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Budget now for spring break trips
By Kaitlyn Byrne
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE – With spring break around the corner, affordable vacation plans are on many people’s minds.
Bobbie Shaffett, family resource management specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said early planning is the key to budgeting for a vacation. She suggested that would-be vacationers calculate the expected cost of transportation, lodging, meals and entertainment, then compare that figure to the amount the budget will actually allow.
Ideally, travelers will have enough lead time to calculate the amount needed for the trip, divide the anticipated total cost by the number of pay periods before the vacation and determine how much to save from each paycheck.
“The most important step is to plan how to pay for the trip before going or even making a deposit or reservation,” Shaffett said. “Keep in mind that using a credit card to pay for expenses that will be used up before the bill comes is not wise. It is best to use a credit card for convenience when you have money to pay the bill in full when it arrives.”
Shaffett said using cash or a credit card while traveling is safer than using a debit card.
“If you plan to use a debit card, remember that the hold put on your card for hotels, car rentals and sometimes gas paid at the pump may tie up funds in your account,” she said. “It may be best to use a credit card for hotel and car rentals and pay cash for gasoline.”
Small changes in daily spending can lead to big rewards, Shaffett said.
“Eating out less and forgoing snacks now can mean more money to enjoy on vacation later,” she said. “Saving loose change and one-dollar bills is another good way to save for vacation. At my house, we save change the whole year for our summer vacations.”
It is not necessary to spend extravagant amounts of money to have fun on vacation, Shaffet said. Sometimes a change of scenery, such as a camping trip, is all it takes to get away. A weekend at a nearby lake is relaxing and affordable for virtually every budget.
“Friends and fun, the most important parts of many vacations, do not have to cost a lot of money,” she said. “A change of scenery may be all the entertainment you need.”
Kim Wilson, travel consultant for Avanti Travel and Leisure in Jackson, said sharing a hotel room, cabin or house rental with friends, relatives or another family is an excellent way to save funds. In addition to saving money by splitting the rental fees, vacationers can prepare some meals at the cabin or house.
“There are mountain cabins available for rent, as well as houses on the beach,” she said. “Renting a house can save a ton of money on food -- eating out can really add to the cost of a vacation.”
Wilson said hostels, usually found in Europe but available in some parts of the United States, are another cost-conscious option.
“Some hostels cost as little as $20 or $30 per day,” she said. “They’re definitely not five-star, but they are usually clean and affordable. The bathroom may be a shared facility.”
Cruises are an entertaining and affordable vacation option. Some cruises cost as little as $75 per person per day, Wilson said.
“Cruises to Mexico and the Caribbean are extremely popular this time of year because it is tropical there,” she said. “There are great prices out of New Orleans, which means there is no airfare out of our area. Cruises are a tremendous value because lodging and meals are included in the price.”
Wilson said Washington D.C. can be an affordable metropolitan destination.There are no entrance fees to any public building in Washington D.C., including the Smithsonian, Library of Congress and the White House, though some require arranging for tickets in advance.
Travelers wishing for a colder climate should try Europe, she said, because airfare is considerably cheaper during the off season. The off season also means fewer crowds at popular tourist sites. Many museums in Europe are free to students, including famous museums such as the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
Planning and following a budget can help alleviate cost-related stress once the vacation is over, Shaffett said.
“Vacations are generally planned for relaxation and rest. Don't let bills you can't afford to pay make you stressed,” she said. “Make a plan and stick to it.”