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Keeping the vacation budget in check

FRANKLIN LIVING— Are you already dreaming about vacation season? I know I am! Maybe you’re dreaming of the perfect trip, or maybe you already have your getaway planned. Either way, one thing is for sure: finances play a major role in what our summer plans look like. Here are four financial tips to help keep your travel plans (and pocketbooks) in check:

  1. Plan for everything. Emergencies aren’t just a flat tire or lost luggage. Be sure to avoid a financial S.O.S. by planning ahead for all the vacation expenses you can think of. Eating out, hotels, gas, excursions, souvenirs and all the other extras quickly add up. If you have kids, you’ll spend a small fortune in sunscreen alone! Plan ahead and keep it real.
  2. Be brave with your budget. You’ve examined what all expenses are likely to occur; now stick to your guns. It’s so easy to go overboard and “treat yourself” when away from your normal routine. Keep these considerations in mind not only when choosing your destination but also on what activities you choose to do once you get there. If your budget is extremely tight right now, look for adventures closer to home and start saving for that dream trip. You can even set up a special savings account earmarked for the getaway.
  3. How low can you go? There are major savings to be had if you’re willing to be flexible and do a little research. Do you have to travel during peak season? If not, off-peak times can lead to major savings and avoiding a lot of the crowds! Hotel alternatives are becoming more and more common. Check out all the new lodging options that are available – Airbnb, Home Away, etc. – and see where you might cut costs. Or maybe choose a destination based on where you have family or friends who would let you stay.
  4. Really on a shoestring. Find a way to cut the costs. Travel with friends/family and share the lodging expenses. Cooking in, getting your food to go and hitting the grocery store saves a ton compared to eating out. Plan a shorter trip – a quick trip to local campgrounds, state parks or theme parks within driving distance cuts a lot of big-ticket expenses.

Most importantly, enjoy that well-deserved time off. I vividly remember the plastic pool in the front yard with a garden hose just as much as I remember the first time my toes hit the sand at the beach. Home or away, memories will be made; make the most of them. Compromise where you can and challenge yourself to stay within your budget.

Emily Mays is vice president/senior marketing director at Community Spirit Bank in Red Bay, working in finance for 13 years. She is an enthusiastic social media marketer, financial literacy advocate and go local supporter. She lives in East Franklin and has one daughter, Lola, 10.