Summer is just around the corner, and for many of us, that means vacations! Vacations by nature tend to be a time of indulgence, and it’s all too easy to let it go too far. A 2015 study found that 49% of vacationers accumulated credit card debt when traveling and 68% go over budget.
Your vacation memories won’t be as sweet if you’re still paying the bill four months later. Are the stress and money fights really worth several days of irresponsibility? I don’t think so. But I do want you to have a fun vacation. Here are a few ways you can have a great vacation without sabotaging your finances:
Pack Your Own Food
This is a big one for me. Have you ever looked at the menu on an airline? You can buy cheese and crackers for almost 100 times what you would pay at the grocery store!
Especially if you have children whose favorite phrase is “Mom, I’m hungry!”, you need to get into the habit of packing your own food. Whether it’s a cooler in the trunk or a bag of granola bars and refillable water bottles, you can practically cut your vacation budget in half by providing your own food.
Check Groupon/Retailmenot First
Last summer my family and I took a vacation down the Columbia River Gorge. We opted to take a ride on the Mt. Hood Railroad. It wasn’t cheap, but I figured it would be worth it to give my kids the chance to ride on a real train.
Do you know how I felt sitting in the depot listening to everyone else talk about how they used a Groupon to buy their tickets? I felt like an idiot. I paid full price. How much money would I have saved if I had done a quick Google search “Mt Hood railroad discounts?” I learned my lesson, though, and over spring break we got half price admission to Oaks Amusement Park thanks to an online coupon.
Set A Budget
Without a budget, how do you know how much you can afford to spend? If you don’t know how much you can afford, you will overspend.
Setting up a vacation budget is pretty simple. Write down the total amount of money you already have saved towards your vacation. That’s how much you can spend. Now, take out the cost of transportation and lodging. What you have left is what you can spend during your trip. Make sure you don’t forget about eating!
When we went to Hawaii, my husband and I were on a tight budget. After doing the calculations, we figured that we could only afford to eat out once a day. Between our electric sandwich maker that we took and cheese and crackers from the local Wal-Mart, we were well fed the entire time. I know my memories of riding horses on a cattle ranch with views of Maui and Mauna Kea are much better than any of the meals I could have eaten out.
Some tourist activities are more than worth the cost. Others are definitely not. Take some time before you leave home to read the online reviews for the things you’re thinking about doing.
You don’t have infinite money, so you want to make sure to get the most out of what you do have. Learn from the mistakes of others and spend your money on things that you’ll really enjoy and won’t leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.
Watch The Fees
Airlines, rental cars, tips for tour guides, credit card exchange rates, boy the fees can add up. When you’re setting up your budget, make sure you account for all of the little incidental fees. For airlines, rental cars and hotels, that may require reading very fine print. There’s a good chance the posted rate for your hotel room doesn’t include the local hospitality/hotel tax, which could easily surpass 10%.
Just Say No
To yourself. No, you don’t deserve it. That’s the biggest lie that our society tells. If you did not save up the money to pay for it, then no, you don’t deserve it. Work a little harder at saving and maybe next time you can have it.
Relaxing on vacation can quickly lead to relaxing about our spending. It’s easy to tell yourself that you can just pay for it later and swipe a credit card. Resist the urge! Stick with your plan! It might be a good idea to start a few weeks early and practice telling yourself no. Think of how you felt when you overindulged on Christmas cookies. Do you want to have that regret again? And the cookies didn’t charge interest.
Well, I hope you have a great summer vacation and these tips help you squeeze a little more enjoyment out of your budget! If I’ve missed your favorite tip, please share it in the comments!