Are you the family vacation planner? Vacations are some of the most sought-after aspects of our lives. They not only make us happier, but studies prove that vacations impact children more than originally thought. When parents chose to spend more time with their kids on vacation, their children’s happiness improved. These findings have defined that taking vacations can also help improve a family’s overall wellbeing. What’s sad is that many parents feel that they don’t have the money to take their entire family on a trip. I would like to provide some tips on how you can not only take the whole family on a trip without breaking the bank but have a blast while doing so.
Create a Budget
John C. Maxwell, an accomplished speaker on leadership, said, “a budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” In order for us to go on the adventures that we do as a family, it takes time to create a budget, plan where our money goes and when it will be spent. Spontaneity can be a wonderful thing, but it can lead to overspending and put a big dent in your bank account. You’ll be left “wondering where it went” instead of relaxing on the vacation you’ve worked so hard for.
In fact, a lack of budgeting causes plenty of stress within the community. Though there may be many ways to bring stress levels down, one major aspect of parental stress could be controlled by proper money management methods, especially before traveling. Remember, you should never take a vacation that will lead you into debt; this can cause you to follow a path towards anxiety and potentially bigger problems. To avoid this, create a healthy, easy-to-stick-to budget before you travel, that way, you know what to expect and how to prepare before you go. Here are some things to accomplish when making your budget:
1. Pick Your Destination
Because spontaneity can lead to budget problems, you’ll want to start by having a firm grasp of your destination and what you’ll be doing while you’re there. As the vacation planner, doing the research will be a key aspect when picking the place you’ll be with your family. When looking at possibilities, consider pricing on all the large and small details of the trip; for example, if you want to go to Florida, you’ll need to choose what you will be doing while you’re in the area. There’s Disney World, multiple beaches, various cities like St. Augustine, Miami, and the Florida Keys, and many places to rent a boat.
Consider creating a family bucket list of places you would all like to visit or if possible take a family gap year and choose where you’d like to visit in that time frame. Don’t forget to use a printable packing list to help you stay organized. You can keep it domestic to likely save more on travel, but sticking a little bit closer to home will usually save money on long haul flights or gas for road trips. If you’re traveling out of the country, you’ll also want to consider minor details like how to save on your phone bill with international calling.
2. Establish a Date and Time of Travel
This will be another crucial indicator of the size of your budget. The time of year you travel will not only impact airfare, but also tickets to attractions. When the kids are on a school break, expect prices for everything to increase. Even more so during the popular Thanksgiving break, Christmas and New Years and Spring Break. You’ll also want to consider your family’s comfort level with large crowds and favorite places to eat.
Sticking with the Florida example, the summer will be one of the busiest times of the year. This means that everything from airfare to theme park tickets will be more expensive, crowds will be at their largest, and restaurants will be packed. However, if you were to travel in October or February, prices will be significantly less and crowds will have died down dramatically. Before moving forward, google your destination and find the best times to stay in that area and when crowds are smaller. This is a crowd calendar you can use if you want to see the best times to visit Disney World.
3. Find Affordable Lodging
If you’re not careful, this could be one of your largest expenses. There are many lodging opportunities that range from thousands of dollars per night to $100 per night, depending on the size of your family and what you’re looking for. Camping is an option for those who like a little bit of adventure, or glamping is an option for those who like a little bit of comfort with their outdoor experience.
It will take some research to find a good place, but it’s worth the time. As you research, keep in mind that cheap does not necessarily mean good. Most families use the motto “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” because it’s rare to take a vacation, which means, you’ll be tired every night you arrive at the hotel. If you’re not careful, your bed could keep you from getting a good night’s sleep and decrease your chances of having fun throughout your stay. Here is a list of the 10 best hotel booking sites to help you find affordable lodging for your trip.
4. Choose Your Means of Travel
This includes arriving and departing from your destination, as well as getting from place to place while there. First, consider whether you’ll road trip or fly. Generally, it’s cheaper to drive if you’re going 500 miles or less; however, it also depends on the number of plane tickets you’re buying. If you’re road-tripping, do your best to avoid toll roads by telling Apple or Google Maps to avoid them, which will save you a couple of extra bucks. If you choose to fly, check out these sites that will help you find the best prices on airfare.
While doing your research, I would suggest setting Google alerts to automatically notify you of any price drops in plane tickets. You should also do your searches “incognito.” This will keep Google from tracking your searches and display consistent prices. To do this for PC, type CTRL + SHIFT + N and for Mac, ⌘ + SHIFT + N.
After Your Budget, Save, Save, Save
Now that you have your budget, set up a plan to save a specific amount. Having a budget doesn’t mean that the money will magically appear, but as the vacation planner, it’s important to organize your finances. Here are some suggestions to help:
Check Your Bank
Many banks make it difficult to save money and may not help you hit your travel goals; if that’s the case, it may be time to find a new bank that better serves you. As you research, find one that uses automatic savings, which allows you to save in an easy and unique way. Also, check if they charge foreign transaction fees because that can get expensive.
You may need to change some of your habits to align with your budget. Sometimes you’ll need to do a trade-off where, instead of spending $10 per month on a subscription, you put $10 towards your travel fund. Small changes every month will go a long way in the future.
Set Your Timeline
You’ll need to understand how much to save during a specific time period. If you know your timeline, you can determine how much each day, week or month you may want to put away to save the appropriate amount of money. Cash back apps can help you save up a little quicker by giving you cashback on places you normally shop anyways. I personally use Ibotta, Rakuten (eBates), Dosh, and Earny.
Vacation Planner: Another Option
As the vacation planner, another way I have saved money for travel is by travel hacking. I sign up for travel rewards, airline, and hotel-branded credit cards every few years and plan my travels wisely. Be careful with credit card sign-ups and spending. It is important not to overreach and pay your balance at the end of each month.
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