As the weather warms up, so do our thoughts about jetting off to far-away places and tropical destinations.
Though vacation is about fun and relaxation, you still need to pay attention to your expenses. The last thing you want to do is come home to an empty fridge and an empty wallet. Saving the funds before you leave home – and setting a budget in advance to keep vacation spending in check – is always better than the I’ll-worry-about-it-after-I-get-back scenario.
Here are some travel-planning tips for a worry (and debt-free) vacation.
What to do before you leave
Add to your vacation piggy bank.
It’s generally accepted that around 8% of your year’s annual budget can go to ‘fun’ spending like vacations. But, keep in mind that everyone has different circumstances and priorities. You have to assess your own situation and decide what you can dedicate to a vacation and work within that budget.
Create a daily budget – and do your best to stick to it.
Crunch the numbers before you jet off. Remember to factor in everything that you will be opening your wallet for, like food, car rentals, gas, and spending money. That way, you’ll have peace of mind when deciding between lobster or chicken at the beach-front patio restaurant.
Save on airfare.
Track the cost of your fare at least one month in advance of booking to get a sense of when to buy. Don’t wait too long though – you want to book at least two weeks prior to your trip for the best price. And don’t forget about those frequent flier miles or other travel rewards you may have chalked up on credit cards or point cards.
What about staycations?
Sometimes less is more. Here’s an idea – skip the exotic location and expensive resort and stay home instead. This doesn’t mean that you can’t spend a night or two away from home. Just think more Whistler or Harrison Hot Springs as opposed to Hawaii or Mexico.
Ensure you’re insured.
Before you leave, make sure that your insurance is up-to-date and that it covers you for everything you might need. This includes travel insurance (because nobody wants to get a foot-long bill after getting sick in a foreign country), as well as house insurance – just in case. Is it up to date, paid, and in order? That way you can just focus on the important stuff (like, you know, drinking out of a pineapple) instead of worrying about health or house issues.
Bring the bare necessities.
Bring the vacation necessities to avoid paying premiums on things like sunscreen and towels. Oh, and don’t forget your swimsuit.
What to do while you’re away
Ok, so SaveB&B isn’t a thing, but you get what we’re saying. For starters, look at alternatives to expensive hotels, like apartment or vacation home rentals. There are plenty of sites you can check out to find a perfect rental your price range & location. If you’re traveling with other families, rent a larger vacation home and you’ll save even more. See? Saving your hard-earned dollars on a place to stay makes sense (…and cents).
Stay full, but keep your wallet full too.
Make as many of your own meals as you can – maybe do breakfast and lunch, and treat yourself to dinners out. You can even do that if you are staying at a hotel, but its way easier if you are in a rental home or condo.
Keep in mind foreign currency fluctuations. You should also avoid foreign exchange kiosks because they can have really high fees. Instead, go to a bank to change money. You might want to shop around for the best foreign currency rate – you could end up saving more money than you think.
If you’re planning on using your credit card or withdrawing money while you’re away, check with your financial institution to ensure you don’t run into extra charges.
What to do when you’re back
Check your credit card statement.
Ideally, you should have put away a little bit of money each month to build your vacation fund before you left. If you rely too heavily on your credit card and convince yourself that you’ll deal with it when you get back, you can run into high interest rates and a longer pay-off time. So pay off that credit card bill ASAP and start saving for your next sunny getaway.
If all this talk about budgeting and setting money aside in advance is feeling a little distant for you, don’t worry. Come in for a Money Chat and we’ll help you budget for what’s important in your life. If that trip to Mexico is important to you, it’s important to us.