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Use these helpful tips to enjoy a great vacation within your budget.

De-stress about money by learning to set a budget for items such as travel. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
De-stress about money by learning to set a budget for items such as travel.

Planning a great vacation doesn't have to put travelers in debt if they prepare and stick to a detailed travel budget. A good vacation budget allows individuals to get the most out of their vacation without breaking the bank.

When preparing a budget and planning a vacation, think ahead and cover every detail of the trip, including possible surprise expenses. Plan to budget for accommodations, food expenses, airfare or gas money, souvenirs and additional sightseeing fees.

Create a Travel Budget

The first step toward creating a travel budget is to figure out how much money is available for the vacation. Whether the money is coming from an annual bonus at work or a savings account that has been set aside, it's important to have an idea of exactly how much money will be allotted for the trip. Once the amount is determined, the budget can be broken up into categories based on different facets of the trip.

  • Travel. Factor in enough money to cover all travel expenses to and from the destination. This includes airfare, bus fare, gas money, rental car expenses and/or train tickets. Many Web sites offer great deals on travel, such as Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity.
  • Accommodations. The bulk of a travel budget will probably go toward accommodations. This includes overnight stays in hotels, resorts, bed and breakfasts, motels, inns, vacation rentals and/or cruise ship accommodations. Travelers can find cheap hotel rooms on Web sites such as Hotels.com and vacation rentals around the world on VRBO Vacation Rentals By Owner.
  • Food Expenses. Be sure to set aside plenty of money for food during a trip. This includes all dining out excursions as well as groceries and "on the road" snacks. One way to save money when traveling is to rent a place with a kitchen to prepare meals. Restaurant.com sells $25 gift certificates for a wide selection of restaurants for only $10. Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc. explains that restaurants participate in such promotions to attract new business.
  • Souvenirs. Souvenirs aren't a necessity while on vacation, but any traveler who is prone to shop should set aside money specifically for this purpose. A smart idea is to put together the entire travel budget and allot any leftover money for souvenir shopping.
  • Sightseeing. Set aside money to cover admission fees into museums, amusement parks, sporting events or other local attractions. Research these activities ahead of time to find the associated costs. Be sure to look for online deals and coupons. Also, conduct online research to find free attractions in the area.
  • Miscellaneous. On any vacation, unexpected expenses are bound to arise. Travelers might be sick and need medication or might get a flat tire while driving. Plan accordingly by having an extra store of cash on hand for unplanned expenses.

Choose a Vacation Destination

Once the budget has been set, travelers can choose their destinations. Take into consideration everyone who will be traveling on the vacation. If young children will be traveling, choose a kid-friendly destination. Also, many hotels and resorts offer free meals and accommodations for kids, so be on the lookout for such places. If children won't be traveling or if they are not school-age children, look for deals during the off-season. Traveling during off-seasons allows for lower prices and smaller crowds.

To save money on airfare, consider a location that is within driving distance. Cutting costs in one area of the budget will allow for more flexibility in another area. The money that would have gone toward airfare can now be used to pay for a nicer hotel or finer dining. For flexible travelers, a location can be chosen based on the best deals being offered through online travel sites. Many times, fantastic deals to great locales are available for last-minute travel.

Find Accommodations

When it comes to accommodations, travelers have a number of options. Hotels are available in almost every city, but may not be the best or cheapest option. To save money, vacationers can opt for renting an apartment or a home, or even apartment or home swapping with another traveler. All-inclusive resorts can be a real bargain during off-peak times of the year. Since all-inclusive resorts offer meals, beverages and many activities, they can be a surefire way to stick to a budget. Travelers can also consider renting a vacation property, going camping or taking a cruise (which also includes meals and activities).

Stick to the Budget

Traveling on a budget isn't always easy but it can be done. Purchasing airfare and paying for the accommodations up front can help a person avoid overspending. Another great idea is to put cash in envelopes for each day of the trip, allowing only for that amount to be spent each day. Paying with cash instead of using a debit or credit card can also help individuals stick more closely to their budgets.

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