Planning a vacation on a budget

Whether you’re a college student considering what to do over spring break, a busy parent pondering family trip options, or a working professional who needs a recharge-and-refresh kind of breather, a vacation is likely just what you need.

Fortunately, you don’t need to drain your savings account just to embark on some travel.

When you plan a vacation within a reasonable budget, you can see the sights without fretting about going into debt because of the excursion. To become a more of a vacation on a budget planner, consider these tips:

Do your research first. Did you know the cost of gas in Norway is usually about $7 to $9 per gallon? But in Brazil, gas is about $3 per gallon. If you plan on road-tripping across one of these countries, that information will be very valuable when you’re making a budget. Doing research on everyday costs can help you choose a cost-effective destination or tweak a budget and determine where your expenses can be trimmed. For example, you may want to take the train in Norway instead of renting a car.

Save, don’t charge. Whether your vacation is just around the corner or months down the road, put some money aside now to fund your getaway. Even if you aren’t able to cover the whole trip with savings, keeping most of it off your credit card is a good move. You might be surprised how easy it is to save when you have a relaxing vacation as your end goal. What’s a night or two of leftovers when it means you can afford one more round on that roller coaster or another glass of wine at a new vineyard?

Avoid peak travel times if possible. If the dates of your vacation aren’t set yet, think about traveling during the “off-season” of your destination. Even if you’re only a few weeks off from peak season, you can often find better deals on hotels, sights, and flights.

Know your amenities. Maybe the hotel you’re eyeing seems like the cheapest option on the beach – then you find out it’s $30 extra to park there, or $15 for daily Internet access. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem like such a great deal anymore. When planning your trip, research add-on fees and then shop around.

Allow for unexpected costs. Most likely, there will be taxes and fees involved in your travel, tacked on by hotels, restaurants, shops, etc. Creating a budget that’s down to the penny is very difficult, because you can’t predict every expense. Instead, put some room (and some funds) in your budget for a “miscellaneous” category.

Have fun. The point of creating a budget in advance, and occasionally referring to it when you’re traveling, is to make sure you’re not spending more then you planned. Your vacation doesn’t need to be a personal accounting class instead of an adventure, but you should keep your established budget in mind. When you know you’re enjoying yourself within your limits, you’ll be able to truly relax.

If you’re working to find more funds in your monthly budget to spend on vacation, download this free monthly budget worksheet to help you get organized.