How to Keep A Budget, Even While On Vacation

Everyone deserves a vacation from time to time, so it’s only fair that you treat yourself to one this summer. But while indulging, keep in mind that not balancing your budget while you’re away can really put a damper on your trip. After all, what’s the point in spending a lot of hard-earned cash to decompress if your debt will only stress you out later? Here’s how you can stay within your budget while on your vacation and keep your Zen mind state long after you return.

Calculate daily spending limits
Before you can stick to a budget, you’ve got to sit down and work one out. It helps if you plan out your trip beforehand, so you know which days might demand a bit more cash and which days allow you to be more frugal. For example, one day you may want to visit an amusement park. On that day, you know that you’ll need to spend more money than the day after, which you’ll likely spend resting—perhaps lounging lazily by a pool.

Figure out your likely expenses for each day by looking up typical prices for costs like admission and food, and also set aside a reasonable amount for unexpected expenses. Keep in mind that if you’re traveling abroad, you may find that not every establishment will accept your credit card or you may be charged foreign transaction fees when you go to take out cash. It’s better to have the extra cash when you’re caught off guard instead of feeling helpless or paying fees.

To calculate your daily limit, add your likely expenses plus unexpected expenses allowance. If your total daily limit amounts exceed your total budget, you can use the following strategies to reduce costs.

Figure out the exchange rate
Before you travel, find our what the exchange rate for your dollar is, so you can ensure you’re not getting shortchanged for goods and services abroad. Not only will committing the foreign exchange rate to memory keep you from getting ripped off, it’ll keep you from accidentally exceeding your daily limits. For example, spending Euros like dollars can quickly throw you off track budget-wise. Currency conversion apps for your smartphone, like the XE Currency App (available for iPhone and Android), can help you do the math in a pinch.

Mix restaurants with fresh, local food
Many travel destinations offer cuisines that are unique to that particular region. Of course, that makes going out to eat at restaurants just as much a part of the vacation as checking out the tourist attractions. An effective way to check out the local culture and food on a budget is by visiting the local farmer’s market. While there, you can purchase an assortment of fruits or fresh vegetables to prepare instead of dining out. No stovetop or microwave? Beat the summer heat by making fruit or veggie salads. To cut back further on food costs, be sure to take advantage of free breakfasts in your hotel, if it’s offered, or ask around for restaurants with discounts for kids.

Take public transportation
According to a survey conducted by the American Public Transportation Association, 58% of travelers visiting U.S. cities plan on using public transportation. Almost a quarter of all respondents cited saving money on rentals or cabs as their main motivation. While alternatives to taxis, like Sidecar and Lyft, are more affordable, they’re not available in all cities. Consider downloading smartphone apps that’ll help you navigate the city’s public transportation system. Also look into daily or weekly passes that can save you money and time, so you’re not fumbling for exact change.

Cait Klein, NerdWallet



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