Budget: the last word people want to hear when they are sitting at work or in the midst of the everyday to-do list dreaming up this year’s Spring Break extravaganza. Budgeting can often feel like the opposite of indulgence. It can deflate the grand vision of all we intend our vacation to be.
However, equally unsavory, is the thought of the months following a budget-less vacation as we are caught in the endless payback of the “I shouldn’t haves.” The key is to find some comfortable middle ground. You can have a worthwhile Spring Break get-away if for every main expense you consider, “should I spend?” or “should I save?”
Should I Spend?
Vacation expectations: The first thing you’ll want to do is set expectations. Are you checking off a trip from your bucket list? Or will this be one of many annual family vacations? Consider a word of advice from USA Today, “If this vacation is supposed to be the getaway of a lifetime, don’t ruin it by going cheap and cutting corners.” If you’re planning for a one-time splurge this Spring Break, then splurge. Do take a moment to research what others have spent and set a “no-excuse-to-exceed” limit.
On the other hand, if this trip is fitting into a family norm, then establish an allotted amount for each travel necessity.
Transportation, lodging, and food: Frequent travelers are well aware that transportation tends to be the most costly factor in a vacation. Surprisingly, food takes the next largest portion of the budget, followed by lodging. If you make cuts across all three expenses you’ll find yourself taking longer to get to a destination you have little desire to visit with plans to eat the same food you would at home. Your budget isn’t meant to be so inhibiting that it deprives you of all the things your daydreams are made of. Just shoot to find a balance between the categories.
If airfare is going to cost a fortune no matter what, find a cheaper option for accommodations and possibly supply some of your own meals for added savings. If you plan on eating amazing food all the time, then consider driving to your destination instead of forking out for a pricey airline ticket, or settle for less glamorous lodging. A swanky resort or luxury cruise could, in fact, be the thing to satisfy your budget if all-inclusive deals provide the majority of your meals and activities.
Should I Save?
Timing: When it comes to traveling, there are some tips you should heed every time. Purchasing airline, hotel, or cruise tickets at the right time is one of them. Plan your Spring Break far enough ahead of time, that you can track ticket prices; not only what days are the best to travel on, but what days are the best to buy on. In both cases, these days typically land in the middle of the week.
Tropical locations are often reserved for Spring Break, however, many natural beauties such as national and state parks, as well as lakes are just as awe-inspiring in the Spring and offer off-season savings for lodging and local fun.
Destination and accommodations: Creativity will be your budget’s best friend. Choosing an off-the-beaten-path destination could become your new addiction because you’ll spend a percentage of the cost and feel just as satisfied. For example, a small town might present tourists with lesser known excursions or be equally developed in history and culture, and also be within travel distance to check off more renowned sights.
If accommodations are not at the center of your glorious plan, then venture outside of the box. Hotels are becoming less popular as families are finding condos and home rentals, splitting costs with other families or seeking rooms in private residences on sites like Vacatia and Airbnb; the latter of which I can thank for my stay in a sky-high apartment with breathtaking views of the marina near Granville Island in Vancouver, Canada—at a rate cheaper than most hostels.
Fun: Give yourself permission to choose a couple spend-y adventures. You don’t have to let those one-time chances such as a canopy zip line or scuba dive pass you by. Just sprinkle in some free activities the remaining days to round out the spread. Trying to make the most of your vacation by overloading your agenda and finances can, in fact, leave you in need of a second vacation when all is said and done.
Search for local festivals, live performances, hiking trails, beaches, free markets, or donation-based educational centers. You’ll relish in the low-key relaxation and the savings will have you smiling.
Be aware of what every vacation component is worth to you, carve out a budget, and do your best to stick to it. Do this and you’ll afford a memorable Spring Break for the family and you’ll enjoy it too.
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