The school year is coming to an end, the weather is getting warmer and thoughts of getting away are starting to creep in. If you haven’t started planning for your summer vacation, now is the time to do it.
For some people, one vacation is all they get for the year. If that’s the case, you want to do it right. You want to make sure you have enough money to do what you want, when you want. The best and easiest way to financially plan for your vacation is to include it in your budget. Not only make it a line item in your budget, but set up a special savings account just for your vacation. Designate an amount every pay period or every month to go into this account. Set up your payments electronically. Have your payments directly deposited into your account or set up a transfer into your vacation fund. That way you won’t be tempted to spend the money, and you won’t have to think about it every time either.
Don’t just save enough to cover your accommodations (hotel). Instead, factor in travel expenses both to and from and while you’re there (flight, gas, bus, taxi, etc.). Also add in expenses for your food and other splurges like a spa experience, souvenirs or a new camera. Imagine each day and what it holds for you financially. If you’re taking a family vacation, ask each family member what they expect from the trip. Figure in any costs they may incur and develop a family savings plan. Get everyone involved in the saving process, including the kids. You may find as you start saving there are some things you can live without and some you can’t in order to make your trip worthwhile.
Decide ahead of time the best way to pay for expenses while on your vacation. Try not to carry large amounts of cash with you. Instead, determine if you need to take travelers’ checks or an “accepted-anywhere” credit card. If you have a credit card that comes with rewards or cash rebates, you may want to make it your primary travel card. You could save while on your vacation and earn points to use for your next one. In addition, check with your credit card company for any hidden overseas usage fees. And last but not least, be aware of the costs of ATMs. There are some places, like Las Vegas, where they may charge an ATM usage fee as high as $10! In those cases, look for a checking account with “free ATMs” or ATM refunds. In the end, you want to come back from your vacation feeling fresh and renewed, not bummed, broke and in debt!