I think it is safe to assume that all of us look forward to vacations! However, I have, can, and still sometimes get surprised by how much things cost to go on vacation.
A few years ago I really paid attention and kept track of everything we spent on a trip. The results surprised me! You see, I have always been a planner and kept a budget, and keeping track of everything that my family spent on that trip made me realize that I was underestimating the costs of the trip and throwing my budget out of whack.
I had been doing a pretty good job of knowing the cost of the big ticket items such as: airfare, rental car, hotels, estimates for eating out, pre-paid adventures (most of these things were already paid for), but what used to catch me off guard was the spending money, baggage fees, gas for the rental car, transportation/shuttle fees, souvenirs, parking, change/cancellation fees, insurance, and most recently, entrance fees to the the national parks to get to the adventure. I was completely shocked by how much it all added up to.
Then last summer we took a road trip to Banff, Glacier National Park, and McCall, Idaho, and I realized that most of the time when you are budgeting for vacations, you do not budget for the things like car maintenance and oil changes before and after the trip, double-checking the tires and any maintenance or repairs to make sure that the car is safe for the trip, and snacks for the car ride (by the way, we ALWAYS have sunflower seeds, gummy bears, cinnamon bears, and Frito’s, so not healthy but a staple when we travel!). All of these little purchases and small fees add up quickly!
Oh and let’s not forget the pet sitting and house sitting fees that frequently get forgotten and not taken into consideration. I don’t mention all these things to be discouraging, I mention them to explain why it can feel like you end up buried under a pile of bills, struggling to get on top of things when you get back. In the past, I used to feel so discouraged. I would be so excited and proud to think that I had done a good job planning for the costs and would not be coming back to financial chaos. But then I would get back and get frustrated that it didn’t turn out financially how I thought it should.
So what did I do to fix this challenge?
- One of the things that I did, especially when the kids were younger, was give each person a specific dollar amount in cash and/or on a preloaded Visa card. Then they could buy whatever they wanted for their souvenirs, snacks, etc. My husband had his, I had mine, and then all those LITTLE CHARGES that really added up were no longer an issue.
Having this spending money set aside for random things like ice creams, pop, candy bars, or whatever really helped keep our spending in check. As a bonus, this teaches your kids how to manage their money and learn that when it is gone, it is gone (even if they find this really cool thing at the next store!)
- I created a budget specifically set up for vacations. Then I am able to save for the trip and pay for the reservations as I am making them. I put aside a specific dollar amount each week so that we can enjoy family trips that make wonderful memories.
- I started looking for places to stay that had a kitchen. If we are driving, I make a menu ahead of time and pack food. If it is really far away, like when we went to Canada, when we got to our destination, we went to the grocery store and bought what we needed for the trip.
We always have at least a couple of meals that we eat out when we are on vacation, but being able to cook the majority of meals from the place we’re staying makes a tremendous difference in the amount of money that is needed for food.
One last vacation tip: Make sure you contact your bank and let them know you will be traveling so that they do not think your card has been stolen and place a freeze on your account. I’ve had this happen before, and it was not fun!
Interested in the vacation budget I created? Check out The Blue Collar Budget – this budget teaches you how to create a budget that will cover your regular expenses AND set aside money for your next vacation. For only $14.95, the Blue Collar Budget includes weekly, bi-weekly, bi-monthly, monthly, or commission paycheck options, and is available as a downloadable PDF or a fillable online spreadsheet.
Take control of your budget with a proven system that works. Click here to download The Blue Collar Budget today!