According to reports, Americans will be spending a record-breaking amount on summer vacations in 2017, topping the $100 billion mark. But there are smart – and not-so-smart – ways to invest your travel dollar. How can travelers get the most bang for the buck? Read on for some smart – and some not-so-smart – ways to spend on vacation.
Dos and Don’ts for Investing Your Travel Dollars
Even when we’re pinching pennies, Americans aren’t afraid to spend a little more when it comes to travel. In fact, the recently-released eighth annual Allianz Travel Insurance Vacation Confidence Index indicates that we’re spending more than ever on our summer vacations in 2017. According to the survey, we will be spending more than $100 billion on summer travel alone – an increase of 12.5 percent over last year’s spending.
But even as we loosen the purse strings, we have to keep an eye on our budget as well. I know I have enjoyed more than one vacation with an “anything goes” attitude towards spending. After all, we work hard; we deserve it, right? But then I find the memories of that vacation fading quickly, replaced by months of credit card debt and $10 dinners as I attempted to make up for my foolish (though well-deserved!) spending.
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Just like with everything else, there are dos and don’ts for investing your travel dollars. Here are some to consider when planning your next vacation. After all, you want your vacation to be invested in memory making – and not a money pit!
Do Look Back Before Moving Forward
Before you spend a dollar on your next vacation, revisit the trips you went on before. Think about what was really important and meaningful to you and your family, and plan to spend your money on similar things – not on ones that deplete your account, but don’t add anything to the vacation experience.
We learned this the hard way when we booked a balloon flight in the Orlando area prior to our most recent Disney vacation. We paid ahead – which was supposed to get us a 10% discount. But the winds were high while we were in Florida – too high to allow the balloons to fly. Even worse, we found ourselves planning our days around when we needed to check in at the attraction to see if they’d be running that day (and the answer was always know). So we lost more than the money. We lost the time we could have used in other, more memorable ways.
Look back on your most recent vacations or, better yet, talk them over with your family. See what investments really paid off – and which cost you more than you really wanted to pay.
Don’t Associate Riches With Spending
People have a tendency to associate “best” with “most expensive.” After all, if something costs a lot, it has to be good, right?
Well, not necessarily. My father’s shelves are full of expensive knick-knacks his children and grandchildren have brought home to him as souvenirs of their travels, and they’re just collecting dust. But his favorite souvenirs are the goofy selfies shot in off-beat sites, and the postcards written in crayon sent from a roadside attraction. These things cost us nothing but time – but they have given our family rich memories.
It goes for food, too. How many times did I invest in a spectacular dining experience, only to have the kids request fries or complain about having to dress up? Our favorite meals turn out to be the simple ones – like the time we had that picnic on the beach at sunset, and we had to protect our dinner (including fries!) from the scavenger seagulls.
Do Invest in Travel Insurance
Like any other investment, travel is a risk. After all, you never know when a storm will hit, luggage is lost, or a child will fall ill. Since we are investing more and more money in our travel plans, it’s becoming increasingly necessary to protect our investment. One of the best ways to do that is by buying travel insurance.
Travel insurance can protect a traveler’s prepaid expenses against a variety of covered events. When travel is a major line item in your family budget, it’s just smart to invest a little to protect those hard-earned dollars.
Don’t Blow Your Travel Budget
Many people take an “anything goes” attitude when it comes to vacation. And yes, while an open mind may pay off when it comes to trying new activities and cuisines, it isn’t an attitude you should take when it comes to spending money. After all, the debt you incur can follow you for a long time to come. That’s stressful – and isn’t relieving stress one of the points of vacation to begin with?
Instead, make a travel budget and stick to it. Seriously. Include a line for emergencies and incidentals because, yes, they will happen. But don’t let them blindside you. Instead, do some planning, set guidelines, and only spend within the boundaries of your predetermined travel budget.
Do Splurge – but In A Calculated Way
Okay, after so many strict dos and don’ts for investing your travel dollars, here’s a fun one. Yes, do splurge – but do it in a planned way! Is a meal at a five star restaurant your dream? Then do it – but make it work with your budget by cooking a few meals yourself (yes, hotel suites are your friends!). Is there an event, concert or attraction you’d love to experience? Make that your big budget item, then schedule a few “low key, low cost” days to allow for it.
After all, it is vacation. You don’t want to miss out on that “must do, must see.” But in the same sense, you don’t have to do everything on the same trip. After all, you will want to come back some time, right?
Don’t Miss the Teachable Moment
I love my kids, but let’s face it – they are real budget busters, especially on vacation. Don’t miss the teachable moments. Give your kids a vacation budget, and let them learn as they go.
This doesn’t necessarily mean giving each child a certain amount of money (though, of course, it could). With little ones, you can set a “snack budget” – one snack of their choice each day. If your child wants popcorn at 10 a.m., well, sure! But that means he spent his snack allowance for the day, and won’t be able to get ice cream with his siblings that evening.
We’ve done vacation budgets with snacks and souvenirs as well as money, and our children have learned to buy what they really want instead of on impulse. And they learn that their decisions (and the consequences) are their own (which means they know better than to bug me for another snack!). And by limiting the amount spent, I ended up saving money as well.
When you’re spending on your vacation, you’re actually investing in the experience and its benefits. The best investments are done wisely, with forethought and planning. If you following these dos and don’ts for investing your travel dollars, you’ll find your return will be invaluable. Better still, you won’t suffer from any post-vacation debt. You’ll be able to look forward to your next vacation stress free!