It’s summertime, aka vacation season. And whether your ideal getaway is R&R on the beach, outdoor adventuring, or a European escape, it pays to plan. Literally. So we teamed up with Fidelity to help you get away without going broke. Because no matter how far you fly, your wallet should stay grounded.
For when you’re budgeting before a vacation…
Only 52% of Americans are taking a vacation this year. That’s mostly because it’s too expensive. Here’s how to beat the odds.
On average, Americans spend about 3% of their annual pre-tax income on trips, according to a Fidelity analysis. Calculate 3% of your salary, divide by however many months are left till you take off, and arrange for that sum to be automatically deposited from your paycheck into a separate savings account every month. Hi, vacation budget.
Timing is everything in relationships, real estate, aaand travel deals. Research the cheapest places to go when the temp rises, and plan accordingly. You’ll also get more bang for your buck by checking out destinations with a favorable exchange rate. If you’re thinking beach, hit up Costa Rica or Mexico. Europe? Try Hungary, Poland, or Sweden. For somewhere farther-flung, your dollars will go far in South Africa, Argentina, and Japan.
Book smart. Renting a home is often a better deal than booking a hotel. Not only will you save on the price tag, but you can cook instead of eating out for every meal. That said, there are some great budget hotels out there — do your homework to make sure whichever way you go is economical. Lodging, hacked.
For when you want to spend smart when you get there...
True story: travel doesn’t feel like real life, so it’s easier to splurge. And if you’re visiting a popular tourist location, everything costs more. Here’s how to see the sights without losing sight of your budget (sorry).
Set a daily spending threshold and track what you buy to avoid overdoing it. Using cash or a prepaid debit card instead of a credit card can also help.
Food is a money vampire. If you have access to a kitchen where you’re staying, make breakfast, pack lunch, and cook dinner when you can. If not, hit up a supermarket or farmer’s market for an easy, cheap breakfast. And when you do eat out, go at lunchtime, when the menu tends to be less expensive.
No brainer: Public transportation is a fraction of the cost of cabs and Uber. And it’s booming: Metros were available in 178 cities in 56 countries as of 2017. Enter in the directions for where you want to go on Google Maps, then tap the transit tab.
For when you’re home sweet home…
Suffering from a spending hangover? You’re not alone. According to a survey, 74% of Americans have gone into debt to pay for a vacation. Here’s how to have a happier landing.
First, do the math to figure out exactly how much you spent over your limit. Gulp. Once you know the number, set a timeline to pay yourself back. Then, divide the total amount by the number of months until you plan to pay it back. Breaking the total into bite-sized chunks makes it less daunting.
You just treated yourself, now treat your savings account. Find easy ways to cut back, like going on a bar and restaurant detox. At the grocery store, stick to generic brands and steer clear of pre-cut produce and snack packs (you can DIY for less). Put your gym membership on hold and work out al fresco or stream an online exercise class. You get the picture.
The sooner you pay off your plastic, the less you’ll owe in interest. A side hustle will speed up the payback process. Ideas: scour thrift stores for cute name-brand clothes that are dirt cheap, and then resell them for a profit on an online clothing resale app. Or get a fun, low-key summer gig like dog walking, house sitting, or babysitting.
I’m ready to board.
You’re ready to do a lot more than that. Saving for short-term goals like an upcoming vacation helps you practice for the longer-term ones. Think: if you can save up for a vacation, you can channel that commitment to another investment in yourself, like retirement. Do it here.
Vacation should be fun, not stressful. Planning ahead, staying smart while you’re there, and regrouping when you get back is a recipe for OOO without the oh no.