As we say goodbye to February and head into March, many Americans are starting to plan their vacations for spring break. What are your plans this year? Maybe you’re packing up the car for a road trip, maybe you’re jet-setting off to an exotic location or maybe you’re taking the kids to Disney.
The idea of getting away for spring break is nice, but the reality is that vacations can be expensive. As a financial coach, I help families plan their long term and short term finances and set budgets so they can achieve all their financial goals from vacations to . If you‘re planning a vacation during spring break, here are a few tips to keep in mind to make sure you don’t break the bank.
Keep track of your expenses
This may sound like it’s taking the fun out of your spring break vacation, but seriously, it will help you . If you’ve allocated a certain dollar amount each day for expenses like meals, then write down everything you spend throughout the day to keep track of where your money goes.
Sometimes cash can quickly disappear, especially when you‘re having fun. If you write down all your expenses, you’ll be able to calculate what you’re spending and make sure you stay on budget. If you spend a little extra on lunch, make sure to cut back at dinner, or spend less on souvenirs.
Unfortunately we probably can’t afford to do everything on vacation. Setting priorities of things to do and places to visit will help prioritize your budget. I like to spend money on experiences as opposed to local cuisine, but some people prefer to splurge on expensive meals – and that’s okay.
Bring cash to avoid bank fees
Have you ever been in an unfamiliar city and tried to navigate to an ATM with your bank locator app, only to find that there’s not really an ATM there? I have, and it’s frustrating!
ATM and foreign transaction fees can be extremely expensive, that’s why I always suggest having cash on hand when traveling and especially when traveling abroad. Sometimes the idea of carrying cash terrifies people because they’re afraid of theft, but bringing cash on vacation can save you money. If you withdraw money from an ATM in a foreign country, the native bank may charge a service fee and your own bank may charge additional fees. When you exchange U.S. dollars into foreign currency at your bank you know exactly what the exchange rate is; when you use your credit card abroad or withdrawal money from a foreign ATM you will be charged the exchange rate of that day, which may be unknown at the time.
If you don’t want to bring a bunch of cash, take a look at your credit cards and debit cards to see which ones have little or no foreign transaction fees.
Give yourself some wiggle room
As a , I would love to say that every single dollar and cent should be accounted for, but I know that’s just not the reality. Realistically, we just can’t plan everything. My advice is to give yourself a little wiggle room so your daily budget doesn’t go bust.
Give yourself some extra “fun money” to play around with. This will help cover the costs of unexpected expenses such as taxis, tips and last minute excursions.