So, you are thinking about taking a vacation. You want to do it with a budget and no credit card headache when you return. How will you do it? Well, keep reading for tips on how to make your budget and stick to it! The first thing you need to do is figure out where you want to go and how much it will cost to get there. Let’s say you want to drive about 4 hours away, and stay at a hotel for 5 nights. First you need to figure out how much it will cost to drive round trip 4 hours. I drive a huge gas guzzler, so that would cost me roughly $120. Hopefully your cost on gas will be much cheaper! Then you need to find a hotel and price that. Don’t book it yet, just figure out how much it will cost. Vacations are much cheaper in the off seasons (i.e. when kids are in school!) but even if you travel during the summer/holidays, you can still do it as long as you plan for the expenses. Ok, back to the hotel. I like to use http://www.tripadvisor.com to find hotel ratings and prices. I have never gone wrong using a recommendation from trip advisor! They also have ratings for attractions and restaurants. I wish they paid me for this tip, but sadly, this is just me telling you what works! 😉 So, lets say you find a hotel for $100/night, but then you go to the hotel website and enter your AAA number and you can get it even cheaper. If you are military, you usually can get the best rate! And deservedly so! Thanks for your service!! Alright, so this $100/night hotel can be reserved for $80/night with some searching around. Either at the hotel website or even travel sites like expedia.com or travelocity.com. Check around, but make sure your site is reliable and not a scam. I have booked using both of those sites and they are legit!
So, now we have $120 in gas and $400 for the hotel ($80×5 nights). $520 doesn’t seem too bad for a vacation…but we are not done yet! We need to budget food. That will depend on your family and your taste in food. For our family of 6 (5 that eat off of their own plates!) I usually budget $120/day for food. Then you need to add in parking if your hotel has paid for parking. You also need to research sightseeing/amusement parks or state parks and add those admission/parking fees to the list. This can vary widely based on your desires and budget. We also budget for spending money. Depending on where we go, we usually budget $50-$100 per person. Don’t forget to budget for passports if needed. And if you already have one, check the expiration date. They actually expire 6 months before that date, so if you are nearing it, make sure you renew before you leave home! If you fly, you also need to include airport parking/flight/rental car/taxi. But you get the idea. Every little thing is put into the budget before you even book your trip. Then when you are finally done with adding everything up, throw in an extra 10% for issues that may come up. You may break your sunglasses and need to buy new ones. Your plane may be delayed and you may need to pay for an extra meal you didn’t count on. Having a little cushion is a huge stress reliever. If you don’t use the extra money, that is just more you can throw to your emergency or savings account! I also added a line for things you may need before you travel. For instance, our upcoming cruise stateroom has a shower only, so I have to buy an inflatable tub for the little guy before we leave, but I am budgeting it into our trip fund.
For quick reference, here is a list of expenses you may incur. Then, when you have it all saved up, you can book that mini-vacation, dream vacation, family reunion, or relaxing cruise!
Rental car/gas or taxi:
Gas to drive there, back, and around town:
Tips for services:
Little things before you leave: Sunblock, snacks for the road, bottled water, new walking shoes, etc.
Now, add that up and divide by the number of months you have (or need) until you have all the money for your trip saved up! That gives you a timeline of when to book things, and when you are planning on leaving. It will show you how much you need to save each month to meet your goal!
*Most, not all, flights are the cheapest about 6 weeks before you plan to leave, and book it on a Tuesday! This, of course, does not hold true to holidays or high season. Book those asap, especially if you have a set date that you have to take to ensure you get a flight! I like to use Kayak.com or my skyscanner app to check out cheapest prices, then I go to that airline page to book.*
**Don’t forget to make sure all your bills at home are paid before you leave, so you don’t have to deal with that while you are gone!**
I hope you have a wonderful/stress-free vacation!