By Carla Hindman
PRIDE Financial Columnist
As spring break approaches, families across Canada are planning vacations to take advantage of the much-needed time off. But worrying about money can definitely put a damper on your fun. Here are 10 tips to help you budget and plan wisely:
- Create a budget. Before you decide on a travel destination or plan family activities establish a budget to figure out what you can afford. A good rule of thumb is to not spend more than five per cent of your pre-tax annual income. When making a vacation budget consider transportation, accommodation, meals, sightseeing, shopping and entertainment.
- Uncover hidden vacation costs. When creating a budget, make sure to think beyond the typical expenses. Exchange rates are a major consideration right now, so that alone might influence your destination! Also consider items like checked baggage fees, sales and hotel taxes, tips, taxis, etc. Travelling often comes with unexpected expenses, so assume your trip will cost 10 per cent more than you anticipated. Instead of scrambling for cash at the end of your trip, you may end up with a little extra to spend – or save for the next trip!
- Start saving. Once your vacation has a ‘price tag’, figure out how much you’ll need to save. If you need some help setting aside some cash, there are lots of personal finance tools that can help, like the Practical Money Skills Travel Budgeting Calculator.
- Shop around. Look for vacation deals and packages, both online and offline. Travel websites often feature airline, hotel or car rental coupons and promotions. Consider broadening your hotel search by exploring vacation rentals, private homes or hostels. Calling the airline or hotel directly can also save you money- allowing you to spend more on the fun stuff. Often you can find hotel deals closer to when the vacation date approaches and unbooked or cancelled rooms need to be filled.
- Get a phone package. If you are leaving the country with your mobile phone, avoid roaming charges by setting up a travel package with your service provider in advance.
- Sign up for local discount websites. Before travelling consider signing up for discount websites at your destination and be on the lookout for great deals on restaurants and excursions. Often these sites offer two for one coupons, which can allow you to get more bang for your buck.
- Be flexible. Let’s face it, it’s harder to be flexible if you’re vacationing with children. If you can, travelling mid-week, or to smaller airports, can save you a bundle.
- Put your membership dollars to work. If you belong to an auto club or have credit cards with particular travel benefits, see if they can be used to offset the cost of the trip, or to access deals and discounts at your destination.
- Inform your credit card issuer that you’re travelling. Giving your financial institution a heads up on where and when you’ll be travelling can help ensure that your card isn’t flagged for unusual activity.
- Protect yourself. When travelling, keep your passport, credit cards and other personal documents in a secure location. It’s also a good idea to have a record of credit card account numbers and telephone numbers (for reporting lost or stolen cards) with you as well.
Bottom Line: Following these tips will help you enjoy Spring Break and not regret any financial decisions when you come back to ‘reality.’ Once the financial planning is taken care of, you’ll be ready to kick back and enjoy your vacation.
Carla Hindman is Head of Financial Education, Visa Canada.
This article is intended to provide general information and should not be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It’s always a good idea to consult a tax or financial adviser for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.