The average vacation cost for a family of four is an astonishing $4,000, a not inconsiderable amount for most Americans. Here are seven expenses that every vacation budget should include.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Image via Flickr by Carrib
Whether you plan to travel to your destination by car, plane, train, or boat, you’ll need to figure out how much it will cost you. Airfare is more expensive during the summer months and cheaper during the off-season. In fact, the cheapest months are October and January. If the only time you can get away is during the summer, August is the cheapest month of the season…13 percent cheaper than June or July. Don’t forget to include taxes in your cost estimations: The taxes on a $300 airline ticket amount to 20 percent of the cost.
Obviously, staying at a five-star resort is pricier than staying at the local Motel 6, with the average cost of hotels in the U.S. coming in at $115.68 per night in 2014. However, staying at a bargain hotel doesn’t mean living with dirty sheets, roaches, and dealing with Norman Bates sitting behind the front desk. Like airfare, hotel room rates are cheaper in the off-season. Additionally, if you’re a member of associations such as AARP, AAA, or trade groups, such as the American Bar Association or the American Medical Association, you can often get discounts that non-members can’t get.
The Vacation Meal Tab
Eating while on vacation is surprisingly expensive – averaging $800 for three meals per day. This amount doesn’t include snacks and drinks at the bar. Know what the local sales tax rate is, as restaurant meals are usually subject to special taxes. If possible, arrange to cook some of your own meals in your hotel room. Keep in mind, too, that the hotel’s restaurant as well as those establishments located near tourist attractions will often be much more expensive than restaurants farther away. Don’t be afraid to ask the locals for advice on where you can get a good cheap meal; you’ll almost always end up eating better food, and for a fraction of the cost. Find more vacation saving tips here.
Games of Chance
If you’re going to a place that has gambling, set yourself a spending limit, and stick to it no matter how tempting it is to keep playing. Remember that casinos are designed to keep you playing, no matter what. Resist the urge to have just one more game. If you do come out ahead, remember that the U.S. government requires you to report your gambling winnings.
Yikes! Did that Really Happen?
Don’t neglect to set aside money for emergencies or other unexpected situations during your travels. This may include insurance deductibles, medication costs, auto repairs, or any other expense arising from an unexpected source. To decide how much you should budget for this, do some checking around. For example, call your insurance company or look at your policy declarations to find out your deductible amount.
The Small Stuff
You rarely think about this stuff, but not accounting for it in your budget can blow your vacation finances apart in a hurry. This includes car rental fees, fees for extra towels, convenience fees, and most importantly, passport fees. With a bit of homework, you can get a fairly accurate estimate of how much you should set aside for this. For example, you can look online to find out how much it will cost to rent a car at your travel destination.
Paying The Bills While You’re Gone
The United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t mandate any form of paid vacation time for its workers. If you’re lucky, your job provides you with paid vacation time. If not, then in addition to budgeting for the costs of the vacation itself, you’ll also have to account for having enough money to pay your regular expenses during your absence. At a minimum, plan on saving an amount equal to our normal pay for the period you’ll be away.
It Costs to Have Fun
Unless you purchased an all-inclusive vacation, and sometimes, even then, many of the fun activities that you’ll want to do on your trip will cost money. Guided tours, water-sports, concerts, and other attractions each have their own costs. Again, some brief research will give you a good idea of how much money you’ll need.
Once you have created your vacation budget, stick with it. The money you set aside will accumulate, and when the time comes for you to take your vacation, you can relax and enjoy your time away, knowing that you have it covered.