Welcome back to the second episode of the eXtension OneOp podcast, Money Moment, with your host Dr. Jennifer Hunter. In today’s episode, we start discussing summer fun on a budget, specifically focused on vacation planning.
Summer is many people’s favorite time of year: sunshine, warm temperatures, longer days and a more flexible family schedule. However, the summer months can be expensive–costs from family vacations, summer camps, child care and pool memberships can all start to add up.
Family vacations offer a time to reset, rejuvenate and spend quality time with each other. However we need to be mindful of the cost and not allow our summer family vacation to be a budget buster. We hope you enjoy this episode, where Jennifer shares tips for managing summer vacations on a budget.
In an ideal world you should start planning your vacation early—at least 6 months out. Planning early allows you to find the lowest prices on airfares and hotels. It also helps you identify the total cost of the trip so that you know how much to build into your budget.
Creating a vacation travel fund is a great way to save for your trip throughout the year, by putting in a little bit of money away each month so that you can pay for your trip up front, rather than putting it on credit and having to pay for it after the fact.
Right now, most of us are looking toward vacation planning for this summer, not six or 12 months into the future. So let’s look at some ways to save for your current vacation.
Be flexible with your travel dates
Do you have flexible travel dates? Often if you travel during the week (Monday through Friday) hotels will be cheaper than stays over the weekend. Reducing your trip from 7 days to 5 days you can save substantially on your hotel costs.
Also, if your travel dates are flexible, consider signing up for an airfare alert website, so that you can get an email alert when flights to your destination are being offered at lower than normal prices.
Credit Card Rewards
Do you have a credit card that offers cash back, gift cards or airline miles? Consider using those rewards to help fund part of your vacation. Many cards also offer extra rewards offered through retail partners that you can use while vacationing. Just remember to keep track of exactly how much you spend on credit to be certain that you do not overspend your vacation budget!
Reduce the costs associated with eating out
Avoiding eating out on vacation can at times be difficult, but eating out can quickly become very expensive. To cut down on these costs, try packing some of your meals and beverages. Consider reserving a hotel room that has a small kitchenette, refrigerator or microwave. And be on the look out for hotels that offer free continental breakfast.
Involve the entire family in the budgeting
Have an amount in mind that you are willing and able to spend on your vacation before leaving town, and discuss it with your children. You do not have to share exact numbers or amounts with them, but you do need to give them an expectation about what they may or may not be able to do while on vacation.
Let the kids help with the actual vacation planning. If children know how much they have available to spend, they can learn to work within a budget and make choices about the activities they plan to do. This is a great activity to help to teach older children and teens the idea of trade-offs, or how one decision will impact the next decision that they will need to make.
Everyone likes to take something home as a memory from their trip, however it helps to discuss expectations about souvenirs in advance. Consider lost cost souvenir ideas, such as souvenir pennies, or smashed penny machines. The are available at most destinations and very low cost compared to other souvenir type items. Personally, I have found they allow my children to take home a souvenir or a memory of the trip and it often has the added bonus of avoiding the gift shop on the way out.
Use coupons and discounts
Looking online for coupon codes is another great idea prior to purchasing tickets to any type of tourist activity. As a military family, you also always want to ask if there is a military discount available.
It is important to remember with a family vacation that the goal is to spend time together, rest and relax. It’s not always about going and doing the biggest and best thing possible.
Tune in for the next episode for more summer fun on a budget tips!
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This material is based upon work supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Office of Military Family Readiness Policy, U.S. Department of Defense under Award Number 2019-48770-30366.