You saved up, put in your PTO, and now you're finally on vacation for some much-needed R&R. However, what you don't need while you're soaking up the sun and taking in all of the sights is to overspend and end up in debt. If you worked hard to save for your vacation, there is no reason to go over your budget when you get there, in turn making life more stressful when back at home—and you can still have an Insta-worthy vacation while traveling on a planned budget.
Plus, travel prices are expected to surge this summer, so you're going to want to plan ahead and look for ways to save when you get to your destination. Hiranmayi Srinivasin, with Real Simple gives you some tips to help you stick to your budget for a vacation that is relaxing in more ways than one.
Budget before you book.
Set a budget for your vacation before your book your trip—flights and accommodations will probably be the biggest expenses. "Go during the week (Monday thru Friday)," says Taylor Harrell-Goodwin, CEO of Lively Co. travel agency. "Fly out by Saturday morning for U.S travels." Hotels usually have lower prices during the week because of low occupancy, and you might get a better rate and food and beverage deals if you book for more than two nights.
Carry a debit card or a prepaid credit card.
Use a debit card or a prepaid credit card for expenses on your vacation. This is a great way to stay aware of how much money you can spend. Carry a credit card with you for emergencies and use the debit or prepaid card for everything else.
Bringing your debit card along will also be helpful for withdrawing cash—Harrell-Goodwin recommends her clients set aside $200 in cash for tips and any small expenses. You might also get some discounts paying in cash instead of paying with a credit card.
Set a daily limit for spending.
Along with an overall budget, setting a daily limit will help you spend within your means. "Create a set of envelopes with each day of vacation written on the outside," says Stacey Marmolejo, executive director at Florida Beach Break. Use only the cash or gift cards inside the envelope for that designated day, then take any leftover cash and add it to the next day's envelope. Breaking up your overall vacation budget and having a set amount you can spend per day is less overwhelming and will help you stick to your original budget.
Cook some of your meals.
It’s no surprise to look forward to enjoying the local food when you're on vacation, but frequently eating out can add up quickly and take away from other experiences during your trip. Nashville-based travel agent Erica James recommends finding accommodations with a kitchenette if your stay is a week or longer so you can cook some quick meals in your room. See if the hotel you're staying at offers complimentary breakfast or bring leftovers from a restaurant back to your room and eat them the next day as well.
Buying food at the airport is also expensive; pack a meal or snacks so you can avoid spending a fortune before you even start your vacation.
If you're staying somewhere that is not all-inclusive, bring your own drinks. Sure, you can splurge on a fancy cocktail here and there, but "alcohol can become your biggest expense while on vacation," according to James. Those mini bottles of liquor will easily fit in your carry-on and prevent a lot of exorbitant spending, poolside or at the hotel bars.
Spend your money on experiences.
While it's tempting to buy souvenirs for yourself and others, these can add up and quickly derail you you’re your planned budget. Spend your money on experiences and take lots of pictures and videos—these are free and will last a lot longer.
Marmolejo recommends doing one free activity and one paid activity per day so you do something fun and exciting each day while sticking to your budget. For example, if you're going on a beach vacation, you can spend half the day laying on the beach and the other half taking a surf lesson or renting a jet ski.
Sticking to a budget will make sure you have a great time during your vacation and after you get back—nothing kills a vacation glow like finding out you have depleted your piggy bank. Knowing exactly how much you have to spend every day and planning which activities you want to do ahead of time will give you the stress-free, fun vacation you deserve.