Budgeting for your next family vacation

Phone camera and travel saving money jar on map of the world

When it comes to work benefits like paternity leave, healthcare and paid time off, the U.S. lags behind the rest of the developed world. In the case of vacation time though, that trend is starting to turn around.

Per Project Time Off, U.S. workers took an average of 17.2 days off in 2017, up from 16.8 in 2016. The percentage of American workers who left vacation time on the table moved in the right direction as well, decreasing from 54 to 52 percent. These statistics would show that many people have put a premium on traveling.

Are you among this growing contingent of workers?

Fiscal finesse is always going to play a key role in whether or not you’re going to return home to a mountain of expenses. Therefore, learning how to budget before and during your trip is crucial. A simple monthly budget template coupled with smart spending are two very easy ways to avoid getting into financial trouble.   

If these sound exciting to you, then you’re in the right place. Here, you’ll learn some of the best tips to budget for your next vacation.

This post is part of our Travel Advice series, read all our tips from helping you to narrow down the bucket list to tackling long-haul flights with your kids

lap top planning a holiday

Before the Trip

Use flight Apps to get the best deal

Unless you’re planning to vacation over a holiday or popular travel season, there are probably amazing flight deals to be had. But you won’t get those deals unless you put in the leg work. That means setting up flight alerts with airline aggregators like Google Flights, and apps like Skyscanner. Taking an hour to set up alerts will relieve you of the tedious, seemingly never-ending process of searching for the best deal.

Spend moderately during the Holidays

Unless you plan to vacation during the holidays (which will usually be costly), limiting your spending during this time of year is crucial to budgeting for your next vacation.

After all, having an end goal always makes day-to-day behaviors easier to uphold. When you’re buying gifts and planning meals for different family gatherings, the thought of your vacation will keep you from needless spending. This isn’t to say be a Scrooge. However, as Co-Founder of the Freedom Financial Network Andrew Housser advises, there’s a lot to be said for keeping the holidays about family time and less about how much everyone spends on each other.

Pay in full, up front

In addition to the point above, also pay in full, upfront, before you head out on your trip. Whatever it is that your travel savings amount can afford to pay in full, do so. ideally don’t put everything o credit.

When you do this, you won’t be left dumbfounded by the payables after your trip. Sure, you’re going to use your credit card while you’re on a journey. However, becuase you’ve already paid for a huge bulk of your trip in cash, you’re saved from the possibility of debt.

Common examples of travel expenses that you should be able to pay in full are your airline tickets, accommodation and tours.

Skip the hotel and get an Airbnb

Whether you’re traveling alone, with a significant other or have the whole family in tow, hotels are no longer the de facto mode of lodging—at least, if you want to save a pretty penny. Airbnb operates in cities across the world, disrupting the hotel industry that once existed competition-free.

Budgeting for family vacation rental property

Renting Airbnb usually offer longer, more affordable stays, and positions travelers in areas beyond the downtown or central business district. Having lodging with amenities like a kitchen makes it easy to prepare meals like breakfast, lunch and snacks. This way you can splurge for a few special dinners without worrying about breaking the bank.

Today there are many apps focused on accommodation choices for your travel that you can also use to compare the prices of hotels and other accommodation, such as apartments and Airbnb. Make use of these to give yourself that thorough research before you start on your trip.

During the Trip

Seek out the “Hole-in-the-Wall” establishments

No matter how expensive of a city you decide to travel to, affordable restaurants always exist. Many tourists miss these diamonds in the rough though, instead of falling for the overpriced tourist traps. Don’t let that be you.

Thankfully, the internet and apps like Yelp, TripAdvisor, LonelyPlanet, Google Maps, and more help shine a light on a city’s food scene. It also helps to meet locals and ask them about their favourite spots.

Street food to save on travel expenses

Enjoy free events & public spaces

If the idea of shelling out money every time you do something sounds draining, you’re not alone. While you shouldn’t avoid doing things merely because they cost money, you’ll enjoy your vacation a lot more with a mix of free and paid activities. From free or discounted museum days to public parks, every city offers free or low-cost options for locals and tourists alike. Find them!

Budgeting for family vacation museums
London’s museums are completely free to enjoy

If you have kids and toddlers with you, even a day to the beach or the playground will already be a great and pleasant experience.

Cherish the sentimental instead of the purchased

Who doesn’t love a good keepsake from a trip? The issue many people have when they take a trip, however, is that they go overboard with these keepsakes. Soon enough, they’ve bought a t-shirt with the location on it for the extended family.

This is a sweet thought, but is it necessary? What if you captured the trip with photos of the city and your vacation squad instead? Photos are free and last a lifetime and beyond. If you still want to bring things back for loved ones, aim for small, inexpensive and personally tailored items. The people in your life will appreciate those just as much as an overpriced souvenir in a touristy boutique.

If you’re nervous about overspending ahead of your vacation, make a list of things you’re looking for so you can avoid those spontaneous purchases (and ensure you have enough room in your suitcase to make it back home).

Children playing on Bali beach
One of my favourite beach moments from Bali

Final Words

When the time comes that everyone can travel again, you can now turn those travel goals into a reality! If you onve feared that travel is something that you cannot afford, given your tight monthly budget, with these tips you can now see it is doable. You just have to be smart with your strategies.

Ready to start budgeting for that vacation? Let us know what other tips you’ve come across to free up vacation funds in the comments section. We’d love to know!

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