When it comes to vacation planning, creating a budget is often the most stressful part. Many people fall into one of two pitfalls:
- setting the budget too low and then quickly blowing through it – and more – while feeling guilty the whole time
- not setting a budget at all, only to realize when it’s all said and done that the amount they’ve spent was way more than they intended
Setting a realistic and achievable budget helps you stretch your money further so that you’re able to do more vacation activities without blowing your budget.
Ideally, you have a vacation fund that you’ve been contributing to all year in preparation for your vacation. If not, sit down and look at your account balances and budget between now and your scheduled vacation and figure out how much you can afford to spend. Take credit cards out of the equation. While it may seem like the debt is worth the time away, your vacation will be much more enjoyable if you don’t come back to a stack of bills, and as hard as it may be to skip a vacation this year, there are less expensive alternatives for relaxation and quality family time that won’t leave you in debt.
Once you have a number for your overall vacation fund, think about the categories you need to budget for:
- Travel (gas, car rental, plane tickets, tolls, etc.)
- Meals on the road (fast food, drinks, etc., or the cost of packing a cooler full of food, drinks and snacks for the trip)
- Accommodations (hotel, RV park or camping fees, etc.)
- Meals (eating out and/or grocery shopping to stock the fridge and pantry of your hotel room or rental)
- Extra spending money (going to movies on a rainy day, picking up a special snack, extra activities, etc.)
While it may be tempting to estimate on the low side in order to squeeze more into your plan, being realistic is key. Think through the schedule for your trip or the activities your family is looking forward to and add the cost of each to your budget.
Are there any other categories you think should be added? What expense usually blows your vacation budget? Is there a way you can plan for that more realistically?