How to vacation on a budget

Vacationing shouldn't derail your financial goals

When Mrs. PF Guy and I first started our financial journey, we were all gung ho about not taking vacations until we were debt free. Actually, I should rephrase that. I was very gung ho about not taking any vacations until we were debt free. However, It didn't take very long before I started having a little change of heart regarding. I knew that we would want to take vacations. But I also didn't want to sacrifice our financial goals by going on big extravagant vacations.

Last May, Mrs. PF Guy and I took a trip to Nashville. It was a cheap trip but that didn't mean it had to feel cheap.

Here are a few tips for vacationing on a budget.

Budget for your vacation

Ah. Our old friend the B-word. In a previous post, I talked about budgeting fund accounts. Months before you take your vacation, you should be saving for it. Our trip was in May. We started budgeting for it in March. We figured out how much it was going to cost for us to get there, how much it would cost for our Airbnb, roughly how much our meals would cost, and then we planned a few things that we knew we wanted to do or see. We then added a little bit of a buffer for extra spending and emergencies. It's pretty easy to figure out how much you're going to need.

Travel Close

Unless you live in the most remote parts of the country, traveling relatively close to home so that you can drive is the best option. It cost us about under $100 to drive over 1000 miles. Granted, we took our Ford Fiesta which gets tremendous gas mileage. Your results may vary.

The other benefit of traveling close and driving is that you don't have to rent a car. We were able to drive wherever we wanted to in Nashville without having to rent a car or take an Uber.

Take a shorter vacation

We left Milwaukee on a Wednesday night after work and returned on Sunday. Taking a shorter vacation is cheaper for some pretty obvious reasons. Less nights to rent an Airbnb or hotel room. Less meals to pay for. It also means less vacation time that you need to take. I'm a big fan of spreading vacation time out throughout the year.

Bring and make your own food

When we left, we packed lunch meat, some chips, fruit, some muffins, and some drinks. This was our food for on the way down to Nashville. When we got there, we stopped at a grocery store and picked up some food so that we didn't need to go out to eat for every single meal while we were there. Making our own meals for 2-3 of our meals saved us a good chunk of money.

Don't take it home with you

The best thing about our vacation is that we didn't go in debt at all for it. Which should be the case every single time you go on vacation. No part of our vacation was put on any kind of credit card. It didn't come home with us. Budgeting ahead made it so that we knew how much we could spend. We had that dollar amount and knew what we could or couldn't do and it made it so that the vacation was incredibly stress free. We didn't have to worry about spending too much and the trip becoming a burden because we knew how much to spend. It was all part of our budget.

What about you? What are your tips on taking a vacation on a budget? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Find me on Twitter or Facebook or leave a comment below.

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Photo Curtesy of Joshua Ness

Brandon LaFave

Brandon is a personal finance blogger sharing his and wife's journey to financial freedom.


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