The Money-Wise Guide to a Memorable Vacation

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Me, Macy & Tamara on a sunrise hike through Red Rock Canyon!

This week I am on a girl’s getaway trip to Sedona, Arizona with my business partner, Tamara, and my daughter, Macy.

We are using this time to recuperate after a busy June and recharge for the months ahead (we are preparing to launch the second iteration of my Mindful Money course on August 1st!).

Because it is travel season for many of us who have kids at home or out of school, I thought I might share a few travel tips that I have always found useful in ensuring that I enjoy my time away without breaking my bank account.

1. Earn credit card miles, but don’t use credit cards to pay for a life you can’t afford.

Both my flight and Macy’s flight were paid for entirely in miles earned by using my credit card. Almost all my vacation air travel is covered by points (it’s what we use our points for). Here’s why: I never carry a balance on my card. I never do. I use my credit card to earn miles and because it’s safer for online purchases than a debit card; but I never use it to pay for things I can’t actually afford. This practice allows me to easily stay within budget (since flights can usually suck up vacation funds).

2. Set a total expense.

First, identify the purpose of your trip: Is it to venture out and explore new sights? Is it to totally check out and lounge in peace? Based on your intentions, figure out the total amount of cash that you’re willing (and able) to spend over the duration of your trip. Commit to this amount and don’t exceed it — no matter what!

3. Always be saving up.

My Bucketing System, the money-mapping system I’ve created and follow religiously, consists of a series of “buckets” of money. I dedicate a set amount of my income into each bucket each month. One of my savings categories is for what I call “Dreams.” Cars, home improvements, and other large expenses fall into this category. My vacations are paid for in advance and in full before I even take them as a result of having the money saved in a specific “Dreams” bucket (we call ours the “Bucket List” bucket). It’s my method for:

  1. Making sure I take vacations; and
  2. Making sure I don’t go into debt in order to do so.

4. Prepay if possible.

Whenever possible, use the funds in your “Bucket List” bucket to prepay your vacation. Both my trip and Macy’s trip are entirely paid (minus some incidentals) to ensure that we don’t go over budget. We both brought down extra cash for some shopping, but otherwise we get to enjoy the trip knowing that it’s completely taken care of.

5. Use money-saving apps.

Before overpaying for room and transportation, take advantage of the many money-saving travel apps. For example, I highly recommend using Airbnb over a hotel. Not only is it less expensive per night, it also saves you hundreds of dollars on restaurants–especially overpriced hotel restaurant meals and crappy food you grab while out and about–because you have a kitchen to work with. Not to mention you eat healthier (and less!). Drop by a natural grocer and pick up some healthy snacks and good dinner food. Garry and I often hire a cook to come in and prep some meals for us which, believe it or not, tends to be far less expensive than eating out every meal.

6. Spend it all!

This is a little counter-intuitive and not usually recommended by a money coach, but…the money in your Dreams bucket is meant to be spent! So spend it! This rule was created because Garry and I tend to want to err on the side of Save, which keeps us from spending money that was already saved for vacation and experience making. So, our rule is that we have to spend the money allocated for the trip. This allows us to not only keep our spending inside the bucket allowance, but also forces us to spend the bucket so that we get the most out of our savings.

7. But spend it on experiences — not stuff.

Don’t waste your money on overpriced souvenirs. Spend it on meaningful experiences. Because we reserve our money for meaningful expenses, we usually have cash remaining by the end of the trip. And since we have this rule of We Have To Spend It, that’s when we spend on things we wouldn’t normally splurge on, like hot air balloon rides or a nice piece of local art, etc. This is forced splurging, which feels good! But it’s all accounted for, so we don’t feel bad or guilty when the CC bill shows up 30 days later.

8. Take advantage of the “you” time.

Your vacations can be a great time to check in on your 7 F-words (your long-term goals). It’s a space, outside of the noise and responsibilities of “normal” life, to reflect on your feelings and desires. It’s also a perfect time to reflect on money, check on your buckets, your expenses and establish specific money targets and financial goals.

If you want to learn more about how I am able to save and grow my Dreams buckets, join me on July 20th at [1:00] PM CST for a live webinar about how to master your money and make it work for you!

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