Monday, May 19, 2008

Vacation on a Budget

I'm starting to get ready for my annual Memorial Day weekend girl's trip. Along with packing and picking up supplies, I have reviewed my budget for this trip to make sure that I don't bring home any vacation debt.

One of our monthly sinking funds (which we keep at ING) is a vacation/travel fund. Each month we automatically transfer $50 into the vacation/travel fund. $50 a month in savings is generally enough to cover the cost of a flight or a deposit on a hotel - in other words it is enough to get a financial start on vacation planning.

So when it came time back in February to book my Memorial Day trip flight, I had just about enough in the vacation/travel fund to cover the cost of my flight on Southwest ($330).

The next step for a vacation on a budget is to give some real thought (and research) to how much the total trip will cost me. Some costs, like the flight, hotel and rental car are fixed so those costs are easier to plan for. My share of the rental car is $82 plus half of estimated gas costs ($50). My share of the hotel costs is $452 (including estimated taxes). Additionally, we have planned time at a Spa and my reserved services are $285 (includes estimated tip). My total known vacation costs are $1199.

What about unknown costs? I estimated unknown costs based on the kind of trip (this time around - mostly hiking/outdoors) and then I give myself a reasonable daily budget. I have given myself $200 a day for Saturday - Monday of the trip and $100 for Friday and Tuesday of the trip (travel days) for a total of $800 in spending money. My daily spending budget should cover things like meals, entertainment and any shopping. My total vacation budget is $2000.

For the last three months, I have set aside $300 a paycheck for my vacation. As a result, I have $1800 saved up for the vacation (remember I have already paid for my flight).

I expect you might be thinking that $800 in spending money for a long weekend trip is excessive. Vacation/travel is one of my favorite things to do. As a result, when I travel I don't skimp. Planning a vacation budget doesn't necessarily mean that I spend less money. Instead it means that I plan ahead and save up so that when I return from vacation I come home only with fabulous memories (and photos) and no debt.

While I do not use credit cards for day to day spending, I bring my one credit card with me when I travel just in case I run into a travel emergency. I will pay for my known vacation costs with my debit card. And, I like to carry my daily spending monies as cash.

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