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Keeping Vacations Practical for Your Budget

Keeping Vacations Practical for Your Budget


As exhilarating as the idea is that you should ‘treat yourself’ on vacation, sometimes, it is probably not the right choice to make. If you don’t want to come home with sickening credit card bills, or a cash deficiency we encourage you to consider budgeting for your vacation.

Saving for a vacation doesn’t happen overnight. The best place to start is with a little account that we call a Vacation Club. This is a sub-account attached to your membership where you can set aside money each pay, or just whenever you feel like it, in order to save for a vacation! Then, each year in the Spring, these funds are disbursed into your main account for use towards your vacation (You can always request the funds earlier in the event you’re booking something sooner. Or, if you’re not ready to use those funds, you can put them right back into the Vacation Club!)

If you have a trip, come up last-minute, haven’t saved up beforehand, or you had other things planned for your money, you may need to consider taking out a small loan, or using a credit card to pay for your vacation. If this is the case, it’s still easy to stick to a budget!


Here are some practical tips to keep vacation costs low, and to stay within your budget:

Start planning early

  • Start with a list. Determine the major expenses such as lodging, transportation, and insurances for your travel. Get creative with the ways to reduce these costs by comparison shopping, considering whether you can make this same trip during the off-season or by booking an all-inclusive deal. Then you can move on to food, entertainment, and/or excursions you plan on including.
  • Sign up for discounts and deals. “To find out about flight deals, sign up for travel newsletters and sales alerts in advance.” (Business Insider). Sign up for these notifications from a number of reliable and credible travel sites ahead of time, this can really help you find the best deals.
  • Consider various options for your stay and compare the best possible rates on different reliable and trusted websites before booking. Whether that means booking directly from the hotel or airline website to checking and booking through known third-party rental sites like Groupon, Expedia, Airbnb, VRBO, local travel agents, and more.
  • Always make sure you’re in the ‘know’ with all inclusions and exclusions before booking. There can be many hidden fees, or items that you think are included that are actually added expenses when you arrive.
  • Reduce your monthly expenses prior to taking a trip. Consider lowering your expenses by getting rid of cable for a short period of time, eating out less often, or other creative ways to reduce your bills to help you save toward your vacation budget, but remember not to stretch yourself too thin.


While Traveling

  • Bring snacks and grocery shop. Whether you bring snacks to the airport or buy groceries once you reach your destination, you can save a ton of money doing this instead of eating out at expensive restaurants every day. (But, remember…it’s always a good idea to be aware of airport rules/regulations on bringing food through security first).
  • You may need to consider buying appropriate clothing or gear depending on your destination. The more specific your plans, the more specific gear you may need. “Budgets for adventure travel can be trimmed by borrowing or renting gear and saving the money required to purchase, pack or ship the items.” (USA Today).
  • Keep your wallet safe. Always keep your wallet & purse in sight, right in front of you. Nothing can throw you off budget faster than a pit-pocketer or thief. When you arrive at your destination, consider using the safe that comes in your room for locking down extra cash and passports/other forms of ID.
  • Track your spending. While on vacation tracking your spending daily can be a useful practice in order to stay on budget. This way you know where you’re at with your spending rather than just winging it and running out of money before your trip is over.
  • If you’re traveling long-distance you may drive through road tolls or may need to calculate additional funds for parking. If you’re flying, don’t forget to include cost of luggage and destination transportation to your budget too.


The Fun Stuff

  • Organize a section of your budget for specific activities you’d like to do while on vacation.  This could be spent on entertainment, a unique excursion, a day at the spa, or just about anything else. These activities may range from cheap and free to very expensive, so it’s important to budget accordingly.
  • Give yourself a daily allowance for food, drinks, shopping, or other indulgences.
  • Make memories that last rather than purchasing souvenirs that eventually end up in the trash. If you can’t help but buy a souvenir at your destination because it’s a tradition or you’re looking for something special for someone, consider whether it can be used in your everyday life. If not, make sure that it’s budgeted.
  • Search for restaurants off the beaten path as a way to save. Restaurants within tourist destinations often have inflated prices. Instead, eat like a local to save some dough. Always take into consideration your surroundings and stay safe if straying away from more touristy restaurants. You can even search for local markets or farmers' markets depending on where you’re staying rather than expensive bigger eateries.

Budgeting on vacation can be as easy as changing your mindset while out on vacation. Treating yourself is nice, but overdoing it or being wasteful will cost you more money than you want to spend. “The theory of saving a small amount each day — whether it's ordering a medium-sized meal, staying outside the city center, or taking the bus — can pay dividends in the long run." (Business Insider).



  1. Business Insider -
  2. USA Today -



While we hope you find this content useful, it is only intended to serve as a starting point. Your next step is to speak with a qualified, licensed professional who can provide advice tailored to your individual circumstances if you need financial help. Nothing in this article, nor in any associated resources, should be construed as financial or legal advice. Furthermore, while we have made good faith efforts to ensure that the information presented was correct as of the date the content was prepared, we are unable to guarantee that it remains accurate today.

CSE does not make any warranties or representations as to the accuracy, applicability, completeness, or suitability for any particular purpose of the information contained herein. CSE expressly disclaims any liability arising from the use or misuse of these materials and, by visiting this site, you agree to release CSE from any such liability. Do not rely upon the information provided in this content when making decisions regarding financial or legal matters without first consulting with a qualified, licensed professional.


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Jill Cline | Jun 12th 2021 @ 9:08 AM

You mentioned "hidden fees" when booking that we think may be included. Do you have any examples of "hidden fees"?

CSE Federal Credit Union | Jun 16th 2021 @ 7:33 AM

Hi Jill, Thanks for the question. When we mentioned hidden fees, we should have probably included that some of these could be fees that you may not typically think of. Some of the fees we had in mind are: - Airport transportation - Tipping drivers - Hotel parking fees - Foreign exchange fees - Change fees/Cancellation fees for airlines - Overweight baggage fee, if checking a bag - Snack Bar/Mini Fridge in hotels if you use them - ATM Fees - WiFi access, especially if on a cruise

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