Nothing puts a damper on vacation planning faster than talk of a budget. But let me tell you, this is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle, and certainly one that should be discussed first. Why? It is far less stressful to go on a vacation that you know you can afford and plan for.
I work with clients in all budgets – from a short cruise in an inexpensive cabin to luxury trips for a month or two to several countries. Most people fall somewhere int he middle. My job as a travel agent and adviser is not simply to book a trip for my clients, but rather to take into account all factors, and then recommend great trips. Here are my top travel budget tips:
- Set a realistic budget. This is not like shopping for a house, or a car, when you tell the salesperson your budget they find something close. This is a matter of understanding what the total picture is, so that I can find creative ways to make it work for you. In other words, don’t say you want to spend $2,000 on a vacation, if you really have in a mind a $5,000 budget. Those are not the same trip.
- Understand ALL expenses. It is important to know what is included in any vacation. For example, if you plan a cruise and the fare is $2,500 for the week, what does that include? There have been promotions where it may include a drink package, prepaid gratuities or an onboard credit. That is wonderful, but what are you going to do in port? Are you going to dine at specialty restaurants? Gamble in the casino? These all add to the cost and should be factored in from the beginning, so you are not surprised at the end.
- Sometimes more is less. No, that is not a typo. Sometimes, you may pay more upfront, for example on a luxury cruise, but you will pay less while onboard. The same goes for hotels and vacation packages. Maybe you spent a little more for a better room, but sometimes that may include perks – like free breakfast or a resort credit, that more than make up for the price difference.
- You have to eat. I understand that I am in the minority of people who plan their vacations around food. Even if you are not a crazed foodie, you’ll still need to budget for meals. Somehow, this tidbit sometimes escapes people as they plan their trip. Understand how much restaurants typically cost in the area you are traveling and factor that in accordingly (see #2 above).
- Give yourself leeway. Allocate somewhere between 5-10% of the total trip budget for incidentals, additions or just things that strike your fancy at the moment. Live in the moment (but budget for the moment, too…)
- Don’t sweat it. Know that whatever budget you are working with, you can still get a great vacation. A good travel agent can help you navigate the murky waters of deals, packages and more.
I hope this has given you something to think about for your next vacation. If you need help planning it, please feel free to get in touch. I am always happy to help clients plan vacations that create lasting memories.