Never Too Soon to Start Planning for Vacation

Sandy Boenig, AFC®, Military Saves Associate

September 5, 2013

How was your budget over the summer?  Did you utilize your vacation spending plan? Did you spend a lot more than anticipated?  ?  Whatever category you find yourself in, take the time now to do some planning and pledge to save for next year’s vacation while this year’s vacation (and expenses) is still fresh in your mind.

Vacations are very important to our overall health. We need time away from the stresses of the workplace. Spending time with our families, Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., says that vacations make us happier and more productive employees, and are necessary to good physical and mental health. Whether you decide to go to a fancy resort, travel to visit relatives, or have an adventure, you should not only plan your destination, but establish a financial goal in anticipation of the next year’s vacation.

The average vacation cost, per person, is $1,145, according to an American Express survey of 2012 vacation spending.  That is basically saving $100 per person, per month in the year leading up to your vacation.  Keep in mind that this amount is an average,  you will need to adjust to the reality of what type of vacation your family would like to have.

Members of the military have some vacation options available to them that the general public does not.    If you want to save on lodgings you can camp using rented camping equipment at an installation campground.  Some campgrounds are located near some extremely desirable vacation destinations.  It is highly recommended that you make a reservation.  Also, the National Park system grants free admission to military personnel and their families.  You will need to reserve and pay for a campsite.  The state parks systems are another great source of camping spots.

If you aren’t a camping sort of person, the military has options for lodgings.  My family stayed at the Shades of Green resort in Orlando, it was an easy walk to the monorail stop at The Polynesian  and you get the same early entry to the park privileges as anyone staying at a Disney resort.    We enjoyed our stay and plan to do it again.

There are admission deals available when vacationing at theme parks including Disney and Busch Park’s Waves of Honor that offer free or reduced admission to military families (depending on proof of status). Disney also has special rates and deals for some of their lodgings.  If you decide to stay closer to home many museums participate in the Blue Star Museums and offer free admission during the summer months. Always check with your local MWR office to see if they have any deals available for your next trip.

Finally, don’t forget to account for the cost of traveling in your planning. If you intend to fly, and are flexible, you can use Space A travel or the Armed Forces Travel Club.  Maybe you will drive, rent a car, or take the train or bus. Whatever method of travel you decide, do your homework to ensure you get the best price and are able to take advantage of any deals. Once you have pinpointed the major costs: destination, travel, and activities, you can create a budget with estimated costs. 

Good luck and HAPPY travels!

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