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How to budget for a family vacation

Cityline | posted Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

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Family vacations are a terrific way to bond with your loved ones — tons of quality time together, and no housework to do! — but  they can be prohibitively expensive.

We asked Bruce Sellery for his advice on how to plan a family vacation that won’t break the bank.

Where do you start?

Bruce likens the family vacation to a home renovation in that everything costs more than you think. Write down all the costs — flights, hotels, rental cars, gas, meals, entertainment, and souvenirs. Once you reach your total, add a buffer of 10% to account for any surprise costs that may arise.

How can you find deals?

Think about what’s important to you and your family — are you keen to try a particular restaurant that you know will be pricey? Look to save in other areas such as the hotel. Hotels and flights cost a lot, so look for package deals online. Consider travelling at off-peak days (Tuesday, Wednesday) and times. Book your flights well in advance for your best chance to score a deal.

Spend on moments/experiences, rather than things.

What are you and your kids going to remember: a vivid fireworks display, or the stuffed animal bought from the gift shop? Moments/experiences tend to outweigh material items in our memories, so make the goal of your family vacation to create memorable experiences that your kids will remember for a lifetime.

How are you going to pay for it?

Don’t wait until the end of your vacation to think about how you’re going to pay for it. Loading up the credit card is not the way to go. As Bruce advises, this needs to be part of the planning process, and ideally the vacation is saved up for and even paid for before you go. Think about trade-offs and discuss them with your family — for example, tell your kids that in exchange for the amazing vacation you’re going to take, you’re not going to have any restaurant meals for a couple of months.

How do you stick to the budget?

It’s challenging, there’s no doubt, to stick to a budget when you’re away and having a great time. Try to succumb giving in to temptation when you’re faced with it, and set realistic expectations with your family in advance. For instance, tell your kids that they’ll each be allowed one souvenir to bring back from the trip. If you have a good sense of your budget going in to the trip, you won’t have to stress about expenses every waking moment. This is supposed to be a vacation for you, too!

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