Life Events: Vacation Budgeting

Use these helpful tips to save money on your next vacation.

Many Americans are regrettably not using the vacation days provided by their employers. A 2013 survey by found that the average American was given 14 days of vacation but only used 10. That left an estimated 577,212,000 of vacation days wasted. Some reasons for not taking vacation include stockpiling days for future use, failure to properly schedule a vacation, cashing in their unused days, and a lack of budgeting.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conducted their own survey and found that more than two-thirds of HR professionals said they believe that if employees took more vacation, they would have higher job satisfaction and increase productivity. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to budget for your next vacation and improve your outlook on your job!

Pre-Vacation Planning

Financing a vacation comes in two parts. The first involves planning carefully before you arrive. Because once you arrive all the work you’ve done to make your vacation a success will begin to pay off. So let’s get started.

  1. Budget: Use a vacation budget planner to help you get started. Before you start plugging in numbers, think about how much money you can realistically afford to spend. You don’t need a ton of money to enjoy time away with your family or friends. If your funds are limited you may have to save money for a longer period of time or limit your expectations.
  2. Savings account: Once you get a better understanding of how much money you can set aside each paycheck, open an account and have the money automatically deducted. Even if it’s not a large amount, every little bit counts and you won’t be as inclined to take money out if it’s separated from your regular bank account.
  3. Destination: If you don’t have a lot of money, then you probably won’t travel to Europe because the flights alone can drain your budget. Pick a spot that’s within your financial target.
  4. Costs: Now that you have a destination, study it. Find out what type of accommodations are available, if you need to rent a car, flight costs, gas costs if you’re driving, food and entertainment expenses. Check out the local tourism board or other associations geared toward assisting tourists for any special rates. Do an online search on your destination. Call AAA if you are a member and checkout rewards on your credit card. Use websites such as Smarter Travel,, Orbitz and Travelocity. Plug all the numbers into your budget sheet.
  5. Off-peak: Travel to a southern destination during the summer, rather than during the winter months when places like Florida are packed, or visit a winter ski hot spot during the summer when hotels and restaurants are hungry for business they often have loads of outdoor summer activities that don’t draw as big of a crowd. For European vacations, October through April is generally regarded as off-season.
  6. Stay with friends or family: Maybe some friends live in a place you’d like to visit. If they don’t mind guests and you don’t mind the close quarters, look them up. You can always chip in for groceries.
  7. Visit a National Park: These parks are both beautiful and cheap but they may be a bit primitive. Check out the National Park Service website for more details.
  8. Volunteer vacations: This may be a reach, especially if you want to relax and do nothing on your vacation. The cost varies from cheap to more expensive, but if you’re interested in helping people and their environment and a trip to Peru or Tanzania sounds exciting, give one a try. Here is a link to DiscoverCorps for more information.
  9. Home exchange: If you don’t mind swapping your home with another traveling family this is an interesting and largely less expensive way to travel. Learn more at and Intervac.

Once You Arrive

When you arrive at your destination it’s a good idea to become acquainted with it as quickly as possible. Ask the concierge for a map, or if you’re staying at a quaint B&B ask the owner for quick overview of the local area or buy a travel guide. Once you have an idea of where you want to go, it’s time to enjoy and save money.

  1. Food shop: When you’re on a budget, eating out once or twice a day can quickly drain your money. Check out a local market or grocery store and buy provisions so you can make meals on your own. If there’s a local market purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season.
  2. Picnic: Packing a picnic lunch is always fun for the whole family and it beats the cost of eating out. It’s also a great time to enjoy nature and the local people. Look for a park or maybe a town square where they offer a nice place to relax.
  3. Avoid touristy restaurants: If you do want to eat out don’t go to a tourist trap. Find a local joint where the regulars eat. Chances are the prices will be lower and the food much better. Also, make lunch your main meal. Dinner prices are usually more expensive.
  4. Street food: If you’re visiting a city find the local food trucks or street vendors. They offer a great way to sample local food at a fair price just make sure they are clean. Also, the busier the place the hotter and fresher the food.
  5. Public transportation: If you can’t walk to your destination, take advantage of subways, buses and trains. They are usually cheaper than taxis and you can sometimes buy passes.
  6. Save on gas: If you are driving use the, phone app to find the cheapest gas prices in your area.
  7. Use ATMs: If you are traveling abroad you’ll get cash cheaper at an ATM rate compared to a bank or other money exchange bureaus. Take out larger sums of money because banks will charge a fee for the ATM usage.
  8. Tipping: When traveling in foreign countries research their tipping habits before you leave. Americans usually tip more than anyone else. Save money and tip like a local.
  9. Free things to do: From museums to art galleries, music and cultural events, many travel destinations offer free entertainment for the whole family.
  10. Gifts and souvenirs: It’s nice to bring home a souvenir from a great travel destination and gifts for family and friends. However, these should be at a minimum and don’t waste your money on cheap trinkets.

If you need help budgeting or just want to talk about improving money management skills call Consolidated Credit today. A certified credit counselor can evaluate your debts and properly plan for your financial future. Call to speak with a credit counselor now. You can also take the first step online with a free Debt & Budget Analysis.