looking to get away several months from now, there’s still time to automate deposits into a vacation savings account. However, if you are only weeks away, you may need to work with what you have, which is always possible with the proper planning.
With a number in mind, the true budgeting can begin! The more significant expenses, such as transit and accommodations, should be lined up first. These are the easiest to plan for and should always be included. Save the most money on these expenses by weighing all your options, being flexible in terms of destination (if possible) and assessing what’s available for local accommodations and transportation. In some cases, it may be easier to rent a car and drive instead of flying or try out a different hotel chain for a better price. Next, you’ll factor in costs that will occur during your trip, such as food expenses (based on restaurant choices), rental car gas, and entertainment or activity costs. Saving on food is possible if you can buy snacks or essential breakfast (if continental/free breakfast is unavailable) and lunch items upon arrival, saving dining out as a special activity. Lastly, any vacation budget needs to include hidden and unexpected costs such as parking fees, tips for services, replacement of any items you may forget to pack, and a small emergency fund for the unexpected.
Knowing your “Nice-to-Haves” vs. “Need-to-Haves”
No traveler is the same, as everyone has different priorities for their ideal getaway. Knowing your “nice to haves” and “need to have” can help you understand what matters most to you for a trip that meets your expectations. Creating a list of the travel experiences you value most (with main priorities at the top) can make it that much easier when choosing where to splurge vs. where to cut back and save. An example of a common affordable vacation priority list may include:
1. Spend quality time with others
2. Enjoy local food
3. Visit unique attractions
4. Experience the local arts scene
5. Spend time outdoors
7. Check out the nightlife
8. High-end dining options
Take advantage of luxury amenities
Understanding where your priorities land will make it much easier to say “no” to specific opportunities for the sake of your budget. This will also allow you to spend more time and money on activities that mean more to you instead of stretching yourself and your budget thin.
Prioritizing Affordable or Free Activities
As planning begins, try to build an itinerary around fun and affordable activities. Several low-cost options are available regardless of your interests, hobbies, or personal preferences. For those who love the outdoors, find an affordable state park where you can enjoy a full day hiking on the trails and taking vacation photos. Beachgoers can plan to spend their time around free activities such as reading, sunbathing, and swimming. Lastly, those taking a trip into an urban hub should research free museums, public attractions, and street fairs.
Tracking Your Spending
With your budget set, tickets booked, and an affordable itinerary created, it’s time to take off! However, you’re not done yet. Planning an affordable vacation on paper is easy, but once you are in vacation mode, plans can change, and so can your budget. It’s essential to keep an eye on where your money goes rather than sticking to a daily spending plan. Sometimes you need to indulge a little extra one day, and to offset this, you can keep things simple the following day by eating in or switching to an affordable or free activity. Some ways to easily track your daily spending as you travel are:
1. Write daily expenses and trip totals in a notebook
2. Download a spending tracker mobile app
3. Pay with cash only (where applicable)
In conclusion, a reasonable travel budget should be a balancing act and not a “rule book” because this is your time to rest and restore at the end of the day!