With the temperatures now dipping, winter is on its way and that means ‘tis soon the season for big cozy sweaters, holiday sweets and, for many of us, sunny trips down south to swap our snow suits for bathing suits.
Whether you’re planning to head south to an all-inclusive resort or planning ahead for your dream vacation to a more exotic destination, going on vacation doesn’t have to mean going into debt. In fact, with a little bit of planning, you can enjoy your next holiday without worrying about how much it will cost.
Start by asking yourself the most important question:
How much will my trip cost? For many of us, the first answer that comes to mind is the cost of airfare and accommodations. However, there are other items to consider as well to ensure that you are capturing the total costs of your trip:
- Passports and Visas – If you have a passport, make sure it will be valid for your trip. If you need special documents, do your homework.
- Luggage – Visit your airline’s website to determine any restrictions and additional fees you should be aware of before you start packing.
- Vaccinations – Check whether or not you will need vaccinations, and for any other health issues to be aware of in advance, as this may influence the items you purchase to pack for your trip.
- Insurance – Before you buy insurance, check if you can get any special rates through your employer or credit card.
- Transportation – Think about getting to and from the airport, airport parking, getting to and from your destination, local transportation.
- Site-Seeing – Research the attractions and activities you would like to do.
- Food – Think about your meals, snacks and treats throughout the trip.
- Spending Money – How much extra cash do you want to keep aside for shopping and/or souvenirs?
- Exchange – You will likely need to exchange some money in advance, so be sure to check the rates with your bank. Rates change over time, but it is useful to remember that this will be a factor in the cost of your trip.
- Miscellaneous – Do you need a new bathing suit? Special hiking shoes? International chargers? Extra data?
The objective here isn’t to overwhelm yourself, it is to simply make the most realistic estimate of your costs so that you can plan more effectively. Once you’ve got a clearer picture of the overall price tag, the next most important question will be:
How will I pay for my trip? Generally speaking, there are three ways to fund your vacation:
Cold Hard Cash – While this is obviously the ideal option, it will also take more planning. If you can delay instant vacation gratification, you will be more likely to afford your next trip. The math is simple: Now that you know how much your vacation will cost, figure out how much you can afford to save each month to work towards your travel goals.
Cash plus Credit – If you are working on a tighter timeline and are only able to save a portion of your vacation costs, you can fund the balance on credit. This may even be a good idea if you have the cash in order to make strategic use of a solid rewards program. Just remember that you will be paying interest on this amount if you don’t pay it off sooner than later. This means that any savings you find on airfare or accommodations may be cancelled out, depending on how long you take to pay off the balance.
Play Now, Pay Later – Maybe you’ve found the opportunity you’ve been waiting for, but simply don’t have the cash on hand. While credit is an option, it is not recommended, especially if you already carry a balance on your credit card on a regular basis. Short-term pain in the form of a cheaper alternative, such as camping or “staycations” can really pay off in the long-term toward meeting more important financial goals, such as a debt-free lifestyle.
Managing your costs while traveling can be tricky – it can be easy to get carried away and tempting to use your credit card, but you can set yourself up for success. The secret is not surprising: Plan ahead. Here are some additional tips for sticking to your budget while you’re traveling:
Create a travel budget – Subtract the costs of your airfare, accommodations and obvious one-off costs such as your passport to figure out the total balance remaining. Break that amount out into daily chunks to give yourself an idea of how much you want to limit yourself to per day. When you start each day with a number in mind, it is much easier to stay on track.
Be flexible and creative – Timing is everything, especially when it comes to travel. The more flexible you can be with your travel dates, the more opportunities you can exploit for savings. Use sites like Hopper, SkyScanner or Kayak to find the best airfare deals. When it comes to accommodations, consider alternatives to chain hotels, such as Airbnb. If you’re planning on site-seeing, check the destination’s tourism website for any package deals that you can buy in advance.
Shop before you drop – The fastest way to bust your budget is by not planning ahead. When it comes to shopping or eating, plan ahead so that you aren’t making decisions when you’re tired or rushed. Planning ahead by scheduling your souvenir shopping or packing extra snacks and water will help you to avoid making bad decisions out of desperation.
Once again, going on vacation doesn’t have to mean going into debt. If you are already in debt, planning ahead for future goals is key for avoiding more financial stress. If your financial situation is holding you back from achieving your goals, dealing with your debt first is the best way to move forward and there is help available. Contact your local North Vancouver 4 Pillars office to set up a free consultation with a Debt Relief Specialist to help get you back on track.
About the Author
Jennifer Virani is a Debt Specialist with 4 Pillars Debt Solutions in North Vancouver, BC. Jennifer has a great deal of experience with Debt Consolidation as well as other debt settlement options. If you’d like to discuss your debt options with Jennifer call her at (604) 612-9211.
To learn more log onto 4 Pillars.ca to find a 4 Pillars Debt Specialist near you.