Vacations can be trips to foreign countries, trips to American sites, cruising the oceans, or visits to local recreation areas. They all have one thing in common: they all cost money. Some more than others, of course. But for each of these vacations, planning for them and keeping to a vacation budget is paramount. Make a plan and a budget for your vacation, and go see the world without coming home in debt and regret.


Cartoon with check mark

  • plan while on vacation
  • pack light
  • taste the local cuisine
  • ask about hotel services
  • use cash

Cartoon with x mark

  • bring sporting equipment
  • buy timeshares on vacation
  • shop all your money away
  • think you need that luxury suite
  • brush off a touring vacation


Do plan while on vacation

Planning for the vacation is only Phase I. Phase II is planning while on vacation.

You have planned for it, saved for it, and now you are there. Now what do you do? Where do you go? Take time to settle down in your hotel. The hotel should have very helpful staff to answer your questions. Plan your days to see as much as you can in a the most efficient use of time and money.

It’s easy to work within a budget getting ready for a vacation and paying for your way to your destination, but once you’re there and actually on vacation, it’s easy to throw budgetary caution to the wind. Relax and have a good time, but if you want to stay on budget and not come home with financial regret, you’ll have to continue adapting your vacation plans to make the most of the budget you gave yourself.

  • Tip: Buy a detailed map and plan your route for each day. Another great way to get a feel for the location, layout, and the major attractions of the area is by a guided tour. The guides are knowledgeable and give historical perspectives of the region. It is well worth the cost. After getting the summarized version of your vacation spot, you can more easily decide what attractions you want to spend your money on to explore more in-depth.

Do pack light

Not packing light can cost a lot. Keep to the weight and baggage allotment for the carrier. Ideally, you can pack everything into a carry-on suitcase for a plane, which will eliminate any extra baggage costs, but also save you time by not having to wait for your bags to arrive in baggage claim. Fewer, smaller, and lighter baggage also means you’re more mobile and have more options for transportation, which will also save you money—especially if you walk.

  • Tip: Many hotels have laundry and dry cleaning services, which means you can bring half the clothes you’ll need for the trip and wash them half-way through. Also, buy travel size personal care products. They are less bulky and contain less water. Many travelers can also purchase their products at their hotels or locally.

Do taste the local cuisine

One of the joys of traveling is to enjoy the gastronomic delights of the region. It also could be a large percentage of a vacation budget. A good breakfast is essential to the start of a very busy day of sightseeing. Lunches can be light. Take advantage of local eateries and holes-in-the-wall where the cuisine is less costly, often tastes better, and doesn’t take a lot of time from sightseeing. Bring snacks for those times when you just need a little extra something. Lastly, enjoy a lovely relaxing dinner at the hotel or a local restaurant to discuss the days’ adventure.

  • Tip: Before you go on vacation or while you’re there (if you have Internet access), go online and take a bit of time to research the area’s restaurants, read reviews, and check the price ranges. You may find some amazing hole-in-the-wall restaurants that fit your budget, that wouldn’t have found otherwise.

Do ask about hotel services

Learn in advance what a hotel’s amenities and services include, and the fees that come with them. Which are included as a paying guest and which ones cost extra? Do they have coffee machines in the room? Do they have a continental breakfast for their guests? The mini-bar in the rooms and room service can put holes in a vacation budget. Use them sparingly, if at all. Bring snacks or buy them from local vendors for those evening cravings.

  • Tip: Take advantage of the hotel’s free amenities if it will help you save money elsewhere. Remember that you’re already paying for them with the cost of the room.

Do use cash

Having a lot of cash while traveling can cause a lot of worry about it getting lost or stolen, but using cash is the best way to stay on budget while on vacation. You can see exactly how much you have and can portion it out for each day. Using a credit or debit card won’t help you stay on budget, and if you use it internationally, you might be paying fees each time you use it, or run the risk of the credit card information getting stolen.

Since using cash can increase risk, keep the cash for the day accessible, while distributing the cash into different pockets, purses, or even shoes. Keep your other cash that you will not use that day (or for emergencies) in a money pouch on your person, and somewhere underneath your clothes. A money pouch can be for men as well as for women. Some are lightweight, washable, and lay flat under a shirt or pants. You can also keep any credit cards in there along with your passport.

  • Tip: If you’re staying at a reputable hotel that has a secure safe in your room (again, check with the hotel in advance for this amenity), keep the cash you have set aside for the other days in the safe, along with your passport, traveler’s checks, and any other valuables. That will mitigate this risk quite a bit. Take the cash you expect to use that day, plus some extra for the unforeseen.


Do not bring sporting equipment

There is a cost related to bringing sporting equipment on vacation. They are bulky to say the least. Some may not even be allowed on airlines or other means of transportation. They may need special handling and shipping fees. Were these costs part of the vacation budget? How much time will be devoted to the sport on vacation? Is the cost warranted? Unless the sport is so specialized, most vacation spots will have rentals available on an as-needed basis. This is a more cost-effective way to enjoy the sport without the added expense and worry about protecting equipment.

  • Tip: Find out if the sport is available at the resort and, if so, what the equipment rental costs would be. Also check on instructor fees for individuals and family members. Ask the travel agent, resort, or hotel concierge these questions. Again, this is part of the planning process in order to stay within a vacation budget.

Do not buy timeshares on vacation

The allure of the resort, its amenities, and lifestyle can be overwhelming. Imagine owning a piece of paradise. But, at what cost? Timeshares are a long term commitment similar to mortgages. There are monthly principal payments, monthly financing interest, and maintenance dues. Prepared to take on another liability? Think twice, maybe thrice.

  • Tip: Salespersons will try to get you while you’re there, and they will reduce the price to make the sale. Don’t give into a price drop. It’s best to make any decision like that when you don’t have vacation brain, because it’s still a major commitment at any price. Enjoy the resort and amenities and plan to return. Returning is an option. A timeshare is a commitment that can create havoc to future vacation budgets.

Do not shop all your money away

A real budget buster is shopping on vacation. Costs are usually much higher at touristy location than at home. Shopping should be for special items that represent the locality and your vacation. Buy treasures—not trinkets.

  • Tip: Spending your money on experiences while on vacation, rather than things from your vacation, will be far more valuable in the long run and will help keep your baggage light for the trip home.

Do not think you need that luxury suite

Know the distinction between need and want. Vacations are special times where the tendency is not to be frugal. And that’s fine up to a point. Remember, there’s still that budget. Extravagance can wreck the budget. You can reconcile your needs and wants by staying within the vacation budget for the number of vacation days. Certainly, one can stay within the budget and have the luxury hotel suite, but that might mean a much shorter vacation. Is that the objective? A budget is flexible as long as total does not change. Allocations can change within categories.

  • Tip: Want to afford those luxury hotel suites? Investigate off season vacations options. Use Internet travel sites to compare hotel pricing. Sometimes there are unbooked hotel rooms or cruises that slash prices. Also work with travel agencies. They are aware of great deals that work within budgets.

Do not brush off a touring vacation

Touring is a great way to travel. There are so many types of tours for every budget. Bus tours, train tours, river boat tours, and foreign travel tours are just some of the wonderful tours available. One of the major advantages is that the costs are known up front. Meals included are disclosed. Many included local site tours are disclosed. The guides are well versed in the histories of the sites, so it’s an educational tour as well. Transportation while on tour is included. Transportation to meet the tour may not, but will be disclosed. What a great way to relax and enjoy the sites, and leave the driving to the tour guides.

  • Tip: Know a little about the sites that are on the tour before going. Get a detailed map of the area because there are free times for adventuring. The variety and number of tours throughout the year make touring a very cost effective way to travel and keep within a budget.


Jumping cartoon

Vacations remembered last a lifetime. They are engrams that can be recalled and put a smile on our face. These fond memories make us want visit new places. This can be done by planning for, budgeting for, and keeping to the budget while on vacation. Overspending by increasing credit card bills creates anxiety, and takes away the enjoyment of the vacation. So keep to the budget and make the next vacation a successful and joyous one. Happy vacationing!