Once you have decided where you are going and for how long, you need to prepare your holiday budget. A vacation always involves certain major costs. You must be sure you are able to cover them all. You also need to allow yourself some wiggle room. You must be able to include major known expenses and allow for some unforseen costs.
The first rule of thumb when preparing your budget is to be HONEST. You have to be truthful in acknowledging how much money you can afford. If you do not, you will live beyond your summer vacation budget. This will create financial hardship for you at a later date. Furthermore, you do not want to take a vacation knowing you cannot really afford it. It takes some of the pleasure away from your time off adding stress to what should be an enjoyable experience.
To avoid this problem, know exactly how much money you have on tap to spend for your holidays. Calculate carefully the money you will require for each travel expense. Use the information you have gathered from researching the internet as a basis. If it is necessary, opt for the higher end-cost in your estimates. This will give you the wiggle room you require for any changes. You also have to be prepared to explore and adopt ways on how to stretch your money. This section will look at compiling your basic budget expenses. It does not include how to save money. This is for the next chapter.
The budget basics fall into several separate but integrated travel costs. Some are more expensive and demand more time in calculating then others. While you have expenditures relating directly to your trip you also have other “at home” costs. In other words, you have to remember you usually still have to pay for bills, home expenses and other items that do not directly relate to your summer vacation.
Transportation costs for a vacation involve a variety of items. If you take a train, plane or bus, you need to factor in both the cost of this mode of traveling and the price of getting to and from the departure and arrival points. There is the price of the tickets for your trip. There is also the cost of a car rental or taxi cab. You may also need to factor in such things as bus fare or the price of a ferry ride.
If you take your own vehicle, you have to look at current gas prices and estimate any future increase. There is also a need to look at the costs of oil and other related maintenance and operational costs. In addition, you will need to make sure your car is road worthy, able to handle the length of a journey, the extra load or expectations. This will require a visit to a reputable mechanic. It might be expensive, but it can save you the costly expense of a later roadside breakdown. In addition, you will need to make sure your license, insurance and other pertinent material are up to date for your vacation trip. If you are renting a vehicle, including RV (motor home or caravan) the same also applies. Furthermore, you need to check the motor and road regulations of another state, province or country to ensure you can drive there.
If you take a plane, train or bus, you need to make certain you have the exact ticket price. These fluctuate on a regular basis and prices vary according to season, source and day-of-the-week. Be sure to look into possible extra fees charged at the airport, from an agency or even by the airport. If you require help with your luggage, factor in the costs of a red cap or any equipment you hire to help out.
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Along with transportation costs, lodging is the highest expenditure. You will have decided on some form of lodging in the planning phase. Now, you have to consider the viability or affordability of this type of lodging. You must have data on the costs. You must look at whether what you want is not only available but affordable.
Take into consideration the total cost. Does your estimate include tipping, the use of a concierge and additions, e.g., rooms service, parking, a concierge? Is there food on site? Are cooking facilities available or are all meals included in the price? In fact, after looking at your overall costs for this item, you may have to reconsider your favored type of lodging.
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Eating is a basic fact of life. While you may be able to avoid expensive hotels by camping out somewhere and costly attractions by visiting free points of interest, you cannot avoid eating. When you look at your food budget, be aware of the various possibilities. Sure, you may be able to eat at a friend’s or cook your own meals. Yet, you must also realize that you will want to eat out at least once during your holidays. It is part of the overall summer vacation experience. Factor in at least one restaurant meal – more if you are staying in a hotel without cooking facilities.
Besides the regular meals, you have to consider the price of so-called junk food. If you take a plane, ride the bus or go on a road trip, some type of nibble food is usually an integral part of the trip. Do not forget to include this in your food budget. Such snacks are also part of some people’s comfort zone. They relax in the evening and watch TV or a sunset while eating potato chips (crisps), munching on popcorn and drinking pop (soda).
This is another part of your budget you need to consider carefully. You have to look at the costs of such things as going to movies, visiting nightclubs or attending theaters and shows. Some of your entertainment may be included in a package deal. Some resorts cover various types of entertainment in your bill; others charge extra for specific events.
If you buy magazines or books for the trip, this is another expense you need to include. It is part of your holiday budget. Another form of entertainment cost you may need to consider is the money you have to expend on batteries for your iPod or portable CD/DVD player. These provide amusement for you on a long bus or car ride. They also offer an alternative to any in-flight entertainment you may or may not have to pay for.
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Culture is a tricky cost to consider. You have to do research to discover whether the cultural institutions in a place are free, by donation or have set entrance fees. Once you have determined what is what, you can allot the right amount to your budget. Remember to include not only museums and art galleries but also botanical gardens, science centers, tours of various architectural structure, old forts, castles and similar significant local icons. Always allow some extra money so if you see something not included in your entertainment budget, you can visit it.
This category covers such things as visits to theme parks and physical activities. If you rock climb, sail, snorkel, or hike, be sure to include the cost of these activities. If you go to theme parks, amusement parks or related sites, do not forget to look at all the charges. While entrance to some places is free, the rides are not. Some hiking or walking paths are available at no cost to the public while others involve a cost. Be sure to know what is expensive, what is free and, above all, what is affordable on your vacation budget.
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Some people forget to budget for this particular item. That is a mistake. Before you go, be sure you have some sort of list of whom you intend to buy gifts for, including yourself. Categorize them according to how much you want to spend. Always allow leeway, e.g., between $10 and $15. Be sure to either allow some flexibility in the overall amount you have to spend by overestimating or adhere totally to your budgeted amount.
Besides the obvious vacation costs, there are some hidden ones. You may not even think of them until it is too late. This is because they are “at home” costs. Some are obvious directly related to taking a vacation; others are part of your everyday life and, therefore, easily forgotten. Do not ignore the other costs.
Whenever you go on a trip, even in an RV or by car, do not neglect the paper work aspect. Passports, insurance and credit cards cost money. How much the expenses will be, depends upon your own personal situation. Check first on what you need in this respect then include it in your budget proposal.
Going on a summer vacation means, to some people, the right to spend superlative amounts of money on such things as clothing. If you are fond of buying new items prior to a trip, be sure to include this as part of your summer vacation budget. If you are on a very tight budget, however, please think of this type of expense as being very negotiable to change or even serious reduction or omission.
Also falling into this particular grouping is accessories. If you have to buy new toothpaste, a toothbrush, travel kit or watch for your trip, include it here. This is also the category for shavers and such things as special cords and adaptors for different types of electrical current. Always be sure to be accurate in your expenses in this type of expense. Make sure, as well, these costs are actually essential and not for show.
- The costs of home sitting
- The fees for a pet sitter
- Your regular bills that will continue to arrive and/or accumulate summer vacation or no summer vacation
- An assortment of regular living bills and expenses. These include taxes, home improvement costs, medical bills and similar items.
Do not forget to factor all these items into your final summer vacation budget. If you do not, you may come back to some very unpleasant surprises.
In preparing your budget, do be all inclusive. Do not forget any of the specific factors relevant to your own trip. Do not ignore the cost of any of the seemingly small items. You need to budget for the toiletries as well as the plane tickets. All items that impact upon your taking the ideal summer vacation that are integral to your creating a functioning budget reflective of your own financial situation must be included.
There is one final comment to make about your travel budget. During the budgeting process do not allow yourself to become locked into one way and one-way-only thinking. This will prevent you from considering other possibilities that are both kinder to your budget and more conducive to having a great vacation. When you are on a tight budget, you need to be open to alternative means of getting what you want and to where you want to go. The next chapter provides you with a few basic transportation tips. These will help you explore other ways to get where you wish to be.
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