Savings & Investments

Tips for Planning a Frugal Family Summer Vacation

By Scott Shpak

After you’ve taken advantage of every credit, deduction, and deferral to which you’re entitled and you’ve maximized your refund, it might be time to channel the money into a reward for your entire family. You’re a savvy spender, so you’ll aim to get the most enjoyment for the smallest dollar amount. Those two goals don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Staycation Central

Travel destinations and holiday activities affect the cost of your vacation, so consider your priorities. Summer activities you can participate in from home may lend themselves to a staycation instead. Your house can serve as the launch pad and refueling point, eliminating the cost of hotels, meals and travel. You can focus your resources on activities that are priorities for family members. The money you save on travel can be rerouted into doing things you enjoy, whether it’s taking an online language course together or just creating a backyard lounge area by the pool and parking it there for a month.

Getting Away From it All

For many, a staycation just isn’t enough. There’s no better time than summer for a change in scenery. But vacations aren’t cheap. To keep costs down, see if you have friends or family with vacation property. Staying with them may be affordable or even free, particularly if you’re willing to return the favour and let them stay with you on their own getaway.

If you decide to book a hotel, cabin or cottage, you can do it for less and save money on travel, too:

  • Pay a little more for rooms or suites with a kitchen so you can feed the gang yourself. Eating out can become a major expense.
  • Shop online in advance to find deals on accommodations.
  • Use frequent flyer miles and other awards programs to reduce the cost of tickets, car rentals, hotels, and other vacation expenses.
  • Travel light to avoid airline fees for checked bags. Try to keep your luggage to carry-ons for maximum savings.

Balancing Act

Like all other aspects of your holiday, the question of how much to spend on a vacation is specific to your family. Financial planner Kurt Rosentreter tells the Globe and Mail that you should balance your vacation with other family finances. A total budget of 4 percent of your annual take-home pay is a good vacation target, but your individual circumstances might mean spending a little more or less. For some, the value of a vacation experience is more important than the dollar cost, but going into debt over a holiday is not a good idea for anyone.

Author Bio

Scott Shpak is Editor-in-Chief, feature writer and photographer for Your Magazines Canada. He is also an operations and technical projects manager in the photofinishing industry, an experienced audio engineer and musician.