We all could use a vacation now and then. But just because we want something doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going to get it. One of the biggest obstacles that get in the way of our travel is rising costs.
In 2010, the average American spent over $1,100 on vacations. That figure includes airfare, lodging, and food. Today, that number has nearly doubled to over $1,900. A family of four can expect to spend nearly $8,000 for a vacation, a princely sum for most people. Between bills, loan payments, and emergency expenses, no wonder people stopped taking vacations.
But just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t afford a vacation. It’s not an impossible task if you plan accordingly and start early. Whether you want to see America’s national parks or go on halibut fishing trips, the same budgeting principles apply.
Here are a few things you need to remember when saving for a vacation:
- Do your research
Before you can set a budget for your vacation, you need to do your research first. The figure should be able to cover all essential expenses plus some breathing room for emergency expenses. Keep in mind that the final figure is final; overspending can be a difficult habit to overcome.
A quick online search should reveal everything you need to know about your budget. There are lots of websites that list the cost of airfare, hotel stay, and the day-to-day expenses in the area. You should also think about ways to minimize expenses. Perhaps you can rent an Airbnb instead of booking a room in a hotel. Or you can prepare your own meals instead of eating out.
No one expects you to budget down to the dollar. The figure is an approximation of everything you’re going to spend on the trip: accommodations, round-trip airfare, food, shopping, sightseeing, and other incidental costs. To make the process easier, you might want to set up a quick spreadsheet to help track your savings and projected expenses.
- Pick a date
Many people forget to take into account one of the most important aspects of budgeting: timing. Travel costs vary wildly depending on the season. Before doing anything, you need to set your travel dates first. That will help you pin down more accurate figures for airfare, lodging, and other costs. Prices go up during peak season, so if you’re on a tight budget, you might want to consider an off-season trip instead.
Dedicate some time to price checking and comparison. Online booking sites should give you a sense of how much you’re going to spend on hotels and compare the rates to other options such as Airbnb. It also helps to check reviews and travel blogs to learn from previous travelers’ experiences.
Once you’ve arrived at an estimate, add 10 to 15 percent on top to account for hidden expenses and taxes. You’re also going to be dealing with a lot of people such as hotel staff so set aside some money for tipping as well.
- Allow yourself some luxuries
A vacation isn’t really a vacation if you don’t allow yourself to splurge on a few things. Even if you’re on a tight budget, you can allow yourself to spend on a few nonessentials if it’s something you really need or want.
Think about one or two things you want to do during your vacation. It could be a day at the spa, a meal at a four-star restaurant, or a trip to the night market. Identifying what you want to do ahead of time allows you to make room in the budget for your luxuries. That way, you won’t have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to pay for your pleasures. Just make sure to adjust your savings plan to accommodate your wants.
- Tighten your belt
Even if you’ve set a date and a budget, they won’t be of any use unless you actually start saving. Prepare to control your spending as you approach your departure date. Minimize nonessential spending such as eating out and your daily dose of Starbucks. You can also review your subscriptions and cancel the ones you can live without.
Some sacrifice is required if you want to be able to pay for your vacation without incurring debt. Just make sure that you’re not cutting out too much that it affects your lifestyle. If your extreme saving has led to a drastic reduction in your quality of life, you might want to rethink your plans.
Meta title: 4 Ways to Save Money on Vacations
Meta description: Just because you’re on a tight budget doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a proper vacation. Here’s how you can save for your dream trip.