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September has arrived, and with it those bills for summer vacation are starting to roll in.
For some people, that means they’ve made priceless memories of family camping, beach outings or that dream vacation for two – but as everyone heads back to work or school, it turns out those memories actually do have a price, sometimes with an unexpected and unwelcome sticker shock. If you find you’ve blown past your summer vacation budget, here are a few ideas for planning next year’s adventure.
First, start now! Take a look across the next year and be realistic about the kind of vacation you can afford in 2016. Your planning will help you understand the total costs of your trip, so be sure to include those lessons learned about hidden expenditures like parking, tips, ATM or bank fees, even those spontaneous souvenir splurges. When you can better anticipate the little things, this planning phase will help you evaluate and identify some wish-list tradeoffs too. If your heart is set on Italy but not at full-price air fare during the high season, research your options to find savings on a more flexible itinerary.
This is a helpful step when negotiating plans with a partner or – with reunions or destination weddings as examples – an entire family. This leaves plenty of time for consensus on a vacation, how much it should cost and what your overall expectations are. Early communication won’t just ensure that you have a penalty-free deposit for your accommodations in on time, or scope out the best air fare deals. It also means that you’ll likely to have a better, more friction-free experience based on realistic goals.
Once you’ve decided, start saving now. Financial planners say that your annual vacation should be between 5 and 10 percent of your annual budget, and the surest way to avoid that sticker shock is to stick to a budget for your vacation, no matter how modest your plans. Even setting aside $10 a week can fund a few long weekends in nearby cities, or family daytrips to the waterpark, baseball game and music festival without worrying about filling up the tank or foregoing the concessions stand. Take the time to learn about discounts and sift info on free offers. For example, the Chicago Children’s Museum is always free on Thursday nights; the Museum of Contemporary Art is free every Tuesday for in-state residents. Deals with perks inside your home state often extend to parks admissions and lodging eligibility too.
Check with your bank or credit union, because many financial institutions have holiday or vacation savings clubs to help you. Moving forward, you’ll find it easier to enjoy your travel plans and outings when you know they’re essentially already paid for. Some destinations – notably Disney – even have direct-deposit “vacation layaway” accounts available, although the flexibility and the interest earned on your own accounts may make it more attractive for you to keep that money in savings yourself.
But if you’re still disappointed about this year’s bills, don’t delay in getting that debt squared away. If tapping into savings isn’t an option for you, there is a wide range of short- and long-term personal loans that may save you money on interest. Paying off credit card debt at a lower interest rate may be the smarter choice, instead of watching that debt snowball – and watching next year’s vacation plans shrink because you’re still funding this year’s. Just as there are creative alternatives for taking your vacation, there are creative loan options to help you meet your goals and start fresh when you set out in 2016.