My family spent time this past summer exploring Washington D.C. and Ocean City, Maryland. A few days into our trip, I was already thinking about and planning trips for next summer. My wife thought I was crazy! She thought that I should at least wait until we finish our trip before planning the next one. The joke’s on her, though, because I am always planning our next trip!
A great way to plan ahead for your next family vacation is to start a travel fund. A travel fund is exactly what it sounds like. It’s money set aside with the express purpose of funding your family’s vacations, staycations, and other travel. By creating a travel fund, you provide freedom for your family to travel without the stress of coming home to credit card bills full of vacation charges. Let’s walk through some things you can do to start a travel fund today.
Set Travel Goals
The first step in creating a travel fund is deciding your travel destination(s). It’s hard to plan any trip if you don’t know where you want to go. Your family vacation might end up looking different than you originally planned when you started, but at least you have a concrete idea in mind. Even narrowing down your destinations between a few choices allows you to do some advance planning. Having an idea of when you want to travel helps as well. Booking a trip in peak season versus off-peak makes a huge difference in travel costs. Estimate your travel dates, knowing you can always adjust them later as needed. Without a destination and travel dates, you won’t know how much money you need to save.
Determine Travel Costs
Once you know where and when you are going on your next family vacation, you can figure out roughly how much money your trip will cost. Expenses might include hotel rooms or a vacation rental, airfare, and rental cars. Don’t forget to factor in meals and drinks. One way to do this is to figure out how much money you need daily for food and multiply it by your length of stay. Planning on any excursions during your vacation, such as theme parks, deep sea fishing or a night out on the town? Don’t forget to include those expenses, as well. Once you have an idea of the total amount you need to save, divide that by the number of months until your trip. That will tell you how much money you need to set aside monthly to hit your goal. Make sure that you have enough money set aside early if you have to book advance reservations.
Open a New Account Specifically for Travel Expenses
One of the best things you can do while planning for family travel is to open a new savings account specifically for your travel fund. Most banks allow you to open multiple savings accounts for free. Another option is to find a trustworthy online bank that offers high yield savings account. We opened an online savings account this past year and were able to make a little money from the higher interest rate (It wasn’t a ton of extra money, but every little bit helps, especially if you spend a lot on travel yearly). You could even just withdraw money every month and stick it in an envelope at home. Whatever method you choose, having your travel fund separate from the rest of your family’s finances helps ensure you don’t use it. Hopefully, you already have an emergency fund set up. If not, do that first. That’s more important and it also keeps you from using your hard earned travel fund when something unexpected comes up (which it will).
Add Travel Expenses to Your Monthly Budget
Now that you’ve opened a new savings account for your travel fund, you need to work it into your monthly budget.
Side Note: If you don’t have a monthly budget, I am begging you to start one immediately. It doesn’t haven’t to be complicated. A budget is just a way for you to know where your money is going. There are a million methods for budgeting. We use a zero-sum budget and love how it has revolutionized our family finances.
What you want to do is make your travel fund a line item in your monthly budget. Plan for money to come out each and every month the same as your electric bill, cell phone service, and grocery expenses. You may have to adjust other budget items to find the extra money. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices, but it will pay off in the end when you are able to travel stress-free with your family (stress-free in terms of vacation expenses, not stress-free from normal family drama!).
Something you can do to make the process easier is to set up an automatic transfer to your travel fund so the money is moved every month like clockwork. Many banks offer the ability to do this through online banking. If not, just transfer over money from your main checking account at the beginning of every month.
Find Ways to Save on Vacations
Your travel fund is part of your monthly budget and is growing. Now it’s time to put in the work to try and save money on your family vacation. This can be done by searching online for deals, looking at different types of accommodations available or even by building up reward points and miles to use for free travel. Ask people you know who have been to your vacation destination to see if they have any tips. Do the same on social media. Join Facebook Travel groups. Look at tourism sites for your destination for things to do or events going on during your stay. We find free events and activities at almost every place we travel. You just have to be willing to do some digging and you can really save some money as well as plan unique experiences for your family. Think about your kids and their interests and see if you can find something to do that will create a lifelong memory for them.
Use Extra Money to Add to Your Travel Fund
Beyond just the monthly budgeted money, there are other ways to fund your family vacation. If you are like me and feel like a family of hoarders, have a garage sale or sell items online to earn extra cash. Another option is to get a part-time job specifically to fund your travel. Besides my full-time job, I am a freelance writer and often use my earnings as extra money on trips. What about allocating part of your tax refund toward travel? Even collecting loose change in a change jar can help cover some vacation costs or give you some extra pocket money. There are many ways to earn extra money for vacations if you are resourceful.
Our family travel has improved and our stress level has gone down since we implemented a vacation fund for our family’s travel expenses. We’ve been able to use it for summer vacations, weekend road trips, anniversary getaways, and more. If paying for travel is keeping you from planning an unforgettable trip for your family, start a travel fund today and experience more freedom on family vacations.