You have planned and prepared for summer vacation. Is it possible to stick to a budget and still have fun? I think it can be done. These are some tips that work for my family that should allow us to have tons of fun, make tons of new family memories and not force our young children to panhandle when we return.
Food can become a major expense on the road. Have you ever stopped to fill up only to spend an equal amount as a full tank of gas refueling the family with junk food and pricey bottled waters? I have. I have also found that using water bottles and packing healthier snacks in the car ahead of time can really go a long way in helping your budget on the road. The travel portion of a trip is many times overlooked for those of you who budget your vacations meticulously. My family buys snacks in bulk, goes through the hassle of repackaging them if necessary and we have found that we can save money and keep the kids a little healthier. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the salty and sweet snacks at the gas station and so do my children. We have found that a grocery bag in the car with nuts and fruits and even a few healthier chips or popcorn is a better option. Drinks are also expensive. My wife found these amazing things called water bottles. Our kids love to put stickers on their water bottles to personalize them and saving $2 on a bottle of water in the store makes this a great way to save money as well.
There are a lot of free experiences out there that should be part of your vacation. They lower cost and allow you to get some great experiences. My children love to find geo-caches while on vacation. We use an app on our phones called Geocaching® for clues to find these treasures and there are treasures hidden all over. While there is a buy up version, we use the free version and it has prompted a lot of fun exploring on family trips. Hiking is also a great way to get some exercise and see some things and the price is usually free as well. Think about these types of free activities while you are on vacation.
Is going out to eat a big part of your family vacation? Sometimes this can really blow the budget as well. Do you find that going out to breakfast or lunch is much less expensive than dinner? I have too. Our family tries to make our own dinner if renting a place while on vacation that allows us to do this. We have also just ordered takeout for dinner as well. My wife and I both enjoy a nice glass of wine with dinner. This taste for wine is rooted in the fact that we both waited tables in our earlier years. The cost of adding this beverage to your meal raises the cost of dining out significantly. By eating dinners at home, we can afford to each get a bottle of wine and order a pizza to eat.
Include the entire family in the budgeting. I know you likely do not look at hitting the road as an opportunity to teach your children about money. My children are 7 and 10. We will explain the difference in costs between things from time to time. We will also sometimes give them their own budget for a souvenir or an experience just to allow them to decide freely and develop their own budgeting skills. For most children, the only opportunity for them to learn financial concepts is from their parents. Don’t leave it up to them to learn on their own, give them opportunities to learn young before they are of legal age to create significant financial mistakes. Just like other areas of parenting, you goal is to equip them with tools for success. Be sure not to leave out the financial lessons.
These are some of the ways that we have found to help our family stay on budget while on vacation. It is a lot better coming back from vacation without the financial hangover of blowing your budget. It should make the mounds of laundry and re-entry to home life a little bit easier.
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