Sense & Centsibility Blog

How to plan a summer vacation on a budget

If you’re anything like me, you’re ready for this winter to be over...NOW! We have a couple months to go, but that’s actually a good thing. It will give you time to put away some funds for a summer vacation. For the last few years, our little family of 4 has embarked on a week long road trip in the summer. Why? Because there is no gift that lasts longer or has more value than memories with your family. However, as we all know vacations cost money. So the sooner you start planning and saving, the more relaxing and enjoyable your time away will be. STEP 1: CREATE VACATION FUNDS Decide what you can save from each paycheck then set it aside. If you can have it automatically deposited into a savings account, that’s best. You're more likely to let it build up if you don't have easy access to it. Save wherever you can...cut coupons, skip dining out, ride share, walk to work. De-clutter your home and sell unneeded items. Then have a garage sale or sell the items on a reputable/safe website. Do some work on the side to increase your income, such as mowing lawns or babysitting. Track what you save or earn and add it to your vacation fund. STEP 2: FIND A DESTINATIONYoung Family Enjoying Barbeque On Beach Do your homework and find a place that fits with your family’s favorite activities. Like hiking? Try Yosemite or the Black Hills or mountain bike in Moab, Utah. Or if you like the beach, there are countless options. Then remember to stick within your vacation budget. Look up potential costs online or ask people who live where you're going. Remember: you don’t always have to go far to have the perfect family getaway. STEP 3: TRANSPORTATION Flying: Travel light. This helps save on baggage costs. Start looking for flights now and be flexible on travel days. Using discount websites helps increase savings. Fly into major airports if you can...generally the larger the hub, the less expensive the ticket. Look at public transportation instead of car rentals once you arrive at your destination. Driving: Get your vehicle tuned up and checked over before you leave. Click to read 8 Tips To Improve Your Gas Mileage. This will help your car be more efficient, allowing you to get the best bang for your gas bucks. It will also help to spot any potential issues before they happen which may save you from spending any of your vacation on the side of the road. If you own only gas guzzlers or older vehicles, check to see if renting a car would be cheaper - depending on how far you're traveling. Pack a cooler for drinks/snacks on the road, saving you from having to purchase food from gas stations or restaurants on the way. STEP 4: WHERE TO STAY Use discount sites that allow you to name your price on hotels and find one with free continental breakfast. Travel with family or friends and split the costs of a suite or condo. Everyone has their own space and they usually come with kitchens so that you can share the cost of meals, not to mention this saves a lot of money not having to dine out for every meal. If you have friends or family somewhere you'd like to travel to, ask them if they want to house swap for a week so that you can all get a vacation away from home. Camping can be a good way to save money, but have a back-up plan in case of bad weather. Also, check for discounts if you’re a AAA member, student, veteran, or senior citizen. Not all of us can afford a cruise or trip to the Caribbean, but we all deserve a break from the daily grind. These tips above will hopefully help you plan the perfect family vacation without busting your budget. And remember: whether it's a trip across the county or across the state, the memories made are what really count. Want budgeting tips or have a question for one of our Financial Counselors? Call us at 888.577.2227 or visit for financial resources, calculators, and more. Author Ashley Hagelin is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling and specializes in Reverse Mortgage Counseling.