For many people, budgeting for a vacation is seemingly impossible in the face of their financial responsibilities. On top of regular expenses and saving for things like retirement, it can be hard to set money aside for travel. With a little extra effort, though, putting some of your money toward a vacation is not as unfeasible as it looks. Follow these six tips to put your future vacation plans in motion, and you’ll be jet-setting in no time:
1. Be Conscious of Your Cash Flow
Before you start planning your trip, you’ll want to build the habit of being consistently conscious of your cash flow. How much money do you have coming into your bank account each month via your paycheck or other sources? How much of it needs to be spent on necessities, bills, groceries, and other important payments? How much can you responsibly afford to spend on a whim or put into a vacation fund?
Take some time to revisit your budget so you can see how much you can set aside for a trip. Doing so can be helpful regardless of how soon you plan to travel. Another thing to consider is using a debit card as your primary payment method for all purchases. Debit cards are attached to your bank account, so unlike credit cards, the money will come and leave almost immediately. This will give you a much clearer picture of your financial situation at any given time.
2. Create a Separate Trip Fund Months in Advance
Instead of using savings you already have, set aside some of what you usually save each month for your vacation. Use a separate account or your existing one — just denote the different amounts on paper or in a spreadsheet. Set up this fund well before you plan to travel (six months to a year, if possible) for maximum accumulation. Over time you’ll be putting less into your regular savings, but you’ll still have that untouched emergency fund.
From here, you can choose to put more into your fund than is allocated based on your nonessential spending. You will, of course, have to decide whether to avoid that type of spending for the sake of the trip. Doing so will help you save more money faster, but may also mean you can’t spend when you feel like it. Self-care is important, so this decision is up to you.
3. Plan Your Vacation Spending
The money you’ll be spending on your trip depends on where you’re going and why. To prepare your wallet before it’s too late, look into what exactly you might do while you’re traveling. What kinds of activities strike you as exciting, or are part of the reason you’re going? How expensive is the area in general, and how is the local economy?
A few hours of preliminary research can help you save a lot just by knowing what to put aside. It can also help you figure out how to do the things you want to do for less. A less expensive hotel room just outside the city center might offer the very same luxury as the alternative. Even certain cuisines and food items might be better at a corner stand than a fancy restaurant!
4. Keep an Eye on Travel Deals
While it’s important not to wait too long to book travel, you can still benefit from monitoring prices over time. Flight and hotel prices fluctuate heavily based on the time of year, time of day, and even world events. You could potentially figure out what time of year flights and hotels are more affordable and plan your trip accordingly. This doesn’t always work, however, because some destinations are more hospitable at certain times of the year.
Searching prices in private mode may prevent the possibility of price hikes. Some examples of private modes include Chrome’s Incognito mode and Firefox’s Private Browsing mode.
5. Set Aside Travel Supplies Over Time
One aspect of your expenses will be travel supplies — things like travel-size hygiene products, portable chargers, etc. Many of these objects are available on short notice. Others might be more costly if you have to buy them in the airport.
Give yourself a bit of saving leeway prior to the trip by buying these things gradually. Each time you go to the store, pick up travel items like a small bottle of shampoo or travel-size deodorant.
Building up these supplies as you do your normal shopping saves your travel fund for strictly travel needs. It also saves money and grants a degree of peace to know that you’re prepared beforehand. You can go further by taking your hygiene products at home and packing them into travel-size containers yourself. This way, you’ll be using the same products from home and won’t need to buy smaller ones at inflated prices.
6. Exchange Currency Carefully
Many people who have traveled out of the country at some point have dealt with currency exchange issues and expenses. Easily accessible exchange locations (like those in airports) have higher fees than others but may be necessary in a pinch. It’s best to avoid emergency exchanges, though.
If you need local currency quickly, you’re more likely to pay higher exchange fees. If you absolutely must exchange currency, look for an exchange location that does not charge a commission.
Thankfully, ATMs are more easily accessible than ever. It pays to simply withdraw money from one once you arrive at your destination. Most destinations also accept credit or debit cards. Some bank accounts offer immediate exchange upon purchase, which is very helpful to avoid the need to exchange currency altogether. Take the time to research where your credit and/or debit cards are accepted. That way you’ll run into fewer surprises on the road.
Conscious spending can become habitual with practice, so you can work to afford anything you want by budgeting for it. With these tips under your belt, your next vacation can be just around the corner! Whether you need to save, maintain your accounts, or simply find an affordable flight, you’ll be ready in no time.
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