Planning your first vacation as an adult can be an amazing feeling — an amazing, expensive feeling. If you want to go away for more than just a long weekend, things can get pricy. And if you want to go somewhere abroad, things will get even pricier. So how do you start to budget for your first real grownup vacation?
"On TV, everything happens in an instant," Priya Malani, co-founder of Stash Wealth, a modern financial planning firm, tells Bustle. "A kitchen get renovated in 30 mins, a 24 hour slow-roasted brisket is on the table in 20. But IRL, it’s not the same. Don’t expect to wake up one morning with the desire to go to Portugal and the money to just appear." But that doesn't mean that you can't make your dream vacation happen. You just need to assess your travel goals and put a plan into place (and stick to it, of course).
Young people may have a bad reputation when it comes to financial planning, but the research shows that they know how to have a great vacation on a budget. A survey from Airbnb found that travel is more important to millennials than buying a house or a car, young people are obviously are willing to make it a financial priority. And research from Allianz Global Assistance USA, a company that specializes in travel insurance, found the millennials spend less on vacations than older demographics, so Gen Y is willing to make vacations work on a budget. Ready to make yours work? Here's what Malani says you need to know about budgeting for your first real vacation as a grownup.
1Figure Out Your Travel Goal
First,it's important to decide the type of trip you want to take, so you know what you're aiming for. "Start by asking yourself some questions," Malani says. "Where do you want to go? When? Do you want to stay in a hotel or is a hostel more your speed? Do you have airline points you can use for the flight? Are you going with people or by yourself? Figuring out what the costs may look like will help you have a better sense for what you need to do today to be on track for your travel goal."
Once you have a rough idea of the type of trip you're looking for, you can figure out how much you need to save.
2Automate Your Savings Strategy
Give your vacation its own account to ensure you're saving consistently. "Set up an online savings account, called 'Portugal Vacation' (or wherever you’re going)," Malani says. "Every week or every other week, automate a small portion of your checking account to transfer to your travel savings. By having the account nicknamed, you’re much less tempted to touch those funds for something else."
Automated savings can be life-changing. And if you use a saving app, many of them will allow you to create a separate "pot" for things like vacations.
3Set Up Price Alerts
When it comes to flights, you'll always want to shop around. "Using sites like Google or Kayak or Hopper, you can set up price alerts for your destination to snag the best flight deal," Malani says.
You'll also always want to check an airline's homepage as well as the big travel booking sites when it's time to buy your flight. Sometimes they're more expensive on their own sites, but sometimes you can actually save money by booking direct.
4Be Practical About Where You'll Stay
When it comes to where you'll stay, it's important to be realistic — as nice a huge bathtub or balcony would be. "For all intents and purposes, you’re taking a vacation not to spend time in a hotel room," Malani says. "Hopefully, you plan to be out on the beach or sightseeing so this might be a good place to cut back on costs, however read reviews so you don’t end up compromising more than you had intended." As beautiful as fancy hotel or Airbnb photos may look, it's probably not worth it to blow your money on a place you're really just going to sleep.
5Consider The Best Mode Of Transportation
Similarly, don't rent a car just because you think you'll need it — it's also important to do research about transportation in the place you'll be visiting. "With Uber in most cities now, take some time to decide if you really need a car rental," Malani says. "If you enjoy walking and can manage with public transportation, you might be able to skip this cost. Also, check if your hotel has a shuttle to and from the airport."
Renting a car can easily be one of the biggest expenses of the trip, especially when you add in taxes and insurance, so make sure it's absolutely necessary if you do decide to rent one.
And The One Big "Don't"...
If you're thinking about just going for it and booking a trip without a budget, think again. Malani says to never put a trip on your credit card with the idea that you'll just pay it off later. "Unless you’re super disciplined, we’ve almost never seen this work out well," she says.
Planning for your first real vacation can be daunting, especially when you consider how much more money a grownup vacation may be than your past weekend getaways or trips to visit a friend. But by doing your research and starting to save as soon as possible, you can definitely make your dream trip more attainable.