At the young age of 17, I had the opportunity to make my first trip outside of the United Sates and that was all it took to light a passion for traveling within me.  I was able to go to Finland and be part of a study abroad group known as Youth for Understanding.  That trip to Finland was my very first time on an airplane although I had taken many road trips to Disney World and other common places throughout my childhood.


My first experience of traveling abroad included the proverbial culture shock because I clearly did not talk like the people of Finland, nor looked like the majority of the people I encountered there.  While the situation was unfamiliar to me and uncomfortable in the beginning, I soon realized I was in the middle of a life-changing time of my life.  I discovered that while there were many ways I was different from the Finnish people I talked with, we all shared a passion focused on the same thing…we all wanted to go outside of our own lives and everything we knew within them in order to learn more about the big world waiting just outside of our particular comfort zones.


Of course everyone knows it is not cheap to travel and finding the money to pay for a trip can seem impossible.  But creating a monthly budget that also includes saving for vacation can be fairly simple and also very rewarding.  Vacations are not only luxuries, however.  They are also a necessity to various degrees because of all the stress we are under every day in our normal routines of life.  Even if it is unrealistic to plan on traveling abroad for whatever reason, vacations don’t have to be out of the country in order to explore new territories outside of your comfort zone.  You can find new areas to enjoy exploring that are within driving distance of your homes and there are ways to economize that can allow you to travel choices in spite of tight finances. 


Even when income is very limited, most people can find unnecessary expenses within their daily lives that can be eliminated in order to put that money towards a vacation.  All it takes is deciding that your desire to travel is more important than spending more money on various luxuries or possessions that depreciate in value such as eating out, fancy beverages, vehicles, jewelry, cars, etc.  Even children can get in on the fun by choosing to give up some special things like toys or outings in order to use that money for a vacation the family has chosen to save for together.


There are always new tricks, tips, and techniques you can learn to get better deals at cheaper prices in order to make your vacation dollars stretch the most.  I am always learning new things myself, but here are a few of my favorite tips that have proven to be successful with my vacation planning.


v      List Potential Destinations – The first thing you want to do as a family making sure you include everyone old enough to be a part of the saving process, is to make a list of the destinations you are most interested in experiencing through travel.  This list can be divided into 2 sections…international travel and domestic in-country destinations.  This will allow you to make vacation and budgeting plans depending on your financial circumstances now.


v     Passports – It is important to get your passports early in the vacation planning process because if you do not get those far enough in advance, you will wind up having to pay large fees in order to get them done quickly before you leave.  The good thing is that adult passports are good for 10 years while children’s passports have 5 years before they expire.


v     Open a Vacation Account – It is very important to open a separate savings or checking account that is designated for only vacation funds.  You can add to the account regularly by adding those bonus monies that are not part of your regular budget such as birthday gifts, bonuses at work, tax refunds, etc.  It is also very simple to set up automatic transfers from your regular account to your vacation account where the banking institution will automatically take the amount of money from your regular account that you designate at the same time of the month that you also decide.


v     Set the Vacation Budget – Of course you need to settle on a vacation budget which includes vacation expenses such as traveling, food, lodging, shopping, and excursions costs.  Once you return home from your vacation, make sure that any of the vacation money that hasn’t been spent goes straight back into your vacation savings account to be the foundation of savings for the next trip.


v     Track Vacation Spending – Even while enjoying the actual vacation itself, you cannot afford to get sloppy with your spending.  Tracking the money being spent is important in order to make sure you are not going over the money you set aside to pay for vacation.  There are many apps available that you can use to easily track your spending on vacation without taking a lot of time and energy away from enjoying the vacation.


v     Research & Final Decisions – While you do want to research your vacation destination early on in the planning process, you do not want to make any reservations or purchase tickets too far in advance in case you find better deals closer to the date of your vacation.  Sometimes the best traveling bargains are found just a few months before it is time for your vacation and if you have already locked in to other reservations that penalize you for cancelling, you might miss a great deal.  Another great way to get an even more significant discount for your vacation is at the opposite end of the scale.  Paying for your vacation in full at the time your make reservations is often considerably less expensive than merely making reservations with a small down payment or reservation fee.  But take care if you choose this route and make sure to also purchase travel insurance when you have paid in full in order to protect yourself and your money as much as possible.