questionshow do you handle finances while on vacation?


Wow, I thought I was organized! I do the travel planning for a group of friends, only one local. It starts with signing up for a lot of vacation sites, which flood my mailbox year-round with deals. I sort through and find the stuff that's interesting and save it. After Christmas I review my folder and float ideas past the group via email. Our vacations are usually tied to attendance at ComicCon, Dragoncon or Worldcon (which is in foreign countries alternate years). Once we decide which con we want to go to, I use the convention location as a launch point for planning the trip. Last year we went to Dragoncon in Atlanta, so we flew out of there to Costa Rica as I found a good package departing the east coast. This year we'll be in San Antonio for Worldcon, quite close to New Orleans as we Texans measure distance, so we'll be cruising to the Caribbean from there. Next year Worldcon is in London, so we are looking at European travel and Mediterranean cruises.


Rather than save up for the trip, I line up the purchases in $2-300 advance blocks spaced about a month apart. The 50% deposit for the cruise was in February. We prepaid for the San Antonio hotel in March. Paid for the convention tickets in April. Paid for the rental house in New Orleans in May. Second half of the cruise in June. This month we are paying for some of the tours and excursions. That way everything is paid up before we go and we have very little on-site expenses. I have also signed up for Living Social and Groupon in New Orleans, so we are buying tours in advance. If it was just me and my best friend we'd also buy restaurant groupons in advance, but one of the group likes to use Yelp and other online resources to pick restaurants and he's unlikely to want to select a restaurant months in advance.


@moondrake: Yeah - Yelp is really rough to use for vacation. It took many hours. You have to look at the dates of the reviews to compare off-season to vacation times, find out what the locals think, and see the trends of the reviews year-to-year. Even then, it's sometimes hard to be sure of a place. In the end, we made a list of maybe 10 places that passed the test out of a town with hundreds to choose from.

Groupon/LivingSocial deals were more a way to save money on one meal to be able to spend more on another. If you're going to eat less than great food, it should at least be cheap. The attractions don't list much on the main deal sites like Groupon/LivingSocial. Look for one run by the local newspaper (like a site). A lot of these places want to attract the locals with deals, especially for the off-season but don't want vacationers to find the deals.


I get a little crazy about finances, I work on my budget every day. I will save a little bit out of every month for my vacation. I will try to pay lodging, etc. in advance so when it is time to go, whatever cash I pull out of the ATM I can spend on whatever. I always have a very strict budget on the amount of money I allow myself to spend. For me, as a single guy this is easy, I'm sure having a spouse or kids would make this a lot more difficult as I do not mind going without certain things.


LOL! Talk about stark contrasts -- we do almost no pre-planning at all! I squirrel money away throughout the year; we travel cheap so it's not much of an issue.

We usually nail down a cabin in June or July, plot out the driving route whenever The Spouse gets the urge, spend an evening packing "the vacation box," and that's it. We started renting cabins (vs. staying in hotels) because we are so totally lazy on vacation: we don't want to have to go out for meals. We grocery shop on the first day, and from then on we usually eat lunch "out" and everything else "at home." One year The Spouse made a food run in mid-week, but aside from that we didn't leave the cabin for five days. We don't worry at all about a budget; by and large, our food costs aren't much different than they are at home, and we don't do a lot of touristy things that involve tickets, so we're mostly free just to do whatever catches our fancy.


@magic cave: It all depends on what really gets you "away." For me, that means no cooking/cleaning/dishes. Which can take a pretty substantial food budget if you want to keep it interesting and still relatively healthy. Yeah, healthy - I am sure I ate 3,000 calories a day but I am not going to eat something that's going to make me feel lousy and not enjoy my vacation.


@omnichad: I think most people would agree with you on the no-cooking part of a vacation. We're pretty laid back on meals, so neither cooking nor cleaning up is very onerous. It dawned on us the first time we traveled together that it was a nuisance to have to go out for food when we were still in jammies and deep in books to catch up on. Then I discovered and we never did a hotel again.

I'm always impressed by people who can manage both eating out and eating healthy in the same meal. If that's what you're doing, then I can certainly see why a budget for food would be a necessity!


@magic cave: What a great link! I love that it's not based on double occupancy, but just a rate per night (or week), or even longer. Everything from apartment/ condo size, to really large homes are available. Thanks!


@faughtey: You're very welcome; I share it whenever it seems appropriate, because we've had such great luck with them. For reassurance purposes: we've rented through VRBO exclusively for our last 21 or 22 vacations. Only one place turned out to be a real problem, but it was partly our fault for not paying close attention to the details in the listing. We've also had three sets of friends who've rented witih VRBO and in each instance had a wonderful time.

The only caveat I have is to pay attention to details in both text and photos. We build into our budget a cheap floor lamp ($15 at Walmart), since we're heavy readers and an amazing number of places have little to no task lighting in the living or dining rooms. We drive to our destinations, so it's easy to take our favorite frying pan and kitchen knife and our own bedpillows. (A wise person taught me years ago that she can get a good night's sleep on almost any bed as long as she has her own pillow.)

Anyway, hope your enjoy VRBO!


@faughtey: One last comment: depending on where and when, it's often fairly easy to find a huge house for about the same price as much smaller places. The last couple of years we (only two of us!) stayed in the same cabin in Franklin, NC. Main floor had two huge bedrooms, full bath, enormous living room, and large kitchen. On the ground floor: two more bedrooms, a full bath, and a comfy family room. All for $600 for the week, and it included free wifi and printer, long distance phone service, sat TV, and the most secluded place we've ever stayed,all less than 15 minutes from Franklin.


@magic cave: I've used VRBO and Homeaway too. I much prefer staying in a cabin or house -- get a group of friends to get a place together. More relaxing to me than a hotel, and more fun w/ friends. Especially if there are kids involved.
We've had great luck using these sites.


We don't really set aside money for a vacation. we save regularly and then take a look at that decide how much we have to spend. We pay for things over an extended time as to avoid bank account shock. Then we pull out cash and take a good points saving CC, sometimes we buy some of those visa/mastcard gift cards if we're going somewhere off the beaten path. We don't touch our personal accounts for the duration of our trip.


We save a little extra yearly for our vacation(s) two ways:

- 5 gallon jug of coins - we cash in every March and recently $320 in coins for past 12 months.

- a year of soda cans - 39 lbs - .50 a pound - $19.50

We enlist the kids help, gives them a little responsibility and this extra money augments what is already saved for the trip. For our 5 night Celebrity cruise this past April, the $340 paid all our ship charges.

The main yearly source is the "Vacation Fund" - go light one year or two, then roll big - repeat.