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Travel | AAA World
Realistic Vacation Budgeting

How much money you need to save for your getaway

Vacations should help you recharge from life’s stressors, but figuring out how to pay for them can cause stress of its own. With expert planning assistance from a travel agent and the creation of a simple budget, you can ensure that your vacation is not shadowed by debt carried months—or even years—after you’ve returned home from your trip.

Budgeting can take different forms. You can have a specific destination in mind and save for it. This method  might work well for a bucket-list trip such as a safari. Even without a goal, including travel in your budget is an excellent way to ensure your annual getaway happens without fail.

Also, keep in mind that there are more costs to consider than airfare and lodging, says Micki Dudas, AAA’s managing director of Leisure Travel Sales.

Remember to include the cost of getting between your hotel and the airport; getting around your destination without a car (or renting a car); dining; tour, activity, and admission costs; and souvenirs.

Cash isn’t the only currency that can cover expenses, of course. Consider using the points you receive as credit card rewards. Forecasting these into your budget is easy. For example, if you spend $250 weekly on groceries and your card provides three times the points on grocery spending, you’ll earn nearly 40,000 points annually. Redemption values can change dramatically depending on how and when you redeem them (and blackout dates may apply), so occasionally revisit the number of points required for travel. 

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While many factors influence vacation costs, Dudas offers some guidelines to start your budget. If traveling solo from the Midwest or East Coast for a Vegas weekend, you’ll need at least $1,500. For a family of four theme-park weekend, set aside $4,000. And for a seven-day cruise without air and with an inside cabin, you’ll need at least $2,000.

Realistic Vacation Budgeting


Travel agents can also help you stretch your vacation dollars with insightful recommendations. For example, certain times of year could be cheaper for travel than others, so a travel agent might suggest altering your travel dates slightly to cut hotel prices dramatically. Also, while you might think a hotel away from the main tourist district will save you money, you might lose those savings Ubering daily into the center city.

Agents can recommend accommodations that provide value, convenience, and perks such as free breakfast.
They also can provide advice on travel insurance and remind you about important issues such as whether your health insurance will cover you abroad, Dudas adds.
Engaging a travel agent is a low-pressure experience; there’s no expectation of booking on first contact. Travel agents also can help to ensure that your vacation, regardless of your budget, includes quality experiences. Well-traveled agents have firsthand knowledge of destinations and rely on AAA’s rating system to recommend properties, so you won’t have to worry about trading comfort or enjoyment for price; you’ll get the most for your money and a lifetime of vacation memories without any lingering debt.