Taking a vacation is supposed to help alleviate stress, not add to it. But for those of us who do not have unlimited funds to work with, it can do just that. Planning fun for the whole family and providing for transportation, meals and accommodations can be tricky, and paying for it all can be even trickier.
We all know how important it is to have a household budget. But we tend to forget about budgeting when it comes to vacations. If we can create a vacation budget and follow it closely, it can help us enjoy our getaway without worrying about money.
How Much Can You Afford to Spend?
In order for a vacation budget to work, we must first determine how much we can afford to spend. If you have money set aside in a vacation fund, this might be the easy part. But if you’re working with money from general savings or a tax refund, it will require some thought.
Spending every penny you have that isn’t required for bills on a vacation is not a good idea. Having an emergency fund is important for any family. If you already have plenty of money put away for emergencies and the bills are paid, using your tax refund for a trip isn’t such a bad thing. Otherwise, take care of the more important stuff before you allocate funds for vacationing.
If you just have a savings account but haven’t decided how you will use the money, resist the urge to spend it all on a vacation. Setting some money aside for a rainy day will do you a lot more good than hitting all of the hottest spots on your trip. The general rule is to have at least enough money put back to pay all of your expenses for at least three months. If you’re nowhere near that point, try to keep enough to at least have a good start toward that.
What to Include in Your Budget
Vacation expenses have a way of sneaking up on us. And that’s exactly why a budget is so important. It forces us to consider all possible expenses and account for them so that there are no surprises. Here are the basic expenses you’ll need to account for:
* Transportation – This could be airfare, bus, or train fare, or gas for a road trip. If you’re not taking your own vehicle, you’ll probably also need to rent a car when you reach your destination. And then there’s the gas you’ll use while you’re there.
* Accommodations – Unless you’re doing an at-home vacation or staying with a friend or relative, you’ll have to pay for a place to stay.
* Food – You have to eat while you’re on vacation. Some packages include a meal plan, but if yours doesn’t, you’ll need to budget for your meals. You can save money by taking your own food to prepare if you rent a place with a kitchen.
* Entertainment – This is a biggie. You have to pay to get in to the beach, amusement park, or whatever other attraction you’re visiting. But there may be times when you or other family members want to do something else, so be sure to account for that as well.
* Shopping – When most people go on vacation, they come home with souvenirs. So it’s important to set aside some money for them.
Money should not be a constant worry when you’re on vacation. If you set a budget and stick to it, it doesn’t have to be.