How the Little Vacation Expenses Add Up

July 10, 2015

by Michelle Perry Higgins


Before you board the cruise ship, international flight, or even your car, know your vacation budget. Once we start relaxing on our vacation and the euphoria hits, the concept of a vacation budget falls by the wayside and we can come home with an unexpected credit-card bill or a new timeshare.

Many families do a great job of saving for their vacation airfare, lodging, and car rental.  However, the little expenses are often the ones that are overlooked and not planned for, and they are the ones that can create budget havoc. To avoid this unpleasant aftermath, I recommend creating a vacation budget that includes every little expense you could imagine. Don’t forget items like tolls, tips, books, souvenirs, shopping, bar tabs or excursions.  Here is a worksheet example that can help with the detailed planning.

Once you have drawn up your budget, review it with your partner.  Is this a vacation you can afford and one that fits into your financial plan? Make sure you are both on the same page with all of the expenses, from large to small.  The last thing you want to do during a wonderful vacation is to argue over what you can afford.

During the trip, have your travel worksheet handy and know the daily amount you have projected for each expense category.  If unforeseen small expenses arise and you have exceeded spending in their category, you should deduct their cost from another category to maintain the integrity of the overall budget. If you come across a big-ticket item that tempts, like a painting or piece of jewelry you just have to have but didn’t budget for, walk away and sleep on it.  Give yourself 24 hours to evaluate the purchase to make sure you can afford the item.  The 24-hour decision period will eliminate the impulse purchase or the pressure from a salesperson to buy right away.

Vacation euphoria is a strong emotion and should be taken very seriously when it comes to your finances.