Budgeting for Vacation
Kids start to gaze out classroom windows, the grass turns green again and the temperature slowly rises. If you and your family are like most, you now plan summer vacations. Beware of daydreams of fun in the sun: If you aren’t careful, vacation expenses can put a large dent in your wallet and potentially wreck your full year’s budget.
Before piling the kids into a car for a daylong drive, wading through airport security laden with bags, charging the digital camera or even requesting time off from work, make sure you can afford to go on vacation. Eight in 10 Americans take vacations and more than 60 percent of those vacationers plan at least one getaway for this year, according to a recent survey from the coupon site FatWallet.
The survey also reports sobering money outlooks: Forty-two percent will spend at least $1,500 on vacations this year and 10 percent will spend at least $3,000 (both down slightly from last year).
There’s no reason to go into debt — or deepen the debt you may already carry — just to see a national landmark or bask in the sun. And don’t get discouraged if there isn’t as much room in your budget as you thought for that trip around the world. Destinations still abound where you can have a great time, once you recognize your money constraints and plan accordingly.
Determine what you can afford and then look for a location. Planning in this order is the first step to stress-free traveling (at least in terms of money).
You can easily get caught up in simply browsing airfares and hotel rates and pegging your decision on just those two figures. You must also consider such expenses as special purchases beforehand as well as food, souvenirs, transportation and sightseeing tours once you arrive at your vacation spot.
For example, the FatWallet survey reports that, when prepping for getaways, Americans stock up on clothing (55 percent of respondents), health and beauty products (28 percent) and swimwear (26 percent). On vacation, the respondents shop most for souvenirs (55 percent), clothes (34 percent) and jewelry (13 percent). Sometimes such incidentals can total more than airfare and hotel combined.
Most survey respondents book one to six months in advance to save money; about a third book online, or directly through a site of an airline or hotel chain. About 1 in 10 also use coupons or a cash-back site that offers rewards for using certain airlines or hotels, travel insurers or car-rental agencies, among others.
Being creative about activities and eating out can go far to keep you within budget on the road:
∎ Spend a day at the public beach, in a hiking trail or around the neighborhood; check for timeshares that offer free tours.
∎ C ontact your destination’s tourist information bureaus for coupon books.
∎ R ead your destination’s local newspaper or blog for free events.
∎ Eat a bigger lunch than dinner, (lunch is usually cheaper ).
∎ Pack a carry-on bag with instant coffee mix, juice boxes and cheese and crackers and at your destination hit the grocery stores.
Vacations are a great way to create memories and take a break from a work-filled daily life. If your budget stays in within limits and you put in the proper homework, you’re in for a fun time free of spending worries.