As winter fades away, many people look forward to welcoming warmer weather by going on vacation. Warmer weather usually means a “fun” vacation (as opposed to winter season when most people travel back home for the hoildays), otherwise known as Spring Break. No matter what time of year it is though, vacations can be expensive and usually require advance financial and logistical planning.
The number of domestic vacations in recent years has been declining, as this study from Value Penguin indicates. The number has dropped from 224,646 to 198,014 since 2007 (interestingly enough, international travel rates remain the same). There are various reasons why this may be the case. In planning a vacation, there are many costs to consider: food, lodging, transportation, and entertainment (i.e. amusement park tickets, concerts, sporting events, etc.) being the main factors. Besides the obvious parts of a vacation, other elements can add to a cost of going away: travel insurance, pet sitting, and lost wages (if your company doesn’t offer paid vacation time).
Depending on your vacation, it’s estimated that the average cost of per person is about $1,145, or about $4,850 for a family of four.
One reason families might be travelling less domestically is the advent of the “staycation,” where you take time off from work but stay home. You receive some of the same benefits as a typical vacation, but without the costs of travel and lodging. A stay-cation is a great alternative when your current circumstances make it impossible to get away, perhaps if you are on a budget or have kids who are too young to appreciate a destination vacation yet. The idea of a stay-cation became a trend a couple years ago, according an article from The Huffington Post which states “In 2014, Google Trends reported a 10 percent increase in online searches for staycations.”
If you do opt for a staycation, you want to make it feel as much like a real vacation as you possibly can. One important component of the staycation is to try to break away from your normal routine, whatever that may be. Explore your town- there’s bound to be places you haven’t truly explored yet. The internet, local guidebooks, and friends are great places to get ideas. The most difficult part of a staycation is shifting out of your element- adopting a vacation mindset while still in familiar surroundings. Avoid getting pulled into work mode- you wouldn’t answer that email if you were out of town, would you? Keeping your normal routine separate from your staycation time is key to making the most of the experience.
Another option is to think more flexibly about the way you travel. Do you really need to stay in a five star hotel or can you rent a place to stay on a website like Homeaway or AirBnB? Do you have to go out to eat for every meal or can you make your own lunches? Changing expectations can allow you to travel while spending less money than the average American.
Whether you opt for a staycation or decide to travel, there are several ways you can start saving money in advance. One idea is opening a savings account specifically for vacation funds (make sure to check if there is a minimum balance requirement so you don’t get penalized while withdrawing money on vacation).
Another tip for adding a little extra cash in your savings account is to create a monthly budget, and making a game of cutting corners. The money you don’t spend goes into your vacation fund! If it’s a family event, you can get everyone involved doing simple projects, like collecting change, selling unneeded items online, or cashing in returnables.
Finally, do some research before your trip or staycation and compare rates for different travel options, lodging, etc, to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Although all-inclusive vacations tend to have a higher sticker price, they are sometimes cheaper in the long run since they include food and other amenities in their price tag. There are many travel blogs, some specifying in specific areas (ex: the southwest United States) or specific kinds of travel (ex: RV travel) can give specific tips on how to save money.
Spring break doesn’t have to break the bank. You deserve a vacation and with a little creativity, planning, and some financial know-how, you can have it sooner than you think.