Drafting a Budget
Nearly any vacation is possible if you budget accordingly. The question of whether or not you can take your family to Fiji is one part conscious savings, one part careful planning, and a whole lot of patience. There is nothing wrong with dreaming. Families who really want to take that dream trip to Africa should begin planning. There may be sacrifices along the way, and such a financial undertaking may take a while to manifest. Provided your family has the self-discipline to drop every spare cent into your African safari piggy bank, to Africa you shall go!
A Family Affair — Getting Everyone Involved
A family vacation is exciting for everyone. Buy a flip chart at your local office supply store and assemble it in the room where your family gathers. Dry-erase boards are not recommended, as you may need to refer to your flip chart repeatedly in the vacation planning process. Gather all your materials and make a date for your family to spend an evening together. Using your flip chart to record the discussion, encourage everyone to make suggestions about activities and discuss the trip. This may take more than one evening. Leave the flip chart out so family members can jot down other suggestions or things they'd like to do on your trip. Eventually, make final decisions.
These decisions will be the basis of your travel budget.
How Much Will You Really Need?
The next step is to discover how much money you will need for your vacation. You may be paying for your entire trip with a credit card or money you've already saved, but you still need a budget. Research lodging, transportation, food, and activities based on the decisions you made as a family. Once you've added all of the costs for every family member, tack on the cost for another person — as if you were bringing a guest. This will ensure you have enough money for the trip and a buffer. Make a list of at-home vacation expenses, too, like pet or house sitter expenses, security, and such. Will you need passports? New luggage? Shots? Add these costs to your final dollar amount.
If you want to travel within six months, calculate how much money you'll need to save each week to make that deadline. If you find the amount is unrealistic, move your travel date further out. Do not try to come up with more money faster — this will only place stress on your family and lessen the fun of planning for your trip. If you plan to use a credit card for part of your trip, transportation costs for example, deduct that amount from the funds you need to save. Calculate a plan that includes the dollar amount you need to save each week to meet your goal.
Sticking to It
The key to arriving at your desired travel budget is sticking to it. It is easier to stick with a plan you have to think about every week. Remain faithful to your plan. If you're saving cash for your trip, place a jar in your family's kitchen for change and dollar bills. As often as your daily budget allows, every time you walk by, drop something into the jar. That money adds up.
Shortcuts to Paying for the Trip
You've identified the perfect vacation spot. You know how much the trip will cost. The kids are excited and you've put in for vacation time off from work. You and your spouse need new swimsuits, and the kids need passports. If only you could save money faster so your family could go sooner. There are some shortcuts that can help you do just that.
For starters, make sure your credit cards are attached to frequent flyer or other rewards program. In just six months, paying your bills with a rewards card that offers a frequent-flier mile for every dollar spent could result in a free airline ticket.
Use the budget travel snowball. Have you recently paid off a credit card or loan? Instead of spending that money randomly, pretend you are still paying off the balance of the old bill. Take that monthly payment and apply it to your travel fund. Before long, the money will snowball into your vacation.
Many travel rewards programs allow you to use points to pay for travel. Check with your preferred airline and hotel chain to see what programs they offer.