Nearly all of the international travel restrictions have been lifted, making now the best time to begin sorting out the details of your next trip! You don't have to be making a million dollars a year to have the vacation of your dreams. Here are some tips on navigating a vacation that wont break the bank.
The word "budget" can sound intimidating- but it doesn't have to be. There are many different ways to create a budget. You can be as rigid or as lenient with your budget as you want, depending on your goals. At the end of the day, your budget just acts as your path to getting what you want out of your money.
The best part about having a budget is creating limits where you can have fun without getting stressed about over spending. Creating a budget can be as easy as deciding on your maximum total spend then delegating funds accordingly. Or you could get crafty by using categories to organize your budget.
To create a budget for a vacation, start by mapping out your priorities. What do you care about most? Are you big on amenities? If you're big on amenities and don't care about activities, then make room in your budget to stay somewhere nice. Do you want to eat out for every meal and don't care where you stay? Then cut back on lodging and make sure to stash away from extra money for your food budget.
Prioritizing your spending categories is a great way to stay on track. But If your budget doesn't factor in any room for fun, you may find yourself wanting to rebel against your own rules. Make your budget manageable by factoring in things that bring you joy. These same rules apply to creating a budget to save up for the trip! If you like to go out to dinner on weekends to destress from the week, you don't need to cut out your fun completely. Go out but pass up on appetizers, or skip out on drinks. Experiencing joy is an important part of a balanced life.
Make sure to check out our article, How To Save Money Fast to prep for your next vacation!
Who are you on vacation? Do you throw all caution to the wind? Do you eat foods you wouldn't dare to eat at home? Does your spending get out of control? It is 2021, the year of self acceptance. We all have our faults! Maybe you spend a little too much money when you're on vacation. No problem- just plan for it. If you know you get a little frivolous when you're out of town, cushion your budget with some extra money. Cut back on dining out, or extra activites in the weeks leading up to your vacation, to make room in your budget.
Plan things in advance - it's easier to cancel an old plan than to make a new one last minute. There are two types of people in this world. People who plan and people who do not. But as a person who has recently started planning, I must say, your life will totally change when you start planning. And here is something no one ever told me about planning: you don't have to follow the plan. But it sure is nice to have the plan.
There is nothing worse than being on vacation and not being able to find somewhere to have dinner. All the places are booked up, it is now 9 PM and you haven't eaten anything. Pro tip: plan all of your meals in advance. Make reservations at restaurants well in advance so that you aren't scrambling last minute. You don't have to go to them, but there is something comforting about having a reservation. It's nice to know there is a seat waiting for you somewhere when you are in a foreign place.
Buy in advance! Last minute shopping isn't good for anyone. You're already on edge, so you impulse buy, you overspend, you settle on things you don't really want. Be a planner and do your shopping in advance. Make a list of everything you might need for the trip and then buy it. You can do research and get exactly what you want in a calm, cool and collected manner. You can even search for your necessities at lower prices- because you will have the time to do that! A luxury!
Make sure you're getting your maximum reward benefits by using credit cards to book all of your travel. If you don't have an airline credit card- you should definitely consider getting one. Receive free flight miles and points for all of your purchases. Some credit cards, like the United Card, cover the cost of your TSA pre-check and even offer free checked bags when flying with United. You don't want to miss out on all of the points you could be getting from your big purchases like travel by not using a credit card. Use your credit card to rack up points booking hotels, flights, and rental cars- then use those points to redeem more travel, or whatever you want!
Once you have made it to your destination, put away that credit card and use cash. Credit cards are great for racking up points, but if you're not being really careful overspending can be easy. Try to set a daily spending limit for yourself when you're on vacation, and carry that amount with you in cash for your daily expenses. Unless you're going somewhere particularly dangerous, carrying cash is a great way to limit your daily spending.
Bringing us to our next point- if you are traveling internationally and need to change money, do not do it at the airport! One more time for the people in the back- do not change money at the airport! Do not even trade your money at a currency exchange booth outside of the airport. Simply use a debit card at an ATM. A lesser-known fact about traveling internationally is that ATMs typically just charge you a usage fee and then trade your money in at the standard exchange rate. Kiosks everywhere, but especially at the airport, will mark up their exchange rate and give you the difference. Or they will collect a large fee for their service. Be smart, and trade your cash for foreign currencies with your ATM card.
Alcohol is expensive. Bring your own. A surprisingly high travel expense for many is booze. If you like to let loose on vacation, you may want to bring your own alcohol. Drinks in many tourist towns can cost up to $25 per pina colada. Why buy two drinks for $50 when you could buy a whole bottle and potentially take a mixology class for the same price? Don't drink away your whole paycheck. Get smart and buy your alcohol in advance.