Preparing for vacation involves more than just picking a destination. And one of the greatest pitfalls to avoid is spending beyond your budget. So, before you stuff that last thing into your suitcase, consider these ways to allocate your vacation funds.
OVERESTIMATE YOUR COSTS It’s good to know how much you want to (and can) spend on your trip, but extra things might creep up here and there. Rounding costs up, like your gas budget from $75 to $100 for example, might be the wiggle room you need to keep everything on track.
Carrying around some of your budget in cash as a sort of emergency fund is also a good idea for a few reasons. One, you’ll have designated spending money for tips, tolls or souvenirs. Two, you’ll have a backup in the event something goes awry, or you’re at a place that doesn’t accept your credit card.
PAY AHEAD Even if it’s not possible to pay for your trip in increments, it’s helpful to treat it as if you can. Time permitting, create your budget well in advance, so you can save money for your vacation with every paycheck.
Booking your hotel early or picking up tickets to the event you’ve had your eyes on can make your trip feel like less of a financial burden. Plus, breaking up the overall cost into smaller, more manageable bits makes it easier to fit into your everyday budget.
USE EMAIL ALERTS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Planning a trip likely means your email inbox will be flooded with updates. Confirmation emails, event reminders, credit card updates, you name it. But opting in to email alerts could be just what your budget needs.
Companies send emails on deals ranging from discounted flights to reduced hotel rooms that can help your budget for upcoming travel. For instance, an offer email can alert you to a better deal than the one you’ve already secured. In some cases, you can then cancel and rebook your reservation to get the cheaper price. The difference can be used to cover, or add to, another part of your trip.
PLAN OUT MEALS
Spend some time mapping out restaurants you want to eat at while away to get a better idea of your food budget. If there’s a high-end steak house that’s nonnegotiable for your visit, you can cut costs for other meals to make up for it.
Staying in a hotel? Consider accommodations that include breakfast to avoid budgeting for the first meal of the day.
And don’t forget about leftovers. They can be a cost-effective way to stretch your vacation budget even further. Just make sure you have access to a refrigerator and microwave or oven to keep your food safe to eat.
JOIN REWARDS PROGRAMS When it comes to planning ahead for your next getaway, take advantage of reward programs with airlines, hotels, rental car companies and more. Most are free to sign up for, and they offer a wide range of benefits. Not only can you earn points for the trip you’re booking now, but you can also start saving your points to apply to your next vacation.
In the meantime, another way to earn is by using a points-eligible credit card on your trip for every transaction you make. On most cards, you can use those points toward your statement, which helps to cover some of the cost of the overall journey.
BE ON YOUR WAY
Whether your vacation is right around the corner or months away, these tips can help make planning a budget-friendly vacation that much easier.
By Allison Scott, GM Financial
Allison Scott stays plugged in to all things electric cars-related, and likes to balance it out by sharing a budgeting tip or two. When she's not working, you'll find her jamming out to John Mayer, cracking "dad jokes" or cheering on the Dallas Stars.