6 ways you can plan a debt-free summer vacation - KCTV5 News

6 ways you can plan a debt-free summer vacation

© Noel Hendrickson / DIgital Vision / Thinkstock © Noel Hendrickson / DIgital Vision / Thinkstock

By Andrew Housser

With summer around the corner, your social media feed – and your imagination – may be filling up with images of relaxing beachside getaways or European tours. But unless you live near the coast or in Europe, those vacations can be pricey. On average, people spend $144 per person, per day for a U.S. vacation. That cost rises to $271 a day for a European trip. 

When budgeting for a summer vacation, easy-to-overlook costs can add up, especially if you are traveling as a family or other group. Consider these expenses and workarounds as you plan a getaway.

Create a budget. Just like any financial goal, your vacation requires a budget. To avoid unexpected expenses catching you off guard, add up all the costs involved in your vacation. Whatever you do, do not go into debt for vacation. Instead, reduce other expenses to free up funds. Cut back on eating out, avoid buying new outfits for the trip and minimize other flexible expenditures. Hold a garage sale, pick up an extra job or eliminate your cable bill. It is far better to save now than to charge costs and find yourself buried in debt after you come home.

Compare travel costs, including hidden fees. Carefully consider driving versus flying. Flying and renting a car at your destination might be expensive, but a long road trip requires extra time, extra nights in hotels, gas costs, and wear and tear on your own car. A great airfare and economy car can make flying more affordable. Alternatively, look for a destination where you can get around by public transport. Options such as renting an RV can sound smart, too, but they often cost more than a hotel room or condo rental. When you compare airfares, be sure to include all hidden costs. Bag fees, Wi-Fi and in-flight meals can add hundreds of dollars. At your destination, resort fees, alcohol, taxes and souvenirs can eat away at your vacation budget. And when dreaming of travel abroad, remember that passports cost about $150 each, and more if you need to expedite them.

Account for costs at home while you travel. While you are away, your home may still need some TLC. Costs for a house sitter, pet boarding and lawn care can add up. If you have friends or family who admire your location, consider swapping homes for no-cost lodging and included home care. Just be sure to clearly outline expectations – and secure any valuable or breakable items to avoid damaging the relationship in the event of a mishap.

Pack it in. Instead of purchasing items when you are out for the day at your destination, pack your own lunch, sunblock and other necessities. You will have more time and money to spend on activities you want to do. Look for a hotel or condo with a kitchen so you can make a few meals, or one that includes breakfast each day. After all, you won’t remember what you ate for dinner, but you will remember how big your children’s eyes were when they came face to face with a whale.

Invite friends and family to visit you. Enhance a staycation with welcome visitors. Show friends local sites that you have never seen, eat at trendy new restaurants or check out local scenery. Even though you are not traveling, you will be enjoying a break from the daily grind and making wonderful memories.

Keep dates and destinations flexible. When shopping for airline tickets, check the “flexible dates” option, and remember that it is usually less expensive to travel on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Compare different fares over several weeks to find the best time to travel. Look for a destination that is off the beaten path, too. Plenty of seaside areas have gorgeous beaches, even if they are not in the heart of a spot with a household name. Also consider what areas are in the off-season when you want to travel. During the summer, for example, many ski resorts offer bargain rates – in addition to cooler temps, hiking, rafting, alpine slides and fewer crowds.

Whatever your vacation dreams, find a plan that keeps you out of debt, and enjoy it to the utmost. If you are currently struggling with debt, this may not be the time for the trip of a lifetime. Instead, allow those travel dreams to inspire and motivate you to work toward debt freedom.

Andrew Housser is co-founder and CEO of Freedom Financial Network. The family of companies, providing innovative solutions that empower people to live healthier financial lives, includes Freedom Debt Relief and Bills.com. Housser holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College.
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