I like vacations, especially to Disney World. There, I said it! 😉

Part of my philosophy of financial responsibility is not only saving for your future but also enjoying life now. After all, we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow so we want  to make sure we are taking care of the present just as much as we are our future. This means not cutting out the fun things like vacations, but managing our money wisely enough to be able to take nice vacations while feeling secure that we are planning for our future.

As someone who likes to vacation (Disney World!), I am always looking for ways to be able to increase our spending on vacations without potentially actually spending more. At the very least I want to make it so it doesn’t feel like it’s financially painful to spend money on vacations.

It seems regardless of how cheap a vacation is, spending all that money at one time can be taxing on one’s financial stress level. This can bring on guilt as well as not being able to enjoy the vacation because you are spending a large lump sum.

Here are some ways that you and I can cut down on that and actually enjoy our vacations without feeling guilty for taking them.

Figure Out Where You Like to Vacation

Figuring out where you like or want to vacation is the first step in this whole process because different vacation spots can have wildly different price points.

For me, this one is simple. We like taking 2 Disney World trips a year. We take a weeklong trip with usually just my wife and I, and then a 5 day trip with our girls. These can be very expensive at times so we need to make sure we are budgeting correctly for them (something I have not done so well in the past).

But besides Disney World, we are starting to introduce some smaller trips. Trips where it’s a little bit (or a lot) cheaper than Disney World and a shorter amount of time. For instance, Minneapolis is about 6 or so hours away from our house near Chicago. This is a great weekend trip to go and experience Mall of America. Our girls would love it!

My wife also has an ambition to go on a vacation overseas so we will need to start planning and budgeting for that too.

Use a Vacation as a Christmas Gift

Instead of spending money on Christmas gifts, why not give an experience and create a memory. When my girls get a little older, this will be a lot easier to explain and we potentially won’t be doing Christmas gifts as an immediate family at all. It is far more valuable to create memories on a vacation than to buy more “things.”

I recommend reserving gifts for birthdays (their special day!) and using your Christmas gift money for the immediate family to go on vacation. This will also help in taking the focus off the gifts and what really matters most for the holidays. If you want to, you can budget for buying a gift for each person while you are in Disney World, er I mean, on vacation. 😉

Take Money From Other Budgets

This is one tip I talked about during Grocery Month in March with 6 Ways to Raise Your Grocery Budget Without Actually Spending More Money. Gas prices are lower right now so, like us, you may not be spending quite what you have budgeted for in fuel each month. You can put that extra amount toward a vacation fund if you don’t need to put it toward anything else.

Just like with gas prices, re-examining your actual needs in your budget is key to not only finding leaks but to determining what you value. If you value a larger vacation, you can look for other areas in your budget that you might not find so valuable and make some cuts. Perhaps eating at home a little more often and putting some of your dining out budget is doable. Another option is to cut back on the entertainment budget.

These things can also be done short term if you know your vacation next year is going to be a little more expensive but subsequent years may not be.

Divide Your Vacation Cost by 12

I know this is a pretty typical solution, but it doesn’t seem to be widely done. There is a principle in some budgets to “Give Every Dollar a Job.” While that doesn’t quite work for me, the principle itself is absolutely sound.

One of the ideas is to divide your yearly expenses such as property taxes or a yearly subscription into 12 month payments. Then you essentially “pay yourself” into a savings account until the bill is due.

This works extremely well for vacations. Divide your vacation budget by 12 and put that amount in a dedicated savings account each month. This will take the stress out of spending so much at one time because you’ve been planning for it all year.

In order to get a head on this, you could cut out a long vacation for a year and to get a head. In other words, you could start saving now for that trip you are planning in November 2017. Then you could take a smaller trip or even a staycation around your area to cut on costs instead of not doing a vacation outright.

Bring Groceries to the Hotel

I know what you’re thinking. Part of the joy of vacation is getting to try all of the local food wherever you are going. A lot of what I like so much about Disney World is the uniqueness of the food. Some of the best food I’ve ever had is down there which is why (among other reasons) it’s my favorite spot to vacation.

Not being able to do that would ruin a lot of the experience. I completely understand that.

However, in order to save some money, you could have one meal at your hotel each day. Having a kitchenette in the room can make it easy to prepare breakfast every morning. This also cuts down on the amount of calories you will inevitably take in over the course of your vacation. Disney for us is all about the lunch and dinner food at the parks so having a lighter, cheaper, made-in-the-room breakfast is a great way to go.

During our most recent trip last January, my wife and I simply bought a loaf of whole grain bread and some peanut butter to have every morning before hitting the parks. While they may sound boring, the variety (and amount!) of amazing food we consumed the rest of the day more than made up for it. It was really just a way to get some energy in us before heading out.

Using Mileage Bonuses That Help You Get Cheap or Free Airfare

This one takes quite a bit of planning and research, and admittedly, I am just getting started on this. If you disciplined with credit cards and do not struggle with overspending or debt, this is a very viable option that could save you loads of money on Airfare.

So far from the research I’ve done, the trick is to get a grace mileage or cash rewards card and use that for monthly purchases in your budget. Then you pay the card off every month with the cash you would have used for budgeting so you aren’t charged interest. You then get all of the mileage or cash bonuses and get to use that for airfare. Seems interesting!

One resource that I am using is a blog called thepointsguy.com. The research on there is very extensive and helpful so far. I recommend checking it out if you want to save on some airfare.

Vacations are near and dear to my heart because of the memories you can take with them. I still have great memories from taking my first adult Disney trip with my brother back in November 2009. I’ll have those for the rest of my life!

I want to create the same type of memories for my kids not only with Disney trips but other vacations as well. Any place we can spend money to spend quality time is fair game for me rather than just buying things.

That being said, you do have to budget and plan for vacations or else you are going to run out of money. I highly encourage you to put some of the tips above in practice and see what happens. You may be able to get away more than you think!

Do you have any other tips for saving or budgeting for vacation? I’d love to hear from you!

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