As you drive to the beach this summer, we have a fun car game for you. Every time Frozen’s “Let It Go” plays in the backseat, tell your kids to grab a handful of cash and “let it go” out the window.
Okay, don’t do that. And don’t let go of your brain for the summer either.
Overspending on vacation is easy to do—too easy. But instead of throwing away good money, be proactive and make a plan for your hard-earned dollars.
Here are seven vacation cash-snatchers to watch out for as you hit the road.
1. Not making a vacation budget.
Spending money without a plan is like swimming all day without sunscreen: It may be fun now, but you’ll be hurting in the morning. That’s why you need a budget! To make your vacation budget, simply write down how much cash you want to spend on things like restaurants, groceries, souvenirs, entertainment and aloe vera. If you want to get fancy, you can put the cash for each budget category into an envelope. This method will help you keep track of how many snow globes you’ve purchased and how many you can still afford. Right now, not mid-trip, is the time to decide how much vacation you can actually afford.
2. Booking a room instead of a rental property.
Renting an apartment, house or condo from a homeowner is a great way to avoid expensive hotel extras like parking, breakfast and room service. Plus, with a vacation rental, you can use the kitchen to prepare most of your meals and the laundry facilities to save room in your suitcases. Double win!
3. Loading up on gas station snacks.
Multiply every fill-up and bathroom break by three packs of gummy bears, two packs of trail mix and a gallon of Gatorade and see how quickly your snack budget bites the dust. Buying snacks on impulse can get out of hand in a hurry. As you pack up the car, make room for a cooler with waters, juice boxes and two or three healthy snacks (maybe some unhealthy ones too). Faster pit stops save you time and money.
4. Paying sticker price for theme parks.
There are countless ways to find discounts on admission to theme parks and water parks, so there’s really no excuse to pay full price. Watch for Groupon deals, entertainment book deals, AAA discounts or other online offers. And don’t bust your budget buying meals inside the park. Budget for a light snack while you’re there, but plan your main meals away from the roller coasters.
5. Indulging the kids.
This is not a second Christmas. This is family time with pretty scenery. So don’t fall for the trap that your kids “deserve” piles of plastic things. The trip is their gift! To create some vacation buy-in, gift each kid with a special Vacation Cash envelope. Maybe they’ll even want to add some of their own commission money! Explain that this is all the money they get for games, toys and extra snacks. There will be no begging, no crying and definitely no temper tantrums! Stick to it, and they will too.
6. Buying all the stuff you forgot.
It happens every single year—you forgot your towel, your husband forgot his bathing suit, your son forgot Mr. Fuzzy Bear . . . It goes on and on! This year, make a detailed list for each family member as well as a household list. Then, at least two days before your departure, have a packing party—turn on some music, dance around the house, and whistle while you work! But be sure to check off items as you pack. This will remove the stress and expense of replacing forgotten items. Revisit each list the morning of your trip to be sure everything landed in its proper place.
7. Eating out too often.
Cooking at your home-away-from-home will save you a bundle, but not if you go to the store and buy whatever sounds good. You’ll just end up making multiple trips throughout the week and throwing away tons of leftovers. As soon as you arrive at your destination, run to the beach, stick your toes in the sand, and write out a complete meal plan. Then go to the store and stock up your rental fridge. Don’t forget to eat out a few times—this is vacation after all!
After you’ve scored your discount tickets, double checked your packing lists, and budgeted cash for everything, try that car game again.
This time, have some fun and sing along at the top of your lungs. Because after saving money, what could be more fun than embarrassing your kids all the way to the beach?