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Guide to Vacation Budgets

Guide to Vacation Budgets

Authored By: NSCCU on 5/17/2023

It’s great to get away from the daily grind, but budgets never go on vacation. The classic rules of sticking to your spending plan and not racking up bills you cannot pay still apply when you’re on vacation. The good news is, a vacation budget will actually make your trip more relaxing. When every dollar is accounted for and you know exactly how much money you have to spend in each expense category while you’re on vacation, you don’t have to stress about how you’ll pay for this getaway when you get back to real life. 

Making a vacation budget is not as difficult as it may seem. All it takes is some careful planning, quick calculations and the willpower to follow it. Here’s what you need to know about making a vacation budget.

Set your budget

First, determine how much you can actually spend on your trip. It’s important to be realistic as you complete this step or you may end up paying off this vacation for months, or even years, to come. Do some research on the location you want to visit, how much it’ll cost to get there and the price you’ll pay for accommodations and transportation. Also, look up local attractions to get an idea of how much these will cost. Make a basic list of anticipated expenses and work with that number to set your vacation budget. 

As you set that budget, be sure to consider any money you may have saved up for your trip. If you’re planning this trip well in advance, take into account how much you can afford to save each month leading up to the vacation. 

Plan your expenses

Once you have your set budget and a basic list of expenses, you can work on setting an exact dollar amount for each expense category of your vacation. Use the amounts you researched in the previous step and write out your vacation budget so the individual expense categories total the same as your overall budget amount. If the total amount is way outside your affordable range, consider swapping out some expenses for cheaper, or even free, options. For example, you can choose to use public transportation instead of renting a car, dine on street food instead of eating out in classy, expensive restaurants and book activities in advance to save on the admission price. 

Track your expenses

Once your vacation budget is set up, you’ll need to track your expenses to ensure you stick to your spending plan. When purchasing airline tickets, making hotel and car rental reservations and purchasing items for your trip, be sure to record these expenses in your budget. Similarly, when on vacation, keep track of your spending so you stick to your budget. A budgeting app, like Mint or YNAB, can make this easier. 

If you find yourself overspending in any category, look for last-minute ways to cut back on your expenses. You may choose to cut out an expensive activity or to cook your own meals for quick, easy savings.

Tips for sticking to your vacation budget

The hardest part of vacationing on a budget is sticking to it while you’re away. These tips can make it easier for you to actually keep your vacation budget:

  • Use cash. Keeping the plastic out of sight while on vacation will force you to stick to your spending plan. You may also find it easier to track your expenses when you only have the exact amount you planned to spend in a specific category. Be sure to keep your cash in a safe place, such as a secure wallet or purse. 
  • Book in advance. Try to book as much of your vacation as possible in advance. Hotel stays, car rentals, tours and more are nearly always cheaper when reserved ahead of schedule. You’ll also leave fewer spending choices for your actual vacation when your willpower may be weaker. 
  • Keep a copy of your budget with you on vacation. Make a physical or digital copy of your vacation budget to carry around with you during your trip. The simple act of reviewing your budget will make it easier for you to stick to it as planned. Pull out your copy whenever you come up against a spending challenge on vacation.

Follow the tips outlined here to enjoy the trip of a lifetime without letting your budget go on vacation.

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