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It’s time to plan the family’s summer getaway. You’re probably focused on choosing a destination, deciding how to get there and anticipating the fun your family will have. That fun is likely to end with financial regrets, however, if you don’t budget properly.
Don’t let a burden of debt displace your happy vacation memories. Lingering vacation-related bills can have a ripple effect on your household budget for months to come.READ MORE: Protests Continue Outside Sigma Nu House On USC's Fraternity Row As New Sexual Assault Allegations Emerge
Know in advance how much money you will need to cover your travel, food, lodging, entertainment and other vacation expenses. Save that money up-front, and you won’t return home to money worries.
Here are tips from experts at ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions on how to budget for a relaxing vacation that won’t end in a financial dilemma.
- Create a budget for your trip. Get your partner or family members involved in planning what to do on vacation. Once you reach agreement on activities you all can enjoy, you can determine the cost of the vacation and build a budget. In addition to transportation expenses, don’t forget to figure in the cost of food and lodging. A 2007 survey by the AAA estimates a family of four (two adults, two children) can expect to pay an average of $269 per day for food and lodging.
- Save your pennies. You may need to sacrifice a few luxuries in the short-term to save for that long-awaited vacation. Cut back on restaurant meals, impulse shopping and other unnecessary expenditures. Borrow videos from the library instead of going to the movies. Pack your lunch and take it to work. Carpool or use public transportation for a few weeks. Those savings will help fund meals and activities on your vacation.
- Calculate fuel expenses. If you plan to drive during your vacation, factor in rising gas prices. Use AAA’s Fuel Cost Calculator to determine how much you can expect to pay for fuel during your trip. While on the road, keep in mind that gas prices may vary within only a few blocks. Consult money-saver websites, such as www.GasBuddy.com or www.GasPriceWatch.com, to find nearby gas stations with the cheapest prices.
- Fly smart. If you’re planning to fly, reserve your flights a month or more in advance of your travel date for the best fares. This is particularly important if you plan to use frequent flyer miles to pay for your tickets. Check out surrounding airports to see if they offer better fares than your direct destination. When packing, adhere to the airline weight limits to avoid being assessed luggage fees.
- Be an early bird. You can save money by planning ahead. Last-minute vacations can wreak havoc on the savings account and the day-to-day household budget. Wait too late and all of the bargain flights and hotel rooms will already be taken.
- Use the Web. Trustworthy travel websites, such as www.Travelocity.com, www.Expedia.com, www.Hotels.com and others, can make it easy to compare rates for air travel, lodging and rental cars. If hotels appear outside your price range, consider renting an apartment, or booking rooms at a lodge, guesthouse or motel. Members of AAA can book special travel deals at www.aaa.com.
- Be flexible. You don’t have to visit an expensive tourist attraction to have an enjoyable vacation. Check out less-popular destinations for great travel deals. In addition, you’ll pay more for travel during peak tourist seasons. If your children are pre-school age, consider delaying your vacation until autumn to take advantage of off-season rates.
- Ask about discounts. Some auto clubs and other membership organizations offer discounts on motels, travel and tourist attractions. You may be able to use a local coupon booklet to get a reduced price on a restaurant meal, a museum outing or an admissions park.
- Use credit cards wisely. If you travel outside the country, keep in mind that many credit card companies assess surcharges on overseas purchases. Those extra costs can add up over the course of a vacation. One way to avoid surcharges is to use bank-issued gift cards or traveler’s checks. If you do use your credit card during vacation, only make purchases that you can afford to pay off when the next bill comes due.
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If your vacation budgeting efforts prove to be a challenge, don’t give up. Talk to an expert. Credit counselors at ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions can work with you to develop a budget that will make your vacation dreams a reality. For more information on the services ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions offers, call 800-750-2227 (CCCS).