No matter what your budget, taking regular vacations is important; it’s good for your mental health, helps your family create special memories, and the fact is that not every vacation has to be expensive. You can vacation within your budget and fully enjoy yourself. Before you set up a vacation budget, though, it’s important to be realistic about what you want from the experience. While budgeting is certainly vital to financial health, there are always elements of your vacation that will be worthy of a splurge.
Set Your Financial Framework
The first step to developing a realistic vacation budget is to consider how much you’re able to stand overall, and start saving and planning early. This baseline value will help you determine what type of vacation – the destination and activities – your family can afford. You won’t be able to fly to Paris on a beach holiday budget, but if you’re realistic about the type of trip you can afford to take, then you can stretch your budget further and enjoy your vacation to the fullest.
Make Saving Fun
One of the best ways to save during your travels is by making budget choices part of the fun. For example, while a budget flight can be a miserable experience, there’s no reason to take cabs or even use rideshare services at your destination if public transit is an option. After all, public transit is an inexpensive alternative, and it puts you in touch with your vacation destination; you see so much more of your surroundings than you would in a private vehicle.
Spot Your Spending Weak Spots
If you’re going to budget for a vacation, it can help to assess your ordinary spending patterns to understand your strengths and weaknesses. In their day-to-day lives, for example, many people overspend on necessities like groceries and gas, rather than just on surprise expenses or luxuries.
Analyzing your budget for key over-expenditures is helpful because it can help you find areas where you can save money, shifting that money over to your vacation fund, but it can also help you identify where you might want to splurge during your trip. So, if you tend to spend a lot on restaurants at home, then you may wish to budget for a few special meals on your trip. Your standard budget can serve as a guideline for your luxury spending.
Plan Your Splurges
A vacation is already a splurge, but when you’re traveling on a budget, it’s important to decide what’s important to you and your family and set money aside for that. Most families can skimp on accommodations because you won’t be spending much time there – you just need somewhere to sleep and shower – but food and activity budgets can vary widely.
So what types of things should your splurge on? If you’re visiting the Grand Canyon, for example, you can probably skimp on special food since the area isn’t known for haute cuisine, but you might want to budget for that helicopter tour. Meanwhile, if your family is headed to Paris, is it really worth your time to spend hours clambering up the Eiffel Tower, or will your family be just as happy standing at the base? Create a list of priorities for your destination and focus on those activities as you build your itinerary and your budget. You may not be able to do everything, but you can do the things that matter most.
Don’t deny your family vacations because you’re trying to stick to your budget – just budget smarter and vacation within your means. After all, your family will remember the time you spend together, not how much you spent.