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As a long, cold winter departs, thoughts turn to the warmer days ahead. Perhaps you plan to celebrate with a spring break getaway.
If so, don’t let a downpour of debt threaten your sunny visions of the perfect vacation. Instead, put a financial plan in place that will keep you from overspending.
Thinking ahead is the key to avoiding financial disaster during a spring break getaway – or any vacation, says Clarissa Hobson, a certified financial planner and director of financial planning at Carnick & Kubik, a personal wealth advisory firm in Denver.
“Taking trips (at the) last-minute can be costly,” she says. For example, the cost of flights, hotels and park admissions is likely to be higher if you do not schedule your trip in advance.
Also, rushing to book a trip might prevent you from having the time to comparison shop for deals that can save you a bundle.
Here are some tips for financing a spring break getaway:
Create a travel budget
Plan a budget that anticipates the daily costs of your trip. These might include:
- Travel costs, such as gas or airfare
- Other miscellaneous items
“Once you have an idea of the total cost of the trip, set aside money regularly to put towards your vacation,” Hobson says.
Choosing the right mode of travel also can save you money. “Consider whether driving or flying is more cost-effective,” Hobson says.
When calculating this cost, compare the price of gas to the costs of airfare. Also, do not overlook other costs, such as the wear and tear on your car if you drive, or the cost of transportation to and from the airport if you fly.
Booking your hotel in advance also can save you from having to make a last-minute – and expensive – choice for lodging. The same is also true of restaurants and activities.
“Use the internet to review restaurant menus and activity descriptions to get an idea of pricing,” Hobson says. Include the price of tipping in these calculations, she adds.
Once you are at your destination, stick to your daily budget. This can be challenging if you are traveling with children who beg for souvenirs and special treats everywhere you go. But it also offers an opportunity to teach your kids important money lessons.
“Let them know at the beginning of the trip the total amount you are willing to spend on souvenirs, and how often they can have treats,” Hobson says. “Have them select items within that budget.”
What to do if you overspend
Despite your best intentions, it’s possible you will spend yourself into debt, or make other money errors. In fact, a 2017 survey by financial planning site LearnVest reported that 74% of travelers say they have gone into debt to pay for a vacation, at an average of $1,108 into the red.
If you are struggling to stay afloat in a sea of vacation-induced debt, do not dwell on your mistakes.
“What’s done is done, so don’t beat yourself up too badly if you overspend,” Hobson says.
That said, if you do overspend, create a plan when you get home to pay off your debts. One method Hobson suggests is cutting back on other types of spending so you can make up for your overspending on the vacation.
Once your debt is paid off, start saving for your next vacation. That way, you be able to fully enjoy your next trip without having to suffer through a debt hangover afterward.
“Experiences and memories are priceless,” Hobson says.