A pretty church we saw last summer in Key West
There are tons of ways to save while you travel (my favorite is definitely packing a picnic lunch ~ that saves us nearly $30 every time we skip eating at a restaurant!), but even if you pinch those pennies til they scream, no vacation is going to come free. So, figuring out ways to start saving for vacation has got to be your first goal before you plan your trip.
The Chapel at West Point
Because my hubby would happily vacation his life away (and I’d go right along with him!), he works really hard to keep up with our family’s budget, and budgets a certain amount of money each month all year long which gets deposited in a separate savings account just for vacation. That money is completely out of (easy) reach for us, so we don’t overspend on things that aren’t as important to us. If you haven’t ever saved for a vacation before, here are a few tips to get you started:
One of the buildings at Yale University
- Start early. Decide when you’d like to go, and try to prepare for your trip as much in advance as possible. We just got home last week, and I can guarantee you my husband has already started depositing money for next year’s vacation.
- Determine how long you’d like to travel. Do you want to go for just a weekend, a week, or ten days? Decide exactly how long you’ll be gone so that you can start correctly planning your budget.
- Figure out about how much you’ll spend per night on hotels. (We usually figure $100-$150 including taxes and fees and typically stay at Hampton Inns because they offer free breakfast and are pretty consistent as far as their quality.) You may also find deals at websites like Kayak, Priceline or Travelocity, but we’ve not found many hotels well under $100 even on those sites.
- Decide how much budget you’ll need for dining while you’re traveling. We typically eat breakfast in the hotel if possible, have a picnic lunch if it’s possible , and enjoy one “decent” meal out per day. For our family of five, our dinners can range from $25 (fast food) to $50 for a real meal, so definitely plan accordingly!
- Consider how much you’ll want to spend on activities in the areas you’re traveling to. We try as much as possible to go to places that are free (think parks, beaches, free factory tours), but sometimes there are special places we also want to visit. When we visited New York City, my husband really wanted to see the top of the Empire State Building, so (while I thought it was way too pricey!) we included that in the budget.
- Plan for extra items ~ things like parking, souvenirs, and extra food along the road. Even if you plan incredibly well, extra expenses always come up. (I paid $5.99 for bug spray because I completely forgot to pack it ~ yikes!) So, plan some wiggle room as you go so that you aren’t surprised when those expense arise. (Trust me, they will pop up!)