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Are you in a vacation frame of mind yet?
Spring is almost here, and summer is right around the corner. Whether you’re budgeting for spring break with friends or a summer vacation with the family, your focus should be on making sure you’re mentally and financially prepared for the trip. Planning for your vacation early means that by the time it arrives, you can relax knowing it’s already in your budget and you’ve taken care of all the details.
That’s why we’ve put together some tips to help you start planning for your vacation right now!
Make your vacation a line in your budget.
Let’s say it’s March and you want to take a trip in July. How much money have you saved up? We hate to break it to you, but the money isn’t going to just magically pop into your bank account this summer. You have to start now—right now, actually.
This is where having a budget is essential. Determine now what a reasonable amount to save each month looks like. And at this point, it’s okay to not know specifics about where you’re going or how much your trip will cost—just start saving whatever you can. The amount you’re able to put aside will help determine where you go and how long you stay.
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Once you know how much you’ll be able to save, you can determine what type of vacation you can afford. Will your break involve travel, or will it be a staycation? There’s nothing wrong with planning some fun days at home if you lack the funds for plane tickets and hotel rooms.
Your trip will be so much more enjoyable when you know it’s already paid for instead of having to pay for it on a credit card five months later. Create a line item and add it to your budget now before you dig into the details.
Set your expectations.
Talk with your spouse, your family, your friends, or whoever is going on this trip with you. Decide together what it’s going to be. A five-star resort or a two-star hotel? A villa or a hostel? A mountain cabin or a campground? And of course, this all should be determined by your budget—so don’t let anyone talk you into spending more than you’ve planned.
It’s hard to keep everybody happy when traveling with a group of people. That’s why it’s important for everyone to be on the same page about where you’re going and what you’re expecting from the beginning. If half of your party wants to relax and the other half is itching to explore, someone is going to end up disappointed.
Start by agreeing on the type of experience you’d like to have rather than specific activities. For example, do you want to unwind or have an adventure? When you know what you want out of your vacation, you can find budget-friendly activities that will give you the vacation you want.
Create a list of things to do and have each person pick one to include in the vacation plan. Maybe Mom wants to spend a day at the beach while the little ones want to play miniature golf. Based on your budget, schedule time for each activity. That way everyone has a say in the vacation planning, and everyone has some fun!
Now that you know the type of vacation you want and what you potentially want to do, it’s time to do some investigating. The internet makes it ridiculously easy to do a ton of research before you ever spend the first dime on your trip. Reviews, photos, travel deals—it’s all out there just waiting for you to find.
This is really a no-brainer. Don’t book the trip without knowing all the details related to the property and the cost. Even if you’ve put off booking your spring break getaway until the last minute, you can still find an incredible amount of information online in a very short period of time. This is Vacation 101!
Doing your research is the best way to find budget-friendly vacation options. You might find that delaying the trip until the off-season can save you a boatload of money, or that another city might offer similar attractions for a cheaper price.
Remember to look for destinations that will satisfy the whole family’s goals for the trip. But make sure you keep an open mind about what your vacation will actually look like. It’s much easier to find options when you’re willing to make changes or compromise.
Finalize the plan.
Once you’ve chosen a destination and a length of time for your trip, it’s time to start finalizing your plan. If you’re pretty flexible about dates and times, try talking to a travel agent to see if they can save you money on airfare, hotels or activities. Oftentimes there are discounts just waiting to be discovered—and a travel agent knows exactly where to find them.
This is when you can get specific about where to stay, when to fly, and what to do. Figure out what activities require reservations in advance and book them now so you can check it off your to-do list. After doing that, you should have a pretty good idea of how much the trip is going to cost and how it aligns with your budget.
With all this in mind, it’s time to really get serious about saving for your vacation! By now you should already be setting aside money each month to pay for your trip. Take another look at how much you’re saving and decide if you need to make any adjustments to the budget in order to hit your goal.
If you’re wondering where you can pull in some extra cash for the trip, shift some things around in your budget. Or maybe even take a look at cutting your restaurant cash or the monthly cable bill with 95 channels you’re not watching. It may not seem ideal, but it’s only temporary!
Look, we know a long-term savings goal like this can feel like a chore. Keep yourself motivated with a count-down calendar as a visual reminder of what’s to come. You can even make saving a game by rewarding family members who find extra places to cut back.
Remember, it’s about making priorities now so later you can have the vacation you want!
Make sure you can afford a vacation right now.
Sometimes when you’re fighting to get out of debt or clawing to pay the bills, a vacation simply isn’t the right thing to do. Don’t make an emotional decision that leads to a financial mistake. Slow down and think about what’s really important—a vacation now, or being debt-free for life?
Even if you’re out of debt, a vacation still might not fit in with your other budget goals. Consult your spouse and decide if you can really afford a trip. Remind yourself it’s simply not an option to put your expenses on a credit card, so your income is all you have to work with.
Another warning sign that this might not be the right time for a vacation is your work situation. A vacation should never feel like a burden, so if you can’t afford to take time away from the office, you might need to delay your plans.
Vacations are about having fun and spending time with family—not about the destination. It’s okay if a fancy luxury trip just isn’t in the budget for you right now. This is only temporary if you’re passionate about getting out of debt and building wealth.
And once you’ve worked through the debt snowball, feel free to go on that vacation . . . just as long as you pay for it with cash! If going on a vacation is really important to you, let your money habits reflect that.
Don’t let money stress follow you home from your vacation because you didn’t budget for it! Creating a budget is easy with our FREE budgeting tool, EveryDollar. Start your planning today.