6 Tips to Avoiding Vacation Debt
, by Rob Kaufman
After careful research, planning and budgeting, vacation time will be here before you know it. But wait! Before heading to the airport, or onto the highway, there are a few things you might want to keep in mind about your vacation finances.
According to a 2015 Consumer Travel Spending survey conducted by Experian, over two-thirds of vacationers end up spending more than they had planned. The results also show that almost half the people who took the survey used their credit card to pay for vacation when they didn't have enough money saved and 49% accumulated credit card debt while traveling. (Do you see a dangerous pattern here?)
Credit cards appear to be the primary choice of payment for many travelers. According to the survey, the breakdown of credit card spending looks like this: 68% - lodging; 67% - airfare; 47% - entertainment; 40% - dining. Now if all of this was properly budgeted beforehand (including potential overruns like ATM fees, souvenirs, amusement park tickets, etc.), then vacation debt shouldn't rear its ugly head. Unfortunately, as indicated above, roughly two-thirds (68%) of vacationers spend more than anticipated, ultimately leading to new debt, which will need to be paid off.
Tips to minimal vacation debt
There's rarely (if perhaps ever) such thing as travel without an unexpected expense. Whether it's an ATM fee, a bag of chips at the airport or a daily hotel parking fee you weren't aware of, there's likely going to be a layout of money you didn't see coming. To help make things easier (both emotionally and financially), here are a few things to consider when planning a vacation.
Budget and save for your vacation .
This is of primary importance. If you plan correctly, take into consideration every expense (and potential surprise costs) and then save that amount so you'll have the money available when the bills come in. It'll be the perfect end to a great vacation!
Use the right credit card.
If you plan on using a credit card throughout your vacation, make sure it has special perks that get you deals or discounts on your spending. Also, use a card with the lowest interest rate in case you have to carry a balance.
A few important points to know about airfares: prices are highest for travel on Fridays, Sundays, and Mondays, so book as early as possible (2 months or more) for the best rates. Keep track of what you paid because if airfares with that carrier drop before you leave for vacation, you might be able to get reimbursed for the difference in price.
Did you know that you can use airline reward points for car rentals? It's also worth checking to see if your car insurance policy already includes rental car liability coverage so you don't need to purchase it at the counter. Further, be aware that when you prepay for gas, you're typically paying for a full tank of gas plus any gas remaining when you return the car.
Dining and entertainment.
There are a number of mobile apps you can use to find the best prices and deals around town - so use them while you're away! Try to choose a hotel with a complimentary breakfast so that you're only paying for two meals (and snacks) instead of three. Many airlines give you points for eating at certain restaurants so you can kill two birds with one stone by enjoying a great meal and getting airline miles at the same time. As is the case for dining, there are apps to help you find the best rates at hotels - even luxury hotels offering unsold rooms at 60% plus off the regular room rate. Since weekend hotel rates are the most expensive, try taking vacation during the week. If a weekend stay is unavoidable, try a business hotel that has high volume during the week and offers lower prices on the weekend.
The best strategy to keeping your vacation debt free is to follow Tip #1 above. By saving enough money for all expenses, your vacation can be paid off as soon as payment is due and you can enjoy financial peace of mind while planning your next vacation!