Spring is here and many military families are already looking forward to getting away this summer. Whether you are planning a quick weekend getaway or a longer trip to a new destination, the cost of a family vacation can be significant. Proper planning, including starting to save now for your summer vacation can help ensure that money worries don’t get in the way of your fun.
Make a decision. Select a location, set a date and work towards it. By selecting a date, you will have a clear idea of how long you have to save.
Create a budget. Be sure to account for all costs associated with your trip including airfare or gas, lodging, meals and tours, or attractions. Don’t forget to include some frequently overlooked expenses such as transfers to and from the airport, baggage fees, taxes, and tips.
Open a dedicated vacation savings account. Decide how much you can afford to set aside at regular intervals and arrange to pay yourself first by setting up automatic transfers into the account. By opening a separate account, you will be less likely to spend the money you set aside. Even small amounts can add up over time.
Remember your credit card rewards. If you have a rewards credit card, check your status before you travel. You might have enough points for a gift certificate that could be used for airfare, accommodations or other expenses related to your trip.
Decide on your method of payment for vacation expenses. Before you leave, decide whether you will use cash, credit or debit to pay your expenses while you travel. Regardless of how you opt to pay, always take a back-up payment method. If you are relying on a credit or debit card, remember to bring at least two cards. Also be aware of the differences in security and fees associated with debit and credit cards. Remember that when using either type of card, you are spending real money so stick to your budget.
Minimize the risk of financial headaches. Make sure you are familiar with your bank’s daily withdrawal limits so that you don’t find yourself needing more money than you can withdraw. A pre-trip notification call to your financial institution about unusual spending transactions will reduce the risk of having your card temporarily blocked.
Use social media. Sites like Twitter and Facebook are great for finding deals and some airlines and hotel chains now announce special sales on social media. Also consider signing up for daily emails from companies like Groupon and Living Social to find special deals at your destination.
Look for discounts. Military servicemembers often receive discounted and free admission to museums, amusement parks, national parks and other sites. Many times all you need to do is ask for information. Information for these discounts can also typically be found online or your local MWR will also likely have information on major hotel chains and attractions that provide discounts.
Bottom line. You can make the most of your leave by taking a little time to prepare beforehand. Enjoy!