Budget-savvy vacation tips

Nearly three-quarters of Americans have gone into debt to pay for a trip.

vacation and money

Whether March comes in like a lion or a lamb, by now most Minnesotans are feeling a little spring fever. But before you book that warm-weather getaway, make sure you’ve packed some financial wisdom.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans have gone into debt to pay for a vacation. On average, that debt adds up to about $1,100 per trip, according to a 2017 study by LearnVest.

And yet, no one wants to come home from vacation to face a pile of bills! Start taking steps now to reduce the cost — and the stress of paying it off.

Don’t splurge before you go

Sometimes we feel like we need a whole new wardrobe before we go on a trip, but we can probably get away with what we already have in our closets.

Taking away this expense can free up more money to spend on your travels!

However, necessities like sunscreen or an umbrella will be more expensive at a hotel or resort, so pack them and bring them with you.

Create a daily allowance

Set a daily budget for your vacation— and be realistic. Figure out what you expect to spend on food, drink, activities and shopping and then inflate the number by 10 to 15 percent. That will serve as a cushion for “the unexpected.”

A great way to stick with your budget is to use cash and keep credit cards for emergencies only. Each day, carry only the amount you’ve allotted to spend. When the cash is gone, you’re done spending for the day!

Avoid fees

Don’t pay more than you have to for your bags. You may be able to avoid checked bag fees by using an airline’s credit card.

It’s also a smart idea to literally pack light. Oversized or heavy bags can rack up additional fees. Depending on your style, you may be open to packing some additional items in a photographer’s vest with multiple pockets (a handy accessory when sightseeing).

Stick with your plan

Making changes after you’ve booked is another common way to rack up fees. Airlines may charge you for switching or cancelling your flight. Make sure you’re aware of potential fees before you commit.

Don’t get scammed

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers are constantly coming up with new ways to try to get your money online.

They’ll post photos of properties that aren’t for rent — or that don’t exist — to try to get your credit card information. Follow these tips to avoid falling for a travel scam:

  • Always use a reputable company and/or website to book your trip.
  • Look critically at deals on social media and sites like Craigslist.
  • Search for reviews (and complaints) before booking.
  • Ask for references before renting a vacation home.
  • Check out companies with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Never wire money to someone you don’t know.

Scale it back

If your choice is between going into debt or not going on vacation at all, I suggest you don’t go. If money is tight, consider a “staycation” instead. Minnesota has hundreds of great places to visit, and you can save on airfare and accommodations while you’re at it.

Do big-picture planning

As you plan for retirement, make sure to factor in vacations. If you want to travel often, you need to plan for it!

Talk it over with your family and your financial advisor to figure out how much you’ll need to save during your working years so you can have the retirement of your dreams.

Larry Kallevig, owner of Haven Financial Group in Burnsville, helps clients create financial plans that ensure dependable and comfortable income in retirement. Learn more at havenfinancialgroup.com.