Budgeting on Vacation – Should You be Saving?

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by Olivia Pink

It is officially summertime, you’ve put in the request for some time off at work and you’re ready for some much needed R&R! You finally start to plan out your vacation getaway, and then…  you see that the expenses are adding up quickly. The last thing you want is to arrive at your destination and realize you’re out of money. So how do you plan a vacation without overspending, that also fits your budget?!

A group of friends and I recently went on a weeklong vacation to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. All in all – I spent around $500 for the week.  This included the price of the house we rented, the cost of gas to drive from Massachusetts to North Carolina, food, and house supplies. I felt comfortable with the money that I had spent and so I returned home stress-free (and very burnt). 

Here are some tips that I learned while on vacation to help you stick to your vacation budget:

Have a budget in mind before you book!

Make sure you have a budget in mind going into your vacation planning and stick with it! Before the official planning had even begun, my friends and I knew that we did not want to blow the bank on this vacation. Many of us have upcoming weddings, are new homeowners and have other expenses that still have to be our main priority. Because of this, we looked for a destination that would cost no more than $350 a person for accommodations. Fortunately, we found a beautiful house in the Outer Banks that met this price point. The low price for the house allowed a greater budget for items like food, house supplies, and any fun excursions people wanted to experience while there. 

Set a daily limit for spending (and bring cash)!

Luckily, the house that we booked for our trip had so many ways to keep us all occupied that we never felt the need to leave! We had a pool, beach access and a game room which helped limit our daily spending. However, there were days when some people wanted to shop or try some tasty restaurants in the area. I brought cash with me so that I knew how much I was spending each day. I also knew that when I was out of cash, I was out so I capped my daily spending limit at $50.00. Any money that I didn’t use was added to the next day’s limit! I only ended up buying random groceries one day and some Outer Banks apparel on another so I remained well under budget.  

Cook your meals! 

You’re on vacation, so of course you want to enjoy the local food! However, eating out every day can add up quickly! If you’re able to find lodging with a kitchen then you could cook up some quick meals during your stay. We had 35 friends on this trip which is an overwhelming number of mouths to feed! As a solution, each person was in charge of their own breakfast and lunch, but when it came to dinner, we split up into 7 teams of 5. Each night a different team was in charge of dinner for the whole house. This did a couple of things: it switched up the types of meals people were having (which was super fun) and it allowed the grocery bill to be split 5 ways. In total, I spent $30 on the night my team cooked dinner. As a bonus, we always had so many leftovers that people could have options for lunch the next day! 

Find the most affordable way to travel!

Because the Outer Banks are only a 10 hour drive away, half of our friends decided to drive rather than fly. The drivers were all lucky to have cars that were able to make the trip.  If you’re not in that boat and have to rent a car, you will have to factor in the cost of the car and insurance. Another benefit of driving: we were able to bring our own food and house supplies which ended up saving us both money and time! I spent around $120 in gas which was way cheaper than a plane ticket. So if you’re able to sit in a car for a number of hours – I highly suggest buckling up for a road trip! 

Plan activities ahead of time!

The Carolinas are known for their beautiful golf courses, so it came as no surprise that many of our friends wanted some tee-time. After some research, we found out that our stay came with a package deal that allowed visitors a certain % off at a local golf course. Not only did our friends enjoy a day of golf, but they were able to do so at a cheaper rate! With the money they saved at this golf course, they were also able to try out another course later in the week.

Another group wanted to splurge on a deep sea fishing excursion. While this was a little pricier, they were able to fit this expense into their weekly spending by opting out of a golf day or a trip to a nearby restaurant. 


Vacations are meant to relieve you of stress, not cause it! By planning your vacation budget ahead of time, you can help make your actual time away that much more enjoyable! Plus, when you return to reality, your bank account will thank you!  You’ll still have enough to cover all of your necessities and stay on track towards meeting those financial goals. A vacation budget is great to have, however, don’t forget to still have fun! And don’t forget to wear your sunscreen!