Vacation Planning

Vacation Planning can save you lots of money on the total cost of your vacation, but can also be a great family activity with each member getting involved in the choosing of the destination, planning the activities and the costs.  With everyone involved, saving for vacation becomes an adventure in itself. 

Planning for your vacation includes not only considering the costs before you go, but also allocation of time for travel and activities as well as creating a list of all the things you will want to take with you.  By planning ahead you can save yourself not only money but stress as well! 

Start with the budget:  Knowing the financial boundaries before you begin planning will help simplify the decisions and lessen disappointments when lofty vacation dreams don't fit within your financial reality.  The budget is the amount of money you have saved or will have saved prior to the vacation.  Saving each month toward the costs will allow you to grow a larger reserve from which to plan activities.  If you are planning a vacation to cost $1,200 then by saving $100 each month, your reserve is completely built before leaving.

Plan your destination:  Getting the entire family involved in determining what you would like to do on vacation.  Knowing the amount of money you can spend on the vacation, have a family meeting to discuss possibilities.  The dream vacation you thought the kids would love may take on a new flavor with the kids involved in the planning.  Establish rules for contributions so that no one is excluded and all ideas are considered.  Good rules allow for unrealistic ideas to fall off the radar pretty quickly.

Make a list:  You will want to get the family involved in making a list of all the potential costs for the vacation.  The more detailed the list the fewer surprise costs.  Consider the cost of preparing the car for the long trip, the cost of gas to get there or the cost of alternate travel.  How will you get around once you are there?  Where will you eat?  How much will you spend on souvenirs?  What is the cost of activities once you arrive?  Use this worksheet to get started.  As you develop the list, you will find new ideas cropping up from the team about what they would like to do - great time to discuss the costs and logistics of all the ideas.  This way you are training your children to plan in advance for the costs of other items as well.

Begin Preparing:  After the list is made there will likely be many things that need to be done to make the vacation successful, from adding to the vacation fund by giving up some of the costs of other daily things or packing, preparing the home for leaving, preparing travel meals and activities. 

Consider Food Costs: Having snacks and drinks for the car can save a ton on stopping along the way.  Also discuss boundaries in advance for eating out.  You can save a great deal by drinking water instead of ordering beverages and skipping the dessert in favor of something tasty later.  If you will be staying at a location that has a fridge with a microwave or stove, you may be able to purchase some groceries to make meals and save on costs of eating out.

Here are some more resources to get you started:

Plan Your Summer Vacation Now.   Extension Service offers some great suggestions for getting started planning your summer vacation great strategies for breaking down the costs of the summer vacation and worksheets included.

Budgeting: Summer Travel.  Practical Money Skills for Life offers some great tips for saving on your travel costs this summer.  Arm yourself with a good vacation plan that accomodates all the costs.

How to save for the vacationMSNBC offers 9 great travel tips for creative ways to save for vacation.

Travel Budgeting- Do you know how much you're going to spend on your travels? The Travel Budget Tool will help you plan your your vacation costs   Little things add up so this tool can help you create a realistic budget for your total cost of vacation.

10 money-saving tips for a vacation  Get creative and think about some great alternatives to those costly vacations.

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