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Budgeting Your Vacation

Updated on May 16, 2020

My fiance and I in Louisville

Standing at the Louisville Slugger Museum
Standing at the Louisville Slugger Museum

Planning a vacation on a budget is possible!

Everyone deserves to have the chance to plan a getaway. While it's not always easy to do so, there are many things you can do when planning a vacation on a limited budget, whether its large or small. There are a handful of things I try to keep in mind when planning my getaways:

1. Where do I want to go?

2. Do I want to relax, or do I want some excitement?

3. Do I want to camp, or do I want to stay under a roof?

4. How will I eat once I am out of town?

5. How can I prepare financially for this vacation?

6. How many people will be going on this trip?

Each of these questions have been important to my thought process when planning a vacation. Each question will help determine the budget, and exactly what I do during that trip!

Choosing Your Destination

Wyoming 2018
Wyoming 2018

Choosing Your Destination

The first step in planning any vacation is choosing where you want to go to escape your every day routine. Will you be an hour away by car, or do you want to fly halfway across the country? This could have a huge impact on the budget in the very first step. Choosing a location that you can drive to can be a more economical choice for someone with a tighter vacation budget. You won't be paying for plane tickets or car rental fees, however, you may end up sacrificing a day or two of your vacation time just trying to get to your location. If you have the extra room in your budget for a plane ticket, try to use sites like Expedia to bundle plane tickets, hotel rooms, and car rentals into one price. It often comes to a lower total than separately pricing each individual thing. Compare prices and reviews on the airlines and hotels you will be staying at. This still gives you some control over what you will be spending on the most basic part of your vacation, how to get there.

Relaxing, or Exciting?

Avenged Sevenfold Concert
Avenged Sevenfold Concert

Relaxing, or Exciting?

The second step to planning your vacation getaway should be to answer the following question:

Am I looking to rest and relax, or am I craving adventure and excitement?

Either answer will again impact the price tag on this endeavor, so make sure you know which you are craving before you start making plans.

If you are looking to relax, your destination probably looks somewhat like a mountain or a beach, somewhere you could curl up in nice weather with a book or take a fishing pole, giving you free time and plenty of rest while you are away from your every day life. State parks typically offer nice areas to relax and enjoy a light lunch, watch nature, or take a leisurely stroll, and the entrance fees are minimal compared to other activities. Just a little bit of research online about your destination choice can usually give immediate options on a cute, quiet location to connect with nature or catch a quiet cup of coffee. These options can provide you with relaxation for less than $100 a day, while not being stuck with the only option of staying inside a single campsite or hotel room.

If you are looking for adventure however, there are ways to find it without breaking the bank. Depending on the amount of adventure you are looking for, some of the same state parks we were talking about earlier provide harsh hiking trails that can give stunning views as a reward, or offer ATV tours through areas that may be too difficult to trek by foot.

If it isn't nature you want your thrills from, larger cities have more opportunities for amusement parks, concerts, comedy acts, thrills and spills, but keep in mind that these typically come with a higher price tag. Try to limit yourself to one time consuming adventure a day while on your vacation if you are on a tighter budget, this will provide the opportunity to pack a little more adventure over a longer period of time during your expeditions! Also, make sure to take the time to look for seasons when the pricing may be lower than the rest of the year. Often times off-season pricing can drop to half of the busy season.

Lodging Inside, or Outside?

Cooking a two person Thanksgiving Dinner inside an AirBnb in Louisville.
Cooking a two person Thanksgiving Dinner inside an AirBnb in Louisville.
Camping at Potato Creek Park
Camping at Potato Creek Park


Choosing whether you will be sleeping under a roof or under the stars will impact your pricing and the type of vacation you have as well.

If you already have your camping gear, and choose to find a spot to set camp, state parks have low fees when it comes to picking a camping spot. (Some may even offer cabins or chalets.)

If you aren't a fan of the outdoors, or you struggle with sleeping outside, there are a multitude of options. One of my favorites has become the AirBnb website. Here, people around the world offer space in their home, entire apartments, houses, or guest houses for fees smaller than a hotel, while also having the opportunity to have the same amenities and more!

How Will You Eat?

Ah, food, the other necessity of life.

How you plan on feeding yourself will also be part of your budget on your vacation. It may be cheaper to take food with you, but you will probably have to frequently buy ice to keep certain foods and beverages cold. While it isn't as convenient to take your food with you on vacation, it can save quite a bit of money.

If you don't intend on taking your meals with you, be conscious of how you budget your meals. Local hotspots may offer reasonable prices for quality meals, while top of the line steak houses will put a dent in your wallet.

My fiance and I had one of our favorite meals in Louisville and a small mom and pop barbecue joint called Mark's Feed Store. They even sent us home with a free bottle of their barbecue sauce. FREE! And the bill was so reasonable!

Utilize Every Day Activities to Help Your Budget

Utilize Your Daily Routines to Benefit Your Budget

One habit I developed was trying to always use the same gas station. Why could this be important? The rewards points. Sticking to a single retailer or gas station provides the opportunity to use regular, frequent purchases to aide in budgeting your vacation.

When we went down to Louisville, all of our gas was paid for using Speedway Rewards Points that we turned in for gas gift cards at Speedway! Merchandise cards can also be used for quick snacks and drinks during your travels.

How Many People Are Going?

Meeting Family in Sanduski OH for a vacation
Meeting Family in Sanduski OH for a vacation

How Many People?

One of the final things to consider, will be how many people are going on this adventure? In some circumstances, the more the merrier. Going on a couples trip with a set of friends means that both parties can split certain expenses, and may increase the overall budget. Whether you guys split everything down the middle, or take turns covering the cost of certain activities and meals.

Larger family vacations mean you will need more space for lodging, or a bigger food budget.


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