Vacation Spending: Take a Break, without Breaking the Bank
With the arrival of the summer travel season, you may be planning an adventure at some exotic, Instagram-worthy destination.
But make sure you don’t come home to a spending hangover. Before you go, think about how much you can comfortably spend – without going into debt.
That’s a mistake a lot of people are making. The 2017 LearnVest Money Habits and Confessions Survey reports that almost three quarters of Americans go into debt to pay for a vacation – $1,108, on average.
There's no hard-and-fast rule about what's appropriate to spend on travel. If you can afford it while covering your monthly expenses and following a regular savings plan, then go for it. But you’re likely to regret splurging your way deeper into debt for an “extra” like a luxury vacation.
Some tips for staying on track:
Choose a destination in advance. Anticipation is half the fun. Plus, you’ll have time to surf airfares and hotels at your destination and get a feel for prices. Sign up for email alerts and online newsletters. Check out sites like the price predictor feature on Kayak.com, which tells you whether fares are likely to go up or down in the next week or so. Once you’ve done your homework, you’ll know a good price when you find one; then book it.
Save before you go. Vacations are a significant expense for most Americans, yet most fail to plan for it. Figure out how much you’ll need for your trip and set aside an amount every month or with each paycheck toward your goal. Consider scaling back on a few discretionary spending items, like eating out or shopping. If you’ve saved the money before you go, you’ll relax and enjoy your trip without worrying about the dent it’s making in your finances.
Ask your friends. Try crowdsourcing low-cost recommendations from friends who've visited the destination. Check out travel review sites like TripAdvisor. That’ll help you skip pricey tourist traps and make good use of your time.
Read the fine print. A hotel room with an advertised rate of $300 a night can run as high as $345 after taxes and fees. Don't hit the "purchase" button until you know the full cost of an airfare or hotel - including its cancellation policy.
Find ways to keep costs down. There’s an old saying about how to travel cheaply in New York: Stay with friends, take the subway and eat Chinese. That principle applies anywhere. Find inexpensive alternatives for lodging, transportation and food, you’ll keep your overall spending down.