Our school is out for the year, so for me that means summer has arrived. I know the official start date of summer here in North America isn’t until June 21st. The astronomers and weathermen can push that date all they want. Once the kids start sleeping until 9 am or later, I know something has changed.
Summer brings with it summer vacations, which our family thoroughly enjoys. We usually take one big trip (a week+) and one short trip (3-4 days) each summer. This year will be no different as we will be embarking on a week long trek from Atlanta to Niagara Falls and back, followed later in the summer by a weekend cruise to the Bahamas.
Neither of those trips will be cheap, although we did get an incredible deal on the cruise (more on that in a moment). Nevertheless, we won’t be going into debt for either of them. All our vacation expenditures will be paid for in cash (through using our debit card).
How are we doing that?
Two words: “planning” and “saving.”
Summer Vacations With Cash
Here’s how we pay for all our summer vacations with cash:
Early Planning Leads to Deals
Summer vacations are expensive enough. They become even more so when thrown together at the last minute. We’ve learned that to stretch our money as far as it can go, we have to look early and often for deals on hotels, airfare, rental cars, and attractions.
Then when a deal surfaces…POUNCE!
Our summer vacation discussions begin in January. We throw out ideas and narrow the list to around five options. Then we begin researching various travel sites, always staying alert for deals that might coincide with our alternatives.
So on Sunday, March 30th, my wife gets into a discussion at church with a friend who had just returned from a Celebrity cruise. In passing, he happened to mention that Royal Caribbean was doing a promotion where the third and fourth passenger in a stateroom sail for free. The catch…the deal ended on Monday, March 31st.
Talk about short notice!
We booked it that night.
And by the time my wife got off the phone with the Royal Caribbean agent, they had found two connected junior suites that were actually running cheaper than the standard balcony rooms. So of course we took that “suite” deal for our family of six.
We got all that because we were planning ahead and were ready to commit when the time was right.
Save Early and Often
Planning for vacation is one thing. How to pay for it is another. A person could find the greatest deals in the world and still go into debt for vacation.
In order to stay out of debt for summer vacation, it’s imperative to start saving early…crazy early in fact. For our trips this summer, we started saving in July 2013, when our last vacation for that summer was completed.
Every month since last July, we’ve been putting money into our savings account earmarked for “Summer Vacation 2014.” We actually give that money a name (like a sub-account in our savings) so we can keep track of it. Identifying the money in this way also makes sure it doesn’t get used for something else.
It’s not just money from our paychecks we save though.
For starters, we had money left over from Summer Vacation 2013, so that simply rolled over into the account for this summer. We also save funds from work bonuses, tax refunds, monetary gifts and funds from selling personal items (ex. at a garage sale). Pretty much any time money rolls in from an unexpected source, we consider putting some of it towards our summer vacation budget.
Using a system like this will help save money and build a solid fund for that summer vacation. Funny thing is, I’ve noticed paying with cash brings me more enjoyment of the actual trip. The best vacations it seems are the ones you return from debt free.
Questions: How do you save for summer vacations? Do you pay with cash or use credit cards to pay for expenditures while on the trip? Do you agree the best summer vacations are ones you don’t have to pay for once you return? What destination(s) are you off to this summer?