In many parts of the country, it feels like spring is still in hiding, but I'm definitely looking ahead to the summer weather. I know the heat and humidity associated with summer can be super polarizing, but if there's one thing I can think everyone can agree on, it's that's nothing feels better than taking a summer vacation. Of course, this brings us to the conundrum: How to budget for a summer trip? Is it too close to the start of summer to actually save enough funds?
Maybe there's still enough time to save and plan, because honestly, taking a summer trip depends on a lot of factors: How much time you can take off of work, whether you have familial commitments, what your notions of a vacation are, and more all come into play here. For me, a "vacation" counts as crashing at a friend's apartment out of town for two nights. For others, "vacations" are international trips they plan for a year in advance. No matter what your definition of a vacation is, though, there's still more than enough time for you to budget something in for the summer.
Here are some budget based suggestions on how best to plan for your summer trip, whether it's a weekend getaway or a month-long vacation.
1. Pick A Destination That Isn't Super Popular
I know, I know. This is not what anyone wants to hear, but in my own experience, it's the truth: Staying in popular places is going to be more expensive, no matter how you swing it. The cost of hotels, airfare, activities, and food can all rise when you're heading for a major tourist destination. Now, if you have a connection in the area and can stay somewhere for free, for example, that changes things. But otherwise, my first suggestion is to look for places that are off the beaten path and will likely be more affordable for travelers. If you're really into the idea of going to a popular spot, you can check out options like couchsurfing to cut down on the cost.
2. Decide Early If You Want To Travel Alone Or With Friends
This really depends on who you are as a person and what your own interests are, but there are financial pros and cons to traveling with friends. If you travel with your friends and you're comfortable sharing finances, you can definitely cut down on certain costs by splitting them. If you rent a car, share the gas. If you stay in a hotel, share the cost of a single room instead of each getting your own. If you're trying to pack light, strategically pack things you can share, so you aren't all bringing along your own curling iron and laundry detergent.
Traveling with friends, though, may mean that you spend more if your vacation ideal involves a lot of alcohol, clubbing, or just lots of activities. Traveling solo may mean you spend more on hospitality, but you may be able to cut down on other spending by doing only what you choose to, and not feeling pressured or obligated to do certain things because your friends want to. Either way, it's important to plan this out from the beginning, because adding (or subtracting) someone from the financial planning can be a huge headache when things are already rolling.
3. Cut Down On Your Excess Spending, Starting Now
I know, this is something else no one wants to hear, but it's pretty necessary: If you want to budget for travel, that probably means you need to cut back on your spending elsewhere. Even if you're only going away for a weekend, traveling generally incurs additional costs that are not part of your regular budget. If you don't already have a travel savings set up, that's OK! It's possible to start saving now for the summer.
Basically, you'll want to get organized and evaluate what you spend each month on the necessities (rent, utilities, gas, etc.) and what you spend on extras (alcohol at the bar, coffee from the local cafe, etc). Then it's time to determine what you can cut down on. I suggest using a budgeting app to track your savings, or you can use traditional pen and paper or a spreadsheet. The key is that even if you're planning a pretty cheap vacation, you want to make sure you actually have enough saved to cover the cost of it, so you don't end up regretting your fun times later.
4. Be Flexible On Your Travel Dates
If you travel over the holidays, it's probably going to be more expensive, and that's true during the summer, too. It's also possible your travel is going to get a whole lot more congested; there's more traffic, more people in airports, and more people shuffling in and out of hotels. Now, if you're traveling to visit family or friends for a special occasion, there's little you can do to change the dates. However, if you're traveling solo or you and your group just want to plan a getaway, try to be flexible on your travel dates. Do your searching a good bit of time ahead, so you can catch deals and figure out the overall best times to travel and book your stay, instead of leaving it at the last minute, where cost is likely to shoot up.
5. Sell Your Stuff
I know this is another thing no one wants to hear, but selling your stuff is a great way to come up with extra money. Now, if you already run a tight ship, you may not have much of anything you can spare to sell. That's OK! But if you know your closet is basically overflowing and you can't remember the last time you took anything out of your storage unit, it might be time to go through your old stuff and see what can be resold. And if you don't make much money off of anything? You can always spread the good vibes forward by donating your stuff. The goal here is to make extra money where you can, because when people are on vacation, the last thing they want to worry about is going over budget. It never hurts to have as much extra put aside as possible, whether or not your vacation is super luxurious.