It’s time for another Money Hip Chat. I tried to think of things that are annoying to budget for, and I’m going with vacations. Lisa, what comes to mind first when thinking about vacationing on a budget?
Lisa: I think the foundation of vacationing on a budget is to adjust your expectations. I think a lot of young couples and families run into trouble because they’re trying to keep up the kinds of vacations they had prior to getting married, when it was on their parent’s dime. That’s simply not possible (or wise) when your income is significantly less. Another related issue is when extended families want to do grand vacations that may fit within their budget, but simply don’t fit your budget. It’s a tricky business because turning them down can be a source of family drama. I think that’s why having a budget is so important--it sets a clear expectation. An example conversation you might have to have with older siblings or parents: “Our annual vacation budget for the whole year is $500. That’s simply not enough to join you on a cruise and have enough money left over to visit at Christmas. We’d love to spend time with together--what if we did something else?”
Lauren: That is such a good point. I think it’s important to remember that the point of vacations is creating memories with people you love, and that can be done without spending a ton of money. I’m not knocking great vacations. If you can fit it in your budget, then go ahead. But if it just doesn’t make sense financially, then don’t stress about missing out, because you can still create those memories doing something less expensive-- like camping, a road trip, sharing a beach house/cabin with friends or family, etc. One of the expenses that really seems to add up on vacations (especially with kids) is food. How do you save money on food on vacations?
Lisa: We definitely do a lot of shopping beforehand to make sure we’re stocked up on fruit, water, and snacks for the car (gas stations snacks are crazy overpriced). We also take advantage of whatever food the hotel is offering for free. In addition to breakfast, the hotel we just vacationed at offered a “Manager’s Reception” with a full dinner Monday through Thursday evenings. For eating out in general, rather than buying overpriced combo meals, we buy individual items (I don’t like soda anyway). What do you do?
Lauren: Mostly we’ve just visited family, and our moms have cooked for us :) But Aaron’s taking a month off of work before school starts and we’re going to try and fit in a few day trips. In general, I definitely think eating local food on vacation can be a wonderful source of memories-- but that doesn’t mean you have to go all out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. I basically snack all the time, so when I’ve traveled in the past, I brought a box of Clif bars that I could eat on the go. It was a Costco sized box, and packing it was fine because it freed up some weight/volume for souvenirs on the trip. I still enjoyed eating in restaurants and at street vendors, but having food I brought myself meant I didn’t have to buy food on the go for every single meal, which saved money.
Another thing we've done to save money is pooled our frequent flyer miles on JetBlue as a family. Don't forget that even small children can earn miles, so being able to consolidate can really help. If you or your spouse travel frequently for work, those miles can be especially helpful as well. Pooling all of our miles got us 3.5 round-trip cross-country tickets for a family reunion this summer. We ended up spending only $300 out of pocket to get all four of us from Boston to Oregon and back again.
Share-- How do you save money on vacations? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below!