Your next vacation is coming up and you’re really looking forward to it, but you’re also a little nervous about the impact it’s going to have on your bank account. Maybe you knew the trip was pushing your budget when you booked it, or maybe your financial situation has shifted since you made the plans, or perhaps you just know you tend to get a little spendy when you’re away from home and in a beautiful new location.
In any case, it’s still possible to go on vacation and not bust your budget while you’re there. To avoid money woes bringing you down from your post-vacation bliss, these are some tips to keep in mind.
1. Create a vacation budget ahead of time
If you go in equipped with a plan and a clear idea of how much you can realistically spend, you’re less likely to go out of bounds. “Break up your vacation budget into needs and wants,” according to Ally. Needs include things like lodging, food, transportation and emergency cash, whereas wants are things like tours, excursions and other outings, as well as souvenirs. Once you see how much money is going toward your needs, you can determine how much you can allocate toward your wants.
Set aside 20% of your total vacation budget as a “cushion for your vacation, in case you run into unexpected expenses,” per Rocket Money. And if that money goes unused, you can then “funnel it back into your savings account or maybe to get a head start on your next vacation fund.”
2. Plan and prioritize
Hand in hand with budgeting is establishing a loose plan for what you’d like to do while you’re away. Identify what your true priorities are and what’s OK to skip. “It’s all about priorities and creating balance between spending on what matters to you and pulling back on what doesn’t,” stated Ally.
Plus, with a basic itinerary in hand, you can better plan for the costs you’ll incur both for and around those activities you’re planning to do. Scope out the price for tickets you’ll need to buy and any entry fees you’ll need to cover, and also dig into what food and transportation options might be nearby. According to Ally, “You don’t have to plan every moment, but plotting out costs ahead of time can save you from surprises and budget busters.”
As a bonus, familiarizing yourself with costs ahead of time can “help you avoid getting up-charged with a so-called unofficial ‘tourist tax,'” stated Nerdwallet. If you research average tax costs in advance, you’ll better “know the ranges to expect”‘ once you’re there.
3. Look out for coupons and deals
As you’re scoping out your itinerary, also keep an eye out for any coupons or deals you might be able to land. Groupon is a helpful resource for “finding travel deals,” as it “offers discounted rates on travel packages, activities and experiences,” reported Rocket Money. And CityPass and Go City “sell a dizzying array of discount packages in a dozen or more of the most popular urban tourist destinations in the U.S.,” according to Money Crashers.
If you’re going abroad, look out for “city-specific passes,” per Money Crashers. For instance, it reported that Lisbon, Portugal, offers a “Lisboa Card, a multi-attraction pass that doubled as an unlimited-use transit pass,” which allowed the author and his wife to see “at least a dozen of the included sights at no out-of-pocket cost.” And if you’re into museums, visit a museum’s website ahead of time to see if there are any times at which you can go for free or at least pay what you can, suggested Money Crashers.
4. Eat some meals in
Eating out, especially if you’re doing it for every meal, can get expensive fast. Consider instead saving your restaurant experiences for spots you’re excited to go to, and then eat in for the rest of your meals. Eating in doesn’t have to be a drag either, as Nerdwallet noted that “visiting local markets can be an adventure on its own,” as you’ll likely come across “different types of foods that you wouldn’t necessarily come across at home.” Even better, “having food on hand means you’ll likely save money, as you’ll be less tempted to buy the stale, overpriced muffin from the hotel cafe just because you were hungry,” stated Nerdwallet.
Of course, you will still need to be mindful of what your food preparation setup is. For instance, your hotel room might not offer much in terms of a kitchen. Still, you could stock up on “nonperishable items such as snacks, canned goods and beverages,” suggested Rocket Money, which can be “convenient for quick meals or late-night cravings.”
And bring along a reusable water bottle, according to Rocket Money. That way, whenever you’re thirsty, you can simply fill it up, which “eliminates spending money on expensive beverages whenever you feel thirsty,” stated Rocket Money.
Becca Stanek has worked as an editor and writer in the personal finance space since 2017. She has previously served as the managing editor for investing and savings content at LendingTree, an editor at SmartAsset and a staff writer for The Week.
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