If you’re planning your next vacation, consider creating a vacation budget. Whenever someone plans a vacation, they usually have an idea of what they can afford. For example, if they can only afford to take a camping trip this summer, they probably won’t be researching flights to Europe. Still, whether your vacation allotment is large or small, it’s still important to create and organize your vacation budget ahead of time.
There’s nothing worse than having a great vacation only to come home and feel stressed when you look at your depleted bank account. However, when you make a budget ahead of time and make the decision to stick to it, you’re in control of your finances throughout your trip.
When you save ahead of time and create certain budget categories for your vacation, you’re much more likely to enjoy yourself while you travel without the financial hangover when you get home.
Here’s how to organize a vacation budget:
Decide on Your Lodging
Staying in a hotel is just one of many options you have when you’re traveling. My husband and I have been using vacation rentals since traveling with our kids, and we’ve had great success with that. Vacation rentals typically come with a kitchen, so we can use that to cook meals ourselves and save money on food. However, many hotels offer free breakfasts and are in close proximity to many different activities.
For those reasons, consider all options when trying to book your vacation lodging. You might find that staying at a hotel with free breakfast is more affordable than a vacation rental or vice versa. Either way, once you know you lodging situation, you can then plan the next part of your budget, which is your food budget.
Create a Food Budget
When considering your food budget, don’t forget to include things like snacks, coffee, and alcohol. Again, when I travel with my kids, I try to remember to bring their favorite snacks with me. It’s far easier for me to buy a large box of fruit snacks and take a few with me every day than to buy some in a vending machine and overspend.
Try to have an idea of where you’d like to eat each day. You don’t have to plan everything down to the smallest detail, but make a note of if you’re going to sit down at a restaurant to eat or order a pizza to your hotel room.
I always try to plan one nicer meal when I’m on vacation to really enjoy myself, but that’s never the budget breaker. It’s always the small decision to grab ice cream or a coffee at Starbucks that tends to break the food budget. So, just be mindful of small expenses and how they add up while you’re traveling.
Create an Activities Budget
Once you know how much you plan to spend on lodging and food, it’s time to take a look at your activities. Before I started actively planning my trips, I would just wake up and decide to go to a museum or head to an art gallery. However, now that I’m a parent, everything is more expensive. Sometimes, buying four tickets to a museum can cost almost $100 in total, and that can be challenging to afford every day.
So, really plan ahead when you go somewhere. Many museums and cultural sites offer certain times or days of the week when prices are reduced. Sometimes certain excursions or tours offer free tickets to children under a certain age. The more you research, the more you’ll be able to find fun and affordable activities within your budget.
Keep Track While You Travel
It may not sound fun, but I usually check my bank account a few times while I’m on vacation. First, I check to make sure I recognize every charge. I’ve traveled before and have had people steal my credit card information in the airport or in a cafe abroad. So, I always take a peek to make sure everything seems legitimate.
Then, I just make a note of my balance. If I spent more than I meant to one day then I know the following day I need to keep myself in check a little bit better. When you’re on vacation, it can be easy to order an extra umbrella drink or buy a new dress that you see in a window when out shopping.
That said, it’s okay to splurge on little extras so long as you plan for it, as I’ll explain next.
Always Plan for the Extras
When you’re organizing your vacation budget, you should always have padding. No one wants to spend their time and energy to plan an amazing vacation, only to run out of money during the trip. Before you decide to take a vacation, make sure you have enough money for your planned expenses and excursions plus some extra too. Having a buffer is a great way to ensure you don’t overspend too much.
You might also want to consider getting travel insurance for your vacation. I recently planned a trip to Disney World and got travel insurance for the first time. While we were there, a hurricane hit Florida and the Disney Parks actually closed for a short time, which is unheard of. We were unable to get a flight back home quickly enough for my husband to return to work. So, we actually had to rent a car and drive back to Michigan from Florida.
It wasn’t ideal, but because we had travel insurance, we got reimbursed for every unexpected expense, including our car rental, gas, and food we purchased on the drive home.
Ultimately, it’s important to have a financial plan when you are on a vacation. Many people go into “vacation mode” and don’t focus on their spending. However, if you don’t pay attention to your spending, you run the risk of being disappointed when you get home.
A vacation is supposed to be relaxing, and if you’re surprised by your credit card bill or deplete your checking account, you’ll undo any relaxation you experienced while traveling. So, next time you plan a trip, consider setting up a vacation budget ahead of time. You won’t regret it.