I don’t think there is a more relaxing word in the English language than the word “vacation.” Just typing it on my keyboard lowers my heart rate and sends my mind to an isolated beach. I can feel the sun wrapping its warmth around me as I watch the tide dance its way up the shore.
Sorry, I wandered off for a minute there.
Vacationing is a great investment in your family. Nothing is more valuable than quality time spent with those you love most. You just want to make sure you’re not losing too much money on this investment.
The best way to enjoy a carefree vacation is to make it a debt-free vacation. Here are 5 ways to make that happen.
1. Start Saving Now
You know those movies where a couple spontaneously goes to the airport, chooses a random destination, and blissfully skips down the jet way? It seems so romantic and carefree, doesn’t it? That’s because they don’t show you the part where the couple spends the next 6 months making credit card payments in order to pay off that trip.
This description doesn’t fit most of us. In fact, the majority of people spend months planning and scheduling the details of their vacation prior to their departure. We research restaurants, hotels, and fun destinations in great detail before making our final selections. A lot of time the budget falls to the wayside. It’s just as important to diligently plan your vacation budget.
Decide how much everything will cost (travel, food, and fun). Take that number and divide it among the number of months between now and then. So, if you’re traveling in August, take that total number and divide it by 3. This is how much you should be saving each month for this trip. If you find that you can't afford to set that much aside each month, then maybe you need to push back the trip date or choose a cheaper vacation alternative.
2. Pay with Cash
A study by Dun and Bradstreet showed that Americans spend 12-18% more when using a credit card rather than cash. Using cash reigns in our spending and keeps us on track with our budget.
A huge benefit to paying with cash is you can visually see how much you’ve spent and how much you have left over. When that money is gone, you know that you’ve depleted the vacation budget. When swiping a credit card, it’s hard to gage how much you’ve spent and puts you at risk for blowing the budget.
Using cash also makes categorizing your vacation budget easier. Instead of putting food, hotel, and souvenirs all on a credit card, you can split cash into different envelopes to cover these expenses. When you go to pay for your museum ticket, pull it out of the sight-seeing envelope. This helps you keep track of where your money is going.
3. Over-Budget your Trip
Don’t kid yourself when writing your vacation budget. “I’ll just skip lunch every day and only drink water!”
This may sound like an okay plan at the time, but once you’re on vacation this quickly turns into, “Why not order a second margarita? I’m on vacation!”
Over-budget your trip so that you don’t go over budget. This means plan for the most expensive outcomes. Plan on having 3 good meals a day, and give yourself some extra spending money for snacks, drinks, and activities. Try and think of anything that you might do on your trip and add it to the budget. This way there are no surprises and you’re not stuck making tough decisions in the middle of vacation.
Not to mention, when you over budget your trip, you will most likely come home with extra cash in your pocket. While most people come home from vacation with credit card debt, you’ll come home with some extra money in the bank!
4. Call to Book your Vacation
Vacation websites are fantastic when it comes to planning a trip. I regularly use sites like Priceline or Expedia in order to find the perfect hotel. However, instead of booking online, try calling either the hotel or the travel site directly. A lot of times by getting a customer service representative on the phone you can get an added discount.
This can also work with any attractions or activities you may be doing while you’re there. Call each one in order to book it and see what they can do. You’ll be surprised how many places will give you a discount if you ask. Plus, there’s no harm in trying!
5. Involve the Kids in Paying for the Trip
Don’t let those freeloaders sit back and reap the benefits of this trip! Find ways to let your children chip in. Create chores around the house to earn money for the trip. Encourage them to mow some yards or wash a neighbors car for extra spending money on the trip. That way they can buy that souvenir they just can’t live without.
Involving your kids in the saving also teaches them the right way to pay for a vacation. They’ll see that it’s important to save up for a trip instead of going into debt. Show them how much travel and hotel cost. By letting them be a part of the process they will gain ownership of the trip.
Vacations are meant to be a relaxing trip with your loved ones. Diligently planning these details will ensure that you come home with fond memories and a little extra cash.
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