How to Avoid Post-Vacation Sticker Shock

How much did the typical adult spend on his or her summer vacation last year? $400? $800? The average price tag was actually closer to $1,200. Imagine, then, how much money a family of four spent!

“Summer vacations can be surprisingly expensive,” Suzanne Boas, former president of Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions, said. “Families spend considerable sums of money on travel, accommodations, dining, entertainment and souvenirs.”

how to avoid post-vacation sticker shock

Summer vacationers can avoid post-vacation “sticker shock” by estimating their expenses ahead of time and budgeting accordingly. “Don’t wait until the credit card bills start rolling in to find out how much your vacation cost,” Boas said.

If you are in charge of summer vacation planning, Clearpoint offers the following tips to help you enjoy your vacation without breaking your bank.

* Make a vacation budget. The first step in vacation planning is to determine how much you have to spend on a vacation and how much you can realistically save before the trip. This is your vacation budget, or the amount of money you have for travel, lodging and amusement.

* Involve family members in decision-making. Now that you know how much you can afford to spend, decide on the best way to use it. Ask family members where they want to go and what they want to do when they arrive. Discuss compromises such as spending less on travel and more on sightseeing. Come up with a vacation plan everyone can enjoy.

* Do your vacation homework. Use travel Web sites like www.travelocity.com and www.priceline.com to get low rates on airline tickets, hotel rooms and car rentals. Ask travel agents for information on special packages and seasonal discounts. Read the latest travel guides at bookstores and libraries. Get information from friends and relatives who may have been to the same destination. Watch out for coupon books sometimes issued by visitor and tourism associations.

* Create a travel itinerary. Plan your activities before you arrive at your travel destination. Spontaneous stops can be the death of a vacation budget.

* Make a credit plan. Credit cards can come in handy on the road. They’re safer than cash because they can be replaced if lost. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it is easy to overspend with credit cards. If you are going to use credit cards, be sure to record your charges in a ledger and limit your charges to budgeted expenses. When you get home, pay your charges in full.

* Consider professional advice. If you are having difficulty raising the money necessary for a summer vacation or are still paying for last year’s trip, you may have budgeting and money management issues. The certified counselors at Clearpoint would be happy to analyze your situation and make recommendations. Clearpoint is a nonprofit, community service organization that provides confidential counseling, guidance, debt management and education programs to financially troubled consumers. Clearpoint is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. To schedule a confidential appointment, call 1-800-750-2227.

About Clearpoint

Clearpoint is a nonprofit, community service agency dedicated to empowering people to achieve a lifetime of economic freedom. Clearpoint provides free, confidential budget counseling, community and personal money management education, debt management programs, and comprehensive housing counseling. Contact Clearpoint by phone at 1-800-750-2227, or visit the Web site.

Originally posted 6/1/12.

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