While many consumers say they design their vacation plans in such a way to save money, 60% of consumers said they exceed their summer travel budgets every year, according to a nationally representative survey conducted on behalf of Citi ThankYou Premier card. Nearly a third (30%) said they avoid holiday weekends when scheduling their vacations because of the high costs associated with them — only 11% said Memorial Day is the best time to arrange summer travel.
For those who plan to take a vacation this summer, most (74%) say they’re going to do so by car. On average, gas prices are about $1 per gallon cheaper this year than last year, according to AAA’s data on national fuel costs, though the average gasoline price has increased in the days leading up to Memorial Day. Still, gas prices this weekend will be at the lowest they’ve been in five years, and AAA projected this Memorial Day weekend will see the highest travel volume for the holiday since 2005 — 88% of travelers (about 33 million people) will travel by car, the organization estimates.
If you’re out and about for the long weekend, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to save money, in addition to the low fuel costs. Many studies support the idea that vacation is good for workers’ well-being and mental health, but running into financial problems from a getaway might outweigh its positive impact. Here are some tips for having a rewarding trip, whether you’re out of town now or planning an escape later in the summer.
Make a Budget & Stick to It
With 60% of consumers saying they blow their vacation budgets, it’s clearly difficult to control spending when you’re out having fun. First of all, make a realistic budget for your excursion by planning ahead, researching costs at your destination and reminding yourself of the importance of spending within your means. If you let things get out of control, you may jeopardize other aspects of your finances, or you may end up going into debt, especially if you put your vacation expenses on a credit card — and if you’re carrying a high balance on your cards, it could have a negative impact on your credit score. (You can get your credit scores for free on Credit.com to see how your credit card balances are affecting them.) Whatever your budgeting method is — keeping receipts, writing out transactions on a piece of paper, using a spreadsheet or tracking purchases in an app — stick with it when you’re out of town.
Look for Opportunities to Save
If you have a credit card that rewards certain spending categories or travel purchases, consider using it for your planned vacation expenses — just make sure you’re not spending for the sake of earning points, because that’s an easy way to let things get out of control.
There are many services that help you find discounts and coupons for travel, and if you have a smartphone, you can use an app to help you find deals using geolocation. Researching offers in advance certainly helps, but technology can also make it easy to find money-saving solutions in the moment.
Keep an Eye on Your Accounts
Here’s another area where technology is your friend. Chances are your bank has a mobile app you can use to keep track of your transactions, so if you didn’t bring a computer on your trip or don’t have a secure Internet connection, you can stay on top of your spending on the go. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to secure your phone and financial apps with passcodes, so in the event you lose your phone, no one else can access your sensitive information.
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