Everyone wants to go on vacation, right? But not everyone is prepared to make the investment. Take my family for example…We are a family of six and this summer we are trekking all the way across the Pacific to Maui (pray for us as we travel for over six hours in a small, confined airplane together). I spent nine tension-filled months planning this vacation with the opinions of five other family members weighing in on every decision. By the time all loose ends were tied up and plans were set, I was ready to call it quits on the whole thing. Between air travel, hotel, the activities scheduled on vacation, and all the meals, our costs equated to paying for a semester of college tuition.
Here are some tips on how to ease the exhausting and daunting task of planning a family vacation:
- Number one is an important one, as it is a common reason people don’t take Set your budget before you start looking at destinations. The worst is checking out an awesome resort online, and then realizing that there’s no chance it fits into your budget. Or worse, spending more than you wanted to in order to stay at the resort of your dreams. If you set a budget at $10,000 for a family of five and then start looking into vacationing in Europe, you’re going to have spent almost three- quarters of your budget on airfare alone.
- Once you determine what you are comfortable spending on a vacation (use our Financial Planning and Budgeting Guide to
help determine what you can afford), determine how much you currently have saved towards that goal and how much you still have to save for it. Be sure to have saved enough to at least cover your airfare ahead of time so you can pay off your credit card and won’t have to pay any interest. Then add up the remaining costs you expect to incur while you’re there, and determine how much you need to set aside each month to make your trip possible. If you estimate you’ll need another $5,000 for hotel, food and activities and your trip is six months away, save $833 each month (or
$416 per paycheck). This will ensure you can enjoy your vacation guilt-free because you saved ahead of time.
- Once you’ve decided on an amount you are comfortable spending and have started saving, start researching a few places you are interested in traveling It’ll keep you inspired to keep saving, and it’s much easier to nail down your vacation spot with fewer opinions. If you can come up with a few specific places that you’re interested in, it will make it much easier to decide on hotels, airfare, and activities.
- Once you pick your destination, make a few different Look at saving on travel expenses by varying the time of day that you fly. Flying in the early morning or later in the day are usually the cheapest options, but websites like hotwire.com can help you narrow your options. Also, some airlines have a Flexible Dates features that show you how much money leaving one day earlier or later could save you. When you’re booking six tickets, even $75 each makes a big difference.
- Then explore your hotel If you’re a part of a large family like me, this part will be tough and pricey because you might need adjoining rooms or even a small condo. Websites like vrbo.com or vacationcandy.com can help find a variety of accommodations at different prices.
- Next thing to look into is food options. Eating only in restaurants for a week can be expensive, not to mention unhealthy. Think about getting a condo or a hotel room that has a kitchenette so that you can cook and eat in for
some meals. This is an easy way to save on expenses, especially for a larger group. The price of groceries is much less
than dining out and you don’t have to tip.
- Another thing you’ll probably need to research is activities to do while you’re Not every day needs to be planned, but if your family is like mine you’ll want some scheduled activities. For example, while in Hawaii we are looking to go zip-lining, a.k.a. the most expensive three minutes of our lives. At first glance we thought we’d have a fun, reasonably priced adventure, but a closer look reveals that for a family of six, it’s roughly $1,200, tip not included. Since none of us wanted to forgo the zip-line, we decided that we would let go of our 4 a.m. sunrise bike ride (honestly, I wasn’t too bummed that one was taken off the table). The point is: the activities you want to partake in on vacation can be just as expensive as your hotel room. Look into different outfitters that offer the same experience to see if you can get a good deal somewhere.
- Last but not least, book the big Once you examine all your options, get your dates set, and make sure you’re within your budget, reserve your hotel, flights and all the activities. Nothing will make you happier when it’s all said and done. Keep saving every month to be sure you’ll have enough by the time you leave. For extra encouragement, print a picture of your destination and post it on your bathroom mirror, fridge, or somewhere you will see it often. Looking at the beautiful beach you will be lying on will help mitigate the pain of saving.
The only thing left to do is pack and look forward to a vacation full of relaxation after the countless hours of staring at a computer and waiting on hold for the “next available operator.” Vacations are supposed to be where you make the best memories with your family; so hopefully these tips will help you from wanting to leave them at home while you take a vacation from planning the family vacation.
Happy vacation planning and safe travels!
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