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How To Budget for a Vacation

Planning and saving for a vacation can save money and keep your financial plans on track. Get tips for building vacation plans into your budget.

Stacey Black headshot

Stacey Black (She/Her/Hers)
BECU Lead Financial Educator
Updated Jun 24, 2024 in: Budgeting

Read time: 3 minutes

It might be tempting to book a vacation and worry about paying for it later but overspending on a big trip can make it harder to pay for daily expenses — and pay for a future vacation.

Planning for how much your vacation will cost and how you'll pay for it could save you time, stress and money.

Here are some tips for creating a vacation budget you can stick to:

1. Be Realistic About Your Vacation Plans

Think about your vacation as part of your overall budget. Try to be clear about what you can realistically afford — and make sure you have enough money to cover your day-to-day essentials first.

2. Research All Vacation Costs

Think of your vacation as a budget within a budget and be as specific as possible. Look at everything you'll need to pay for and group your expenses in categories. The main vacation budget categories are entertainment and activities, food, lodging and transportation.

Don't forget the little costs. Figure out the extras like souvenirs, refreshments and amenities like beach chair rentals.

Building a buffer into your vacation can account for any surprise expenses. When it comes to vacations, it's always a good idea to budget for fun.

3. Set a Vacation Savings Goal

Once you know how much your vacation will cost, you can start saving for it as part of your monthly budget. If you're planning to go in a year, divide the total vacation cost by 12 to figure out how much you'll need to save each month, or divide by the number of paychecks you'll receive in the next year.

If having access to your vacation money makes it tempting to spend, consider stashing it away in a CD.

Whether it's a CD or a savings account, choose what works best for you. You can even open a separate savings account and name it "vacation," or divide up your funds within an account using a tool like BECU Envelopes.

4. Track Your Vacation Spending

Set daily spending limits and track your expenses during your vacation. There are many digital budgeting methods available, like BECU Money Manager for BECU members, Goodbudget, Quicken Simplifi or You Need A Budget (YNAB), to get you started.

Save any money that's left each day to take home with you. You'll have a head start on saving for your next vacation.

5. Look for Member Deals and Use Credit Card Points

Many credit cards offer air miles and travel benefits that can save you a lot of money, but use caution: If you can't pay the full balance each month, the amount you end up paying in interest will likely cost you more than the benefits are worth.

Check for deals with organizations where you have memberships, too. Many credit unions like BECU, for example, offer discounts for fun local activities.

The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized financial, tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation when making financial, legal, tax, investment, or any other business and professional decisions that affect you and/or your business.

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Stacey Black headshot

Stacey Black (She/Her/Hers)
BECU Lead Financial Educator

For nearly 30 years, Stacey has taught adults, college students, teens and children through the BECU Financial Education program.