Ah, it is starting to smell like the sweet smells of summer around here. Freshly cut grass, chlorine, warm rain, you know, all those good smells. Summer always has me thinking about vacation. Vacations are trickier these days now that we are whittling away at paying off our $600k of student loan debt.
Despite that stark fact, last week, we went to Moab, Utah with Danny’s family on a little vacation. We mountain biked, hiked, swam, rafted, and explored to our hearts content. I’ll admit that part of me feels guilty about the money that we spent making it happen. But, another part of me feels like money spent on family vacations is money well spent. Studies show that vacations are great for your mental health, physical health, productivity at work, lower chance of burn out, make you happier, and strengthen your relationships with your family members. Plus, memories last a life time, as they say. So, even though vacations cost money, we do everything we can to squeeze a vacation in once or twice a year, in addition to small cheap get-aways, like camping over the weekend.
Even though we went on vacation, we tried to do it in a responsible, budget friendly way. Want to know how you can take a vacation on a budget? Keep reading.
- Start saving.
As strongly as I feel about taking vacations, I also feel strongly that you should not go on one until you have saved up for it. Plus, saving up for it can get you (and the whole family) even more excited about the vacation. After you have saved up for your vacation, it will feel more rewarding knowing that you are not going to be paying for it for months and months on end. In addition, you can maximize costs of your vacation by using travel rewards points from using credit cards for your regular spending. So, start saving up your money and save up your points!
- Set a budget.
The best way to ensure that you don’t overspend on your vacation is to set a realistic budget for your vacation and follow through with it. You can make it as detailed as you would like– are you driving somewhere close? Far? Set a budget for gas, car maintenance, food, entertainment, accommodations, etc. Or, if you like to keep things a little looser, you can set a goal to stay under a certain amount for your whole vacation.
- Plan ahead.
A little planning goes a long way on vacation. You don’t have to be a total stickler, but you should have a general idea of some of the activities that you will do on vacation, so that you can know what to budget for. Overspending tends to happen when you don’t have a plan. Before you arrive at your destination, you should have a general idea of what you will be doing and how much it costs, that way, when you arrive, you won’t be tempted by convenient expensive activities. In addition,
- Shop for plane tickets at the right time.
If you are traveling by plane, make sure you aren’t paying top dollar for your plane tickets. Historically, one of the best (cheapest) times to purchase plane tickets is about 50 days before your dates of travel. In addition, try to travel during “off seasons” for your destination, and you’ll find that plane tickets are much cheaper. For example, Danny’s family lives in Utah. Plane tickets are really expensive around Christmas time, but we’ve found that if we wait to visit until January, tickets cost less than half of what they do in December. Shop smart.
- Don’t eat out (too much).
Eating out is a good time and everything, but we’ve found that if you plan ahead and make most of your own meals, you can still eat really well on vacation. In some places that you travel, you might want to try the local cuisine. That’s fair. Just plan ahead and budget for it. We try to prepare most of our meals as much as possible before we leave on vacation, that way we are not slaving away in the kitchen on vacation– we can spend that time doing fun things. For example, I’ll whip up some good freezer meals, keep them in the freezer where we are staying, and then when we are ready we just heat them up, add a few fresh items like fruits and vegetables, and voila! Dinner. We also try to do some meals that are out of the ordinary/tasty so that we don’t feel like we’re suffering by not eating out each night. We keep fruit and oatmeal on deck for breakfasts, and keep lunches really simple– stuff for sandwiches or salads on hand.
What things do you do to save money on vacation? We’d love to hear from you!
P.S. A few photos from our trip 🙂