Are you planning to take a family vacation this summer? For those Americans with summer vacation plans, 41 percent expect to pay an average of $3,000 for transportation, lodging, meals, activities, entertainment, and pet care, according to a telephone survey conducted by Harris Poll for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants offers some tips on how you can set a budget to hold down the cost of a family trip while still having an enjoyable break.
Check Out Prices Ahead of Time
There are many online options to help you compare prices and minimize hotel and airfare spending, but a budget can be difficult to prepare when you’re not sure how much your everyday needs will cost. To solve that problem, search online for local restaurants that appeal to you and browse the menus to get a sense of meal prices. Visit the sites of museums or other attractions you plan to visit to learn about entrance fees. Don’t forget that you may need to rent a car or take taxis or public transportation to get around. Other expenses to take into account may include hotel Internet charges, fees for using an ATM outside your banking network, and currency exchange costs if you travel abroad. You’ll probably find yourself buying at least a couple of souvenirs, so add those to your budget, as well.
Read the Fine Print
Are you planning to visit a resort or take a cruise? While you may expect many amenities to be included, it’s smart to find out ahead of time what will cost extra. Hotels may charge for daily parking, for use of the pool or other facilities, or for renting bicycles, jet skis, or other water craft. On a cruise, there may be added charges for alcoholic beverages or dining in certain on-board restaurants. Trips outside of your resort or on-shore cruise excursions may also cost extra, and you’ll probably have to ante up a little more if you’re one who indulges in massages or other spa services.
Consider Ways to Cut Costs
Once you learn what expenses to expect, how can you keep a lid on them? If your hotel does charge a daily Internet fee, try to plan your usage so that you don’t need to get online as often or search for cafes or other locations with free wireless. If you’re flying, find out about baggage or other added fees, and try to pack light to avoid them. To lower meal costs, seek out a hotel that offers free breakfast, cocktail hour, or other meal deals.
If you’ll be away for a week or more, check out online sites that specialize in short-term apartment rentals. You may find accommodations that are no more expensive than a hotel, but you will be able to make yourself some morning coffee, keep a stash of water bottles or soda, and whip up a quick meal instead of paying for a restaurant.
Think about a Staycation
The most effective way to save money is to have fun in your own backyard. If you’re dreaming of a vacation that will bring the family together, could you have the same fun by spending the day at a local amusement park or taking a day trip to the beach or a state park? If your budget is tight, remember that it may be possible to get a break without leaving home.
Turn to Your Local CPA
You may not think to turn to your CPA for travel advice, but your local CPA can help with budgeting and other financial decisions to help you meet your vacation and other financial goals. He or she can offer the insights and advice you need to make the best decisions. To find a CPA in Pennsylvania by location or area of expertise, ask family or friends for recommendations or use PICPA's CPA Locator