Saving For Vacation: Do You Have A Travel Budget?

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. 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!) 


Water Fall in White Mountains, New Hampshire 


If you're starting out summer like we are and can't imagine how to get started on saving for a trip this summer, start small! If you begin planning now and save just $50 a week on your grocery budget throughout the summer, you could save almost $500 by mid-August for a mini vacation. And, if there's really no extra room in your budget for traveling this summer, consider taking day trips and local biking or hiking trails that might be fun for your family.


My little girl on one her first big ski trip in Big Sky, Montana a few years ago


And remember, we are not all at the same place. My hubby and I have been married for(ever?) and have taken almost seventeen years to get to a place financially where we can afford to travel more often with our family. (And believe me, there's been quite a bit of penny pinching along the way!) But, if you do love to travel, look at ways to make it work for you, and determine to save ahead of the trip so that you don't come home to a credit card bill. I promise, you can do this!


Do you have a travel budget in your family's monthly budget? I'd love to hear about how you save! 


Print Friendly and PDF


  1. Hi Laurie,

    That used to be our biggest expenditure. One of the tricks we really love when we go away is to make sure we go somewhere when everyone else is not going LOL. We went to South Carolina in December and January for six weeks for a couple winter vacations. We hopped on VRBO and hunted down beach houses right on the ocean in the lowlands. We were able to secure beautiful homes for $500 a week because it was their off season and being from Central Ohio with no major bodies of water the 40 degree windy days with the gusts off the ocean were our favorite vacations we have ever done. Then some days it would pop up into the 60s and it felt like summer to us compared to where we are from :). It was nice being able to clear out the time to make trips like that because it started to feel like we lived there. We brought a bunch of coolers in our Suburban so we could bring our own food. We didn’t need to go out much because we lived there so cooking saved us a ton of money. For the money it was the best bang for our buck of any of the short vacations we have been on. I highly recommend it if people can ever block out 4-6 weeks for vacation. It is nice to be able to settle in and just leave life behind for a while plus no tourists so it is like being in a vacation spot with no people. We are hoping we can go back this year for a few weeks.

    Your vacation looked like lots of fun! It is the memories that make it so worthwhile.


    • Great tips Jim! I *love* VRBO and definitely try to travel when other folks aren’t (it’s gotten a lot harder as our kids have gotten older, but we know that won’t last forever.) I would love love love to be able to go to one place for 4-6 weeks, but my husband is all about hitting every city on the map, so I can hardly pin him down for more than a night or two at the same place. Now, if we get to ski while we were there he’d be all for it … maybe when we retire! 😉

  2. It was great seeing your Maine trip and the Kennebunkport house. We went to a wedding up there for family friends from Cleveland and the elder Bush along with Phil Mickelson and his wife were driving by our wedding on the Bush boat. Your stories brought back that memory from 2010. They stopped their boat and took pictures with the bride and groom. Maine is an interesting state.

    • WOW Jim ~ what a great story! We definitely loved Maine ~ probably our favorite place to stop along the way. Thanks so much for sharing the link! 🙂

  3. I always look at for travel. Awesome site; use the "forum" to ask questions about the area, or find out about restaurants, attractions, lodging, etc. sometimes has some great deals for lodging, although, I have not booked through them yet. (If I were going to book–I would look at the reviews on tripadvisor, before I made the reservation.) Went to Colonial Williamsburg in May 2012, stayed in a condo w/ full kitchen, (through a LivingSocial deal) and took our lunch everyday. Laurie–I sent you an email with? about your trip.

Speak Your Mind