A vacation should be a time of relaxation, exploration and, possibly, adventure. There are lots of reasons to treat your vacation time as more than just an extra day off here and there. A change of scenery has been shown to have a real impact on one’s mood, productivity and even mental health. And visiting new places has been shown to boost creativity and adaptability, and even improve focus. 

Finding new places to explore is simple. There are countless magazines, websites and even social media offerings that center on travel, tailored to specific interests. There will be a whole section of travel magazines at your nearest bookstore. You can google “tourism + [topic/hobby you’re interested in].” Pinterest has thousands of boards that are devoted to travel of all sorts. Spend some time to come up with a getaway that really inspires you.

When you decide on a location, it’s time to set about planning for it. If you do your planning right, you can maximize your vacation experience without breaking the bank. 

Don’t immediately cross any destinations off of your list before you do your planning research. The question isn’t “can I afford to go there.” The question is, “what will it take for me to go there?” Once you know the actual cost of your trip, you can begin saving toward that trip over time. 


Budget Your Time

Time is a key factor in budgeting for your vacation. Most destinations have peak seasons, when visitor traffic is high, and off seasons, when fewer visitors come through. Because the peak-season demand is so high, costs for lodging and tickets for attractions and events are going to be higher. So if you’re not planning on catching a specific event, you can save a lot of money by visiting during the off-season. 


Budget Your Activities

Many activities have discounts available through sites like groupon. Oftentimes, by contacting local Convention and Visitors Bureaus in the destination city, they can direct you to special deals or packages that can save you money. 

Make a list of all of the things you might be interested in doing, and the cost of each.


Budget Your Travel Costs

However you’re getting to your destination, you need to make sure you account for your travel costs. Driving will require gas. If you’re flying, how much will the tickets be and will you need a rental car? How much will you need to allot for lodging?


Budget Your Food

In addition to fuel for your car, you will need fuel for yourself. How much will you need for 3 meals per day and snacks? Can you save money by bringing your own food? 


Budget For Souvenirs

Wherever you travel, it seems like you always end up in a gift shop. Go ahead and set aside a little money for t-shirts or other memorabilia you might want as a memento of your experiences. 


Add Your Vacation To Your Actual Budget

Add up the totals for the categories above. Figure out how many paychecks you’ll receive between now and the date your vacation starts. Divide the total by the number of paychecks, and you will have the amount you will need to save from each paycheck in order to be able to afford the trip you have in mind. (Alternatively, you can take the total and divide by how much you can afford to set aside from each paycheck. That will give you the number of pay periods it will take to save up for the trip you really WANT to take. If that date seems distant, maybe schedule a couple of smaller weekend getaways to tide you over while you save up for the big one.)
As with any budget, success is dependent on your commitment to seeing it through. As your budgeted money adds up, you will have to resist the temptation to “borrow” from it for impulse purchases you want to make in the moment.

Every time you set aside money from your paycheck, visualize what the experience will look and feel like when you are finally able to enjoy your trip. The more realistic you can make it in your mind, the easier it will be to choose that vision over the impulse to buy something else in the moment.