Sense & Centsibility Blog

Planning a Summer Vacation on a Budget

kids at airport

If you are anything like me, you are ready for this winter to be OVER! But we have a few months to go, and believe or not…that is a good thing. Why? Because it gives you time to sock away some major funds for a summer vacation! For the last few years, our little family of four 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 a memory with your family.

I look forward to taking that time to soak in my family and take a trip they will remember forever. That being said, it does come with a price. So the sooner you start planning and saving, the more relaxing and enjoyable your time away will be.

Step One: Create some vacation funds.

  • Decide what you can save from every pay check towards a travel fund. Even if it is just $10. Have it automatically deposited into a separate savings account. The farther it is from your checking account the better!
  • Save wherever you can: Cut coupons, skip eating out, ride share, walk to work, track what you save and add it to your travel fund.
  • De-clutter your home and sell what you don’t need anymore. You can have a garage sale or sell the items online.
  • Do some work on the side to increase your income.

Step Two: Find a destination to fit your family

There are dozens of budget-friendly vacation spots, so do your homework and make sure that you find a place that fits with your family’s favorite activities. For example, if you like to hike you may want to go to the Black Hills in South Dakota or mountain bike in Moab, Utah. If you just want to hang on the beach you have countless options. Make sure that you include the cost of your activities into your budget.

Once you have decided on your destination, talk with people who have been there before or, better yet, someone who lives there. They can fill you in on the must do’s and what you can skip if you have to cut some costs. Remember to stay within your budget!  You don’t have to go far to have the perfect family getaway!

Step Three: Transportation to and from

How you get to your destination can be a huge chunk of your travel costs so here are a few ways to save:


holiday travel

  • Travel light. This will help you to saving on baggage costs! If you need help deciding what you need and what you can leave behind there are websites and blogs galore on how to pack light but still have what you need.
  • Start looking right away. Be flexible on your travel days, and use discount sites to look for further savings. This may include more stops but may save you major dough!
  • Stay close to 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 are there.


  • Get your vehicle tuned up and checked over before you leave. Read our blog, "8 Tips To Improve Your Gas Mileage." This will help your car to 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.
  • Pack a cooler for drinks and snacks for the road. This will save you money on grabbing food on the go from restaurants or convenience stores.
  • You already have your car; there is no need for a rental.

Step Four: Where to stay

  • Use discount sites that allow you to name your price on hotels. This can save you a bundle!
  • Travel with another family, and share a suite or condo with bedrooms. Everyone has their own space, and they usually come with kitchens so that you can share the cost of meals along with the cost of the hotel.
  • Camping can also be a major money saver, but my advice on this one is to have a back-up plan. This comes from personal experience as we decided to scrap our camping plans for a cozy hotel due to severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings! At the time our children were two and four years old and this would have been their first time camping and I am pretty sure it would have been their last. Even though the only hotel room we could find in the whole city was a spendy, two-bedroom king suite, we clearly made the right choice!
  • Check for other discounts.  If you are AAA member, student, or senior you are often eligible for additional savings on hotels. 

Living on a budget can make it hard to travel. At LSS we get that. So remember it doesn't have to be extravagant or over-the-top. Follow these four steps and plan your next vacation on a budget. There is nothing better than taking a trip with your family. The memories will last a lifetime!

Have questions for an LSS counselor? Call 888.577.2227 anytime, or visit our website for resources, financial calculators and more information.  We'd love to hear from you.

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Author Ashley Hagelin is a financial Counselor at LSS Financial Counseling and specializes in Reverse Mortgage Counseling and Partner Relations.