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Vacation Budget Planner

Written by:
Financial Literacy Specialist

According to a 2024 TripAdvisor survey, 90% of Americans plan on taking a vacation this year, reflecting a continued strong interest in traveling.

However, the cost of traveling remains high. The average cost of a one-week vacation for one person is now around $2,700. For a family of four, the cost can exceed $10,000. Even short trips can strain finances.

If you’re working to eliminate debt, you certainly don’t want additional charges on top of your existing balances. Instead of canceling your trip, set a vacation budget that doesn’t break the bank. Consolidated Credit is here to help!

Use our free Vacation Budget Planner to get started

Living on a budget and working to pay off debt doesn’t mean you have to skip things like vacations. Instead, you simply need to plan a vacation that works for your finances. That may mean putting off an extravagant trip in favor of one that’s more affordable.

We’ve created this interactive vacation budget planner to help you set a budget. First, choose how much to budget for a vacation based on your annual income. Then set targets for each type of expense. Once you factor in all your expenses, you’ll get a vacation budget sheet outline that you can save or print.

Vacation Planning Tips

Financing a vacation comes in two parts. The first step is to plan your vacation and set a travel budget for all your expenses before you arrive. Following these budget travel tips can help you avoid credit card debt. Even if you use a credit card to pay for certain expenses, such as plane tickets or the reservation for a hotel room, you want to have funds available to pay off the charges quickly.

#1: Set up a vacation savings account

Setting aside money in an account that’s separate from your primary checking account will keep you from using money needed for essentials like rent, food, and bills. It’s a good idea to start now, regardless of whether you have an upcoming trip or not (you’ll end up going on a trip eventually, right?).

How you fund your vacation fund is up to you. If you have a specific amount you need to save, setting up automatic deposits is the most reliable way to build your vacation savings. If you don’t have an upcoming trip to save for, contributing extra cash now and then can help you get started without straining your budget.

#3: Avoid travel during peak times

The time of year of your travels, as well as the specific day of the week, can make a big difference on your wallet. Summer is one of the most popular times for travel in the U.S. with school being out for summer vacation. Airlines and hotels know this and so summer travel tends to be more expensive. Traveling around the holidays (any holiday), can also cause costs to be pricey.

When it comes to picking flights, choose ones during the week which are less popular. Tuesday is known for being the cheapest day to fly whereas Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are the most popular, and therefore also tend to be the most expensive. Similarly, hotels and other accommodations are going to be more crowded on weekends. Booking a trip for Monday-Friday may be more cost-effective

#4: Study your destination

Most cities offer coupon books to travelers for discounts on food, entertainment, and events. You can also find free local events, such as festivals, through community calendars. If you use apps like Living Social or Groupon, simply switch your location to search for discounts and special offers. This will help you plan activities that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

#5: Minimize your food expenses

After travel and accommodations, food is usually the next biggest vacation expense. Use these tips to avoid overspending that usually winds up on credit cards:

  • Hotel vending machines and minibars are notoriously expensive! Skip them and get snacks and drinks at a nearby convenience store instead.
    • Avoid ordering room service
  • Pack food for the trip instead of having to buy food once you’re en route or at the airport
  • Avoid tourist-trap restaurants. Ask where the locals eat, since it will usually be less pricey.

#6: Figure out how you’ll get around

Is your destination walkable or is some sort of vehicle required? Have at least a general idea of what areas you plan on visiting to get an idea of what’s the most cost-effective way of getting around. For instance, if you’re going to be staying in a small radius, a rented bike or scooter or public transit might suffice. Or if you plan on covering more ground, compare the costs of renting a car to that of a taxi or ridesharing service.

Many hotels offer complimentary shuttles that go to nearby popular destinations and many tourist-friendly areas offer free trolleys and other local transport. Do your research ahead of time to determine what public and private transport options are feasible.

If you decide to drive a vehicle—either yours or a rental—use to find the cheapest gas in that area.

#7: Find free things to do

Going back to the tip above from pre-planning, change your location on Living Social or Group to find discounts and coupons on local activities. If you’re staying at a hotel, ask the concierge if they have a coupon book for local attractions.

You may also be able to find museums, art galleries, music, and cultural events that are either free or discounted.

#8: Keep currency exchange rates and taxes in mind

If you’re going on an international trip, not knowing exchange rates, local taxes, and tipping practices can cause a lot of expensive headaches. Here are some things to consider:

  • Will you be able to use your credit cards where you’re going, or is cash more commonly used?
  • Are there ATMs available where you’re going?
  • If you’re using a credit card, make sure it’s one that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
  • Look online for tipping rules or ask the concierge about customary tipping. Most countries tend to tip less than we do in the U.S.

Don’t let credit card debt put a damper on your trip. Talk to a certified credit counselor now to find solutions to pay your balances off faster.


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