It’s summer and you’re finally taking that vacation you’ve been dreaming about! You’re probably already planning on what you’ll do on your next getaway, but how about how much you’ll spend? That means figuring out how much money you need to enjoy the big trip. Here are some tips for starting a vacation budget and a few ideas to help you save.
Starting Your Vacation Budget Begins With Asking, “How Much?”
You can accurately estimate how much you’re going to spend by taking time to find out the exact cost for each part of your trip. This will go a long way toward budgeting and saving. You can easily find prices for essentials like airfare and hotels online; even small activity costs like museum admission tickets are readily available. When creating a vacation budget, start with the most important items first, such as:
The Cost of Traveling There
Whether you’re flying, taking a train or driving just a couple hours from home, the travel portion of your budget will likely be the biggest expense. Research transportation costs first to estimate the cost. If you’re staying in within the U.S., you’ll have options. Driving, taking a train or bus, or carpooling with family or friends, are all possibilities with different levels of expense. If you’re traveling to another country you ’ll most likely have to fly, so compare airline prices before booking. No matter the method you choose, spend the time weighing options and comparing prices to select the best one for your budget.
Transportation During Your Vacation
Chances are you will need transportation when you get where you’re going. Always investigate public transportation first. If available, this will be the most inexpensive option. A quick search will typically yield routes and ticket prices. Many cities also offer a day or multi-day pass at a discount. Depending on how much you’ll need transport, this could be a good option. Factor in taxis to and from the airport or within the city if public transport isn’t feasible. If your destination is a bit more secluded or you plan to venture outside city limits, a car rental might be the best option. As always, compare the different rental costs before you select
A Place to Lay Your Head
Spend some time looking into different lodging options for your trip. Where you stay on your vacation will also be a large part of the budget, so it’s a good idea to read the reviews and peruse the amenities lists, along with prices. Certain accommodations, like hotels and bed & breakfasts, may include a meal or other perks that can help save on overall costs. Other choices, like hostels or camping, if available, will most likely be the cheapest. The location of your lodging should also be a consideration. It may be more expensive to stay in the heart of a city where all the activities you want to do are, but booking a place farther away means you might spend more on transport. You’ll want to calculate whether the cost of lodging or transportation is more expensive and have that guide your selection.
Exploring a New Place
Going on vacation means you get to experience new places and participate in activities unique to your destination. Wherever you plan to visit, make a list of activities you’d like to do and research entrance fees for the attractions like museums, parks or historical sites. If you plan to do some expensive activities like taking a food tour or go whale watching, make sure to add those costs to your budget.
You can get a good idea of how much you’ll spend on food by checking out restaurants on Yelp or another dining review site. Get a sampling of places in the area you’re visiting for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Make sure to factor in additional costs for bottles of water or snacks during the day, or for a fancy night out on the town. If you want to reduce your food budget, look for accommodations that include breakfast. You can also consider booking an Airbnb or apartment that has a kitchen, and cook some meals to save a few bucks.
A Little Something to Remember Your Vacation
When you go on vacation, you may want to purchase something to remember the trip. Buying postcards is an inexpensive way to go, but if you want to bring back something extra special and unique (and probably a bit pricey!), you’ll need to leave plenty of room in your suitcase and in your travel budget. Some items you buy may also need to be shipped back. Those shipping costs are something that can elevate your budget as well.
Now That You Know How Much You’ll Spend, How Do You Save?
Once you’ve researched all your costs, make a plan to start saving for your trip. No time is better than the present to start saving, so get cracking! There are several ways to start:
Curb Your Spending Habits
If you find it difficult to save money, you may want to find a way to curb your general spending habits. This means creating an overall budget to help you track what you are purchasing. You may discover you’re overspending on restaurants, entertainment or even groceries. Once you identify the source of your money issues, you can take steps to mitigate them by cutting back on spending, or shopping at cheaper places.
Create a Vacation Fund
One way to save is to open a separate savings account for your vacation. Keeping your vacation fund separate from your other accounts reduces the chance that you’ll spend the money. Start by researching various online banks for a zero-fee account with the highest interest rate. Then, slowly add to the account each time you receive a paycheck or have a little extra money on hand.
Deposit Money Automatically
Set up automatic bank transfers for your vacation fund so it grows on a regular basis. Making it automatically means you won’t have to remember to allocate funds every week or every month, and you’ll be less likely to miss the money. Just sit back, and watch it grow!
Above All, Don’t Take From Your Fund
If you are diligent and dedicated, your vacation fund will grow. When you see it adding up, the temptation to use it for something else can be powerful. This is when you must steel yourself and remember your goal. Picture your getaway as motivation to keep your account untouched.
Save Extra and Unexpected Income
You may receive some extra money in the form of a tax return or work bonus. Maybe you received cash for your birthday or for a holiday. Instead of spending this extra money on something right away, you can put it in your vacation fund to help you build toward your travel goal faster.
A vacation is a present to yourself. And like any present, you’ll need to need to spend a little. Above all, don’t be afraid to treat yourself and enjoy some time away. Take some of the pressure off by starting a vacation budget with some of these tips, and get ready for your next adventure.