Start Planning Your Summer Vacation Today

Jan 04, 2016

Tips to alleviate the stress of paying for it

MoneyLife100Warm weather, a cruise in the boat, or a hike up a mountain. January is the perfect time to begin thinking about your next vacation and the money you’ll need to achieve your dreams — especially if taking charge of your finances is part of your new year’s resolution.
Instead of charging your summer vacation on your credit card at the last minute, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants recommends taking time this winter to plan, save, and earn so you can relax next summer without the stress of wondering how you’re going to pay for it all.

Budgets and Goals

Making a budget probably isn’t high on the list of your favorite things to do, but it’s the only way to estimate how much your vacation will cost. Airfare and lodging are the biggies, but don’t forget about food, entertainment, pet or child care, passports, visas, and any other costs you can think of. With these costs in mind, you can set up a savings account exclusively for your vacation and have funds automatically deposited from your paycheck. Or, consider an online savings tool that transfers, tracks, and often rewards your efforts.

Simple savings ideas could include the following:
  • The trusty change jar — it adds up fast.
  • Replace dining out with dining in.
  • Have potlucks when entertaining at home.
  • Bring leftovers to work instead of going out.
  • Break bad habits — fancy coffee drinks, smoking, and sugar addictions are not cheap. Make a New Year’s resolution to cut back or quit altogether.
  • Take advantage of “free days” at your local museums, libraries, theaters, and more.
  • Hold clothing swaps — Save money on clothes while enjoying time with friends.
This is especially helpful with kids’ clothes that are typically outgrown before they’re worn out.

Take a Bite Out of the Food Budget

The money people spend on food during their vacation always takes them by surprise. Here are some ways you can eat on the cheap and keep this budget line item down:
  • Picnics — Some of the best family vacation memories are made at parks and rest stops along the way.
  • Kids eat free — Many national chains offer this enticement on certain days of the week.
  • Don’t order kids’ meals — Let children share an adult entrée. It’s cheaper and healthier.
  • Make lunch the big meal out. It’s usually less expensive than dinner for nearly the same amount of food.
  • Cost cutting sites — Groupon, LivingSocial, and similar sites let you purchase deals at a discount for restaurants, entertainment, and more in advance all over the country.
  • If staying in a hotel, get a room with a microwave and fridge.

Still Falling Short?

If you’re still falling short, maybe it’s time to reimagine your vacation. With lodging a top expense, dodge the hotel for some cheaper, if not more interesting, alternatives.
  • Home swaps — Swapping homes is a great deal for those who can handle someone else sleeping in their bed. Well-known travel expert Rick Steves offers some great advice on this worldwide option at
  • Hostels — Hostels are not just for grungy, post-college backpackers. Couples, families, and older folks are all welcome. Some hostels offer family rooms and private bathrooms, and many are located in the heart of the city within walking distance to major attractions. Check out Hostelling International at, which also has a link to its American counterpart.
  • Volunteer vacations — How does picking olives in Spain or teaching English in Costa Rica sound? Whatever your interest, there’s a volunteer vacation to match it, and housing and meals are usually included. Most volunteers are repeat customers, having found that volunteer vacations are much more fulfilling and even restful than the traditional vacation. Find out more at

Earn More

Falling short does not mean you have to cancel your vacation. Shift your mindset from saving to earning with these tips:
  • Earning can be as simple as a trip to the attic. Underneath the dust and cobwebs may lie some valuable items you could sell online.
  • Have a yard sale and get rid of some of the clutter that’s been weighing you down.
  • Crafty? Sell your handmade items on Etsy or other such sites.
  • Market your own expertise or services.
  • Get a part-time job.
This shift in mindset from saving to earning is a powerful way to reach your financial goals, no matter what they are.

Talk to a CPA

A CPA can provide more advice on how to reach your financial goals in both the short- and long-term.

Don’t have a CPA? Visit PICPA’s Consumer page to use our CPA locator tool, as well as other budgeting resources.

The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) is a premiere statewide association of more than 22,000 members working in public accounting, industry, government, and education. Founded in 1897, the PICPA is the second-oldest state CPA organization in the United States.

Money & Life Tips are a joint effort of the AICPA and the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA), as part of the profession’s nationwide 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy program.