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How to Create a Realistic Budget for a Stress-Free Vacation

Vacation Budgeting
Free Tools For Understanding Finances Affinity FCU Blog
By: Jacqui Kearns
Chief Brand, Strategy, and Wellbeing Officer

April 19, 2023

Vacation planning and budgeting for the summer can seem daunting, but ensuring a stress-free experience that doesn’t derail your financial wellbeing is essential to preserving your financial wellbeing. Summer is the perfect time to enjoy a getaway with friends or family. Forty-nine percent of Americans plan to travel1 more this year. With simple strategies and tips, you can create a realistic budget to relax and have fun during a vacation without derailing your financial goals.

Top tips for reducing vacation costs

Start planning by considering the economic environment when budgeting for a summer vacation. In times of high inflation, prices will be higher than on your last vacation, so you’ll need to add to your budget or find ways to cut costs. Here are a few tips for lowering costs while still enjoying a summer trip:

  • Consider grocery shopping instead of eating out - Trying local dishes when traveling can be exciting. Still, dining costs are another expense to consider as you outline your vacation budget and can add up fast for families.
  • Compare the cost of driving and flying - Depending on where you are heading, flying may still be cheaper than driving. Prices2 for flights have increased by 0.1% for month-over-month from February 2023, while gas prices are down significantly from last summer3.
  • Avoid weekends and holidays - Many people choose to take vacations over weekends and holidays to use fewer vacation days, which increases the cost of accommodations, airfare, and car rentals. Taking advantage of off-times, like weekdays, for travel or attractions can offer significant savings.

Look for free and low-cost activities - Some activities and events are well worth the expense, and you can book some free or low-cost activities at your destination, like self-guided walking tours, local parks and recreation areas, and activities that offer eligible discounts to residents, students, seniors and more.

Decide what is most important to you and those you are vacationing with. Prioritize what means the most to you about this particular trip and allocate your budget accordingly—being able to differentiate between needs and wants, research hotels that are clean and comfortable but might not have extra perks like hot tubs or rooms with a view. One recommended way to help your travel budget planning4 is to have 25% for transportation, 40% for lodgings, 25% for food, and 10% for activities.

Another important step in budgeting for a summer vacation is tracking your spending in real time. This will help you stick to the budget you created, avoid overspending on unnecessary things, and enjoy a stress-free vacation without worrying about falling into debt. Seventy-three percent of the baby boomer generation report noticing health benefits5 post-trip, with better sleep, more energy, and increased productivity. It’s important to remember that vacations should be relaxing and enjoyable experiences that recharge us physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Best and worst months to travel

According to a survey, 46% of people say they will take summer vacations during July6, making it the most popular month for summer travel. Shoulder season is the time between the high and off-season when lodging and travel expenses are moderate, and the weather is manageable. Travelers can take advantage of deals during this time while avoiding large crowds and extreme weather conditions.

Planning and budgeting for a summer vacation can seem daunting, but meeting life’s financial goals is essential to maintaining financial solid wellbeing. By considering the economic environment, prioritize what is most important to you and those you are around. Working with a financial professional is important if you need help determining how to maximize your vacation budget. Find additional resources in our Financial Wellbeing resources by visiting

This information is for informational purposes only, is intended to provide general guidance, and does not constitute legal, tax, or financial advice. Each person’s circumstances are different and may not apply to the specific information provided. You should seek the advice of a financial professional, tax consultant, and/or legal counsel to discuss your specific needs before making any financial or other commitments regarding the matters related to your condition.

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