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Marriage and Money

Saving money for your next vacation

Ready for a break? Here are some tips to make your next vacation a bit more affordable.

How to budget money for your next vacation

In the grand scheme of things, where do you prioritize travel? Does your family get one annual week-long vacation, or do you try to get away whenever you can? Do you feel you travel well, or are you left slightly aghast once you start getting those post-vacation credit card bills? Do you feel you have a handle on how to budget money for your next vacation? No matter how important your upcoming vacation is to you, there are probably a few ways you can up your travel game through better budgeting.

  • Know what you can afford

    If you don't know how to budget money for a vacation, you can start by looking at what you've spent on previous vacations. Take a long look at those figures, and decide how you'd like your next trip to be different. If you don't have a lot of info to go on, simply sit down and make a budget, with two sets of columns for lodging, transportation, meals, entertainment and emergency expenses. In your “aspirational” column, decide what you'd like to spend on each, then do your research to see if that's feasible, and insert those figures into your “realistic” column. If there's a large discrepancy between what you have to spend and what you'll end up spending, consider pushing your vacation back a few months, instead of putting the rest on a credit card.
  • Take your time with vacation planning

    The beauty of vacation planning is that you don't have to nail everything down in a single day. Allow yourself time to shop around for the best deals, and figure out what kind of spending money you'll need on a daily basis. Once you've determined what you'll need as far as a daily allowance goes (don't forget to account for exchange rate fluctuations, if you're going abroad), pay for what you can in advance, preferably several months prior to departure. Having a large portion of your vacation paid off well before you embark will do a lot for your peace of mind.
  • Start setting aside money for travel year-round

    Instead of just stashing away spare change, start allocating a little from each paycheck into a special vacation fund. If you have kids, get them a special travel bank so they can start saving up their souvenir money. If you still think the old spare change jar works just as well for you, try contributing five, ten, or twenty dollar bills instead of nickels and dimes.
  • Avoid traveling during peak season, and take advantage of special offers

    You can save big by planning your trip during the shoulder season or off-season. (Just be sure to investigate why it's the “off-season”, in case the reason is inclement weather, severe rainy seasons, unbearable temperatures, etc.). Smaller travel companies like vacation home rental agencies frequently offer great specials during these off-peak travel times. The crowds will also be smaller, and everyone will be a little more grateful for your business. You'll be able to enjoy a truly premium vacation for a lot less.

  • Do your research, and make an agenda

    Vacations can get expensive fast when you don't have an agenda. Research every amusement park, state park, beach, museum, or other attraction you'd like to visit in advance, so you know the costs involved, if there are any. You can also research recommended restaurants along your route, as well as coffee shops, markets, shopping destinations, etc. Then mock up your ideal vacation in a spreadsheet, and take your agenda with you. (Allowing yourself multiple options for meals and keeping your timeline loose will make your agenda seem less rigid.)

  • Pack light and consider preparing your own meals

    If you're taking a long trip, pack for 5-7 days' worth of travel and take advantage of your hotel's laundry services, or nearby laundromats. You'll have less to haul around, with plenty of room for special souvenirs. Cooking your own food while on vacation will also do a lot to stretch your travel budget. A hotel room with a small kitchenette, or condo rental with a full kitchen is a small splurge that can save you hundreds of dollars on dining out expenses.

If you're struggling as to how to budget money, or you'd like to better manage your finances with the help of free online budgeting tools, there's a wealth of budgeting tips and advice available in the Protective Learning Center.

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