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Summer break is here, and we’re working on planning our very first official family vacation! As we try to decide where to go and what to do, our first step was to decide on how much we actually want to spend. I wanted to share how we set a travel budget that we can actually stick to, and I’m giving you a free printable to help set your own vacation budget.

First things first, it’s important to decide if you can truly afford a family vacation. I don’t want to be a dream crusher, but I never recommend going on any form of travel unless you can pay for it with cash.

My husband and I have been married 10 years, and this is the first year that we will be taking a vacation. We have spent the past several years focused on paying off debt and building some savings. There were years we really wished we could actually afford to travel, but we’re so happy that we have waited until a time it actually made sense for our financial situation. Know that this advice comes from a place of total understanding!

Free 25-Page Ultimate Budget Binder

The decision to put a vacation on a credit card can come at a high price. You could spend months or years paying on a week long vacation, and it will end up costing you way more with interest. Just something to keep in mind as you move forward with your plans.

Once you know you can pay in cash, determine how much you can or are willing to spend on a trip. Make this non-negotiable as you move forward with your plans. Knowing how much you are going to spend will help you decide on a reasonable destination.

I recently wrote an entire post on how to find the best budget-friendly travel deals. I talk about all of my favorite resources for finding the best prices on flights, lodging, and rental cars.

Travel Budget Categories

As you outline your vacation budget, there are a few key categories that you want to include to make sure you don’t miss any hidden costs.

I also recommend being realistic in the budget that you set, especially for your food category. Take a look at restaurants in the area to see how much an average meal costs. Vacation destinations tend to have higher food prices, so your family meals may be more expensive than Friday night dinner out in your home town.

So here are the categories that I like to include in our vacation budget:

  • Lodging
    • Description of where you’ll be staying
    • Cost per night
    • Number of nights
  • Food
    • Description- Can you eat free breakfast at the hotel? Will you eat every meal at a restaurant? Will you be grocery shopping at all?
    • Cost per day
    • Number of days
  • Transportation
    • Description- plane tickets and/or a rental car
    • Cost per ticket
    • Number of tickets
    • Number of days you’ll drive a rental car
    • Cost per gallon of gas
    • Estimated number of gallons of gas
  • Activities
    • Description
    • Total Ticket Cost
    • Other costs (equipment, parking, etc.)

Make sure to account for all of the miscellaneous expenses that can occur. This can include things like:

    • Parking at the hotel
    • Hotel pet fees if you’re bringing the family pet
    • Pet boarding or a dog walker
    • Tipping hotel employees
    • Headphones or movie rental on the flight
    • Baggage Fees
    • Child care- some hotels and cruises will offer child care if you want an adults-only day

Taking the time to thoroughly plan your vacation and the associated expenses takes away so much of the financial stress that can often occur when you’re back home looking at the bill. We want our vacation to relax and recharge us, not add additional stress to our family’s finances.

Ideally, you will know far enough in advance that you want to go on a vacation that you can save towards this goal every month or every paycheck. By time you are ready to go on vacation, you will have 100% of the money you need for the trip. I talk more about this concept in my post about how to use sinking funds.

So set yourself up for success with this Free Travel Budget printable.

Other Posts You Might Like:

So tell me, where is your family going on vacation? Are you skipping travel this summer to save?


Resources I Love

Ebates: Ebates is a total no-brainer for saving money when shopping online.  Every time you shop online, click on a store through Ebates to receive cash back on all of your purchases. Get $10 after your first $25 purchase when you use my link.

Ibotta: Ibotta is my favorite app for saving money on groceries without clipping coupons. Get cash back on your groceries just by uploading your receipts. Get $5 just for signing up when you click on my link.

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Sarah Nichols

Sarah Nichols, founder and CEO of Let's Talk Mom Business, has a background in business, research, advocacy, and family finances. LetsTalkMomBusiness.com combines her Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and her love for budgeting and frugal living to help others take their family finances into their own hands by teaching budget basics, how to earn income from home as a mom, DIY tutorials, and frugal fun.

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