Ways to Budget for Your Summer Vacation

Saving for a summer trip now will save you from stressful money thoughts when lying on the beach.

Summer vacation might feel like a long way away, but setting up a savings strategy now can help you cover the costs of that upcoming getaway with less stress.

It can be tricky to put together a travel budget for a vacation so far in the future, so start researching hotel early bird specials and using websites such as Arik Airline, Etihad, Lufthansa or Aero to get a ballpark estimate for your flight costs this summer. When you have a budget range to work with, use these nine tips to start saving for your big summer vacation:

1. Be realistic about what you can afford: We all want an amazing, no-holds-barred vacation, but choosing a trip you can’t afford will likely add more stress to your life. After all, what’s the point of taking time to relax if you will be paying for it for several months to come?

2. Start a dedicated travel fund. It’s easier to save when you have a specific goal in mind. Think about where you want to go, research how much it costs and develop a consistent savings plan well in advance. Review the account regularly to keep yourself motivated and on track with your savings plan.

3. Make weekly, not monthly, contributions. Even if you prefer a monthly budget to organize your income and expenses, consider setting up a separate running category where you can make weekly contributions for your summer vacation fund. Making a habit of depositing money into your summer vacation fund every week  instead of every month can help you make saving money for a specific goal a higher priority in your life. Whether this happens in the form of writing yourself a check and going to the bank to make the deposit, setting up a standing instruction or simply transferring funds between accounts on a weekly basis, add it to your calendar so you don’t miss out on the opportunity to build up that savings account.

4. Scale back leisure expenses for at least three months. Commit to cutting back on extras for at least 90 days so you can free up more money for that vacation. Take a closer look at your spending habits and consider how much you are spending on eating out, entertainment or even last-minute trips. Put yourself in a mindset of limiting extra expenses so you can maximize your budget.

5. ALWAYS check for deals and discounts online. This can be a big money-saver! You can find deals on hotels, flights, and local attractions and events through sites like SME MarketHub, Travelzoo, LivingSocial or Wakanow. Be aware of any restrictions on travel times or dates and always read the fine-print before purchasing.

6. Know what you are paying for. What’s included in your vacation package? Sometimes you might pay more for a hotel room per night, but you might have included “freebies” things like WiFi, vouchers for in-house restaurants, or pool access, that you might otherwise have to pay for at other places. It’s always best to compare offers to see where you can get the most for your money.

7. Travel during the off-season or during the week instead of weekends. Rates are often the most expensive during high-travel times; it’s common for people to take a week-long summer vacation or an extended weekend during the rest of the year. Hotels generally have lower rates for Sunday – Thursday stays. Also avoid traveling around holidays, when rates tend to be higher.

8. Organize your packing.  The “I will buy it when I get there” philosophy can be an expensive one. Pack a few days in advance in order to avoid paying high prices at the hotel gift shop to replace forgotten items.

9. Be Flexible. Flexibility is key to planning a successful summer vacation. Whether this means choosing a less expensive destination, sacrificing a fancy hotel, traveling during the “shoulder season,” or letting your children pick a few of the activities on your itinerary, you will be glad later on that you were flexible. Giving up some of that control or perceived control, will help you to relax and enjoy your vacation regardless of whether the circumstances are perfect or not.

Careful planning can result in a week-long “staycation” that’s more relaxing than a trip across the country!

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