Family Looking at Map

01 May

Creating a Vacation Budget You Can Stick To

Time away from the everyday routine is important for everyone: you, your spouse and your kids. It’s important to get away and reconnect with one another. Now, this can seem like an impossibility for many. Savings are limited, debt is too high or you’re just trying to save for something else right now.

If that sounds like you, then we recommend doing the following:

  1. Pack a picnic lunch and take a day trip to hike, bike or just visit a town you’ve never been to before.
  2. Play pretend. Can’t take the kids to Colorado? Then, encourage them to pretend like you’re there right now. What do they think it will look like? Look up pictures and maps on Google. Teach them a little about the place you wish you could go and encourage their active imaginations.
  3. Put relaxation on the agenda for an entire day. No cleaning, no grocery shopping, no running errands… an entire day for the family to spend together with nothing planned. Have a movie marathon or have a board game tournament. Check out these other cost friendly ideas.

You don’t have to take your family on a week long vacation to connect with them and relax away from work. It’s more about making the commitment to take that time away from the everyday tasks so you can focus only on making memories with your family.

Now, if you have a little savings for a family vacation, then start planning.

First, start with your budget. What’s the max amount you can spend? Where is an affordable location based on your budget? How many days can you afford to stay away?

Now, commit to it.

Your careful budgeting and planning won’t mean much if on the first day of vacation you decide to spend a quarter of your budget on something unexpected. If you have a solid plan for paying it off within the month you return home, then it might be OK. But, if you’ve set a strict budget, just save that activity for next time you come back.

Budgeting for your Vacation

Here are more tips as you plan and go on your next vacation. Following these ideas will help you stick to the budget you’ve set.

  • Be practical and realistic. Don’t ruin your vacation by coming home to a large pile of debt. When you get home, you want to begin dreaming of your next adventure. That’s difficult to do when you’re still paying off the last trip. As you create your budget, decide specifics. How much will be needed for gas, food, activities, souvenirs, etc? Figure out the ballpark and see if your budget will allow it. If not, it’s time to scale back your trip. Maybe you save those plans for Fall and continue saving. Or, maybe you cut that trip idea altogether and plan a smaller, closer-to-home trip.


  • Have a family planning meeting. Ask everyone to list what they want for their vacation. What is their priority for the trip? This will help you gage what’s most important to your family and also help you create a budget that fits the priorities you came up with as a family. This way you’re only spending money on what really matters.


  • Plan your activities ahead of time, but don’t pack your schedule. Planning ahead means you have time to find discounts, a Groupon or coupons. But, don’t schedule every minute. Otherwise you’ll look back on your vacation and only remember the exhaustion felt and the money spent.


  • Check your destination’s travel website for free events, concerts and activities. Check it often as you get closer to your travel date as many events may not be added until a week or two prior to the event.


  • Buy a VISA gift card. You will know exactly how much you have to spend on extras. You’ll feel the freedom of swiping the card at restaurants and stores, but you’ll be more mindful of the limit on it.


  • Pack a cooler. Feeding a family on the road can quickly eat away at your vacation budget (pun intended). Many tourist friendly towns boast more activities but also can have higher prices at restaurants. So, take advantage of that free ice machine in your hotel and use a cooler! Especially if you’re driving, plan your lunch stops around rest stops and local parks with picnic pavilions. Get on and off the road quickly, eat a healthy lunch and have a chance to stretch your legs.


  • Don’t give your kids their entire vacation allowance. Let them start with a small amount. As the trip progresses and the budget allows you can surprise them with a little extra cash for something they want or activity they want to do.  


  • Leave flex dollars in your budget. If you have $800 to spend, only plan activities and expenses as if you have $700. Then, when you get to the destination, you’ll know you have a little extra to splurge on something or change your plans. Or, you might even come home with $100 left over to immediately jumpstart your next vacation savings account.


The goal? It’s two-fold:

  1. To reconnect with your family and relax for an extended amount of time. That might be one day or an entire week.
  2. To come back refreshed, dreaming of your next trip, not worried over extras put on your credit card.

Vacation is what you make of it. Just make sure you’re not creating a financial mess for you or your family. Read more about budgeting and saving money here!