Save. Spend. Splurge.

Budgeting Help: How a family can plan and save for traveling

A great reader request came in to ask me how we plan and save for traveling as a family, particularly one in debt and trying to save, get out of debt and still enjoy life.



I know this is a tricky subject because maybe you feel as though you don’t deserve to travel if you’re in debt, or maybe you feel like you should do all these other important things like save for your kid’s education funds, your retirement, etc, all before anything frivolous like ‘traveling’.

I am here to tell you that this is not the case.

Traveling is VERY important, not just for all these reasons to travel, but also because you and your family need a break.

You need to enjoy your life too.

Money is meant to be spent and enjoyed, not hoarded like some Scrooge.

There is no point in hoarding all your money, not enjoying it, trying to reach your money goals only to wait until the end to finally start living your life.

The key is to figure out the balance between debt repayment and retirement savings, but also enjoying your life and your money.

I am not saying to go all YOLO and FOMO on me, but I am also not saying to live like a troll because being cheap or frugal is no reason to feel better than anyone else.

With that said, here is how I would do it.

  1. Guess the cost of the trip
  2. Add a 10%-25% buffer
  3. Divide it by the time of when you want to go
  4. Look at the raw numbers
  5. Make an inspiration board / goal tracker
  6. Be on the lookout for deals

1. Guess the cost of the trip

You need to figure out how much you need to go. Research for the time you want to travel (e.g. summer months), and actually plan out where you want to stay and what you want to do.


Categories to cover:

  • Flights – Economy of course
  • Hotels – 3 star minimum or better yet, couchsurf if you can
  • Food – Plan to spend 30% more than what you’d spend here, eating out
  • Entertainment
  • Shopping – You’re gonna do it. Trust me. Gifts. Souvenirs. Great clothes.

Let’s say you need $8000 for the trip for a small family.

2. Add a buffer

You will go over. Unless you are some sort of monk and willing to eat grass on the last day, you will go over. Add a comfortable buffer but know that you don’t need to use it.


You also can’t guess what the currency exchange will be, so you will not know if your money will go farther or not by the time you have enough to go.

I suggest 10% as a minimum.

So $8000 x 10% = $800 extra

Ideally, I’d put 25%. You’re on vacation, you’re going to feel like you will never do this again.

$8000 x 25% = $2000 extra

3. Divide it by the time of when you want to go

Let’s say you want to go in 5 years, that’s 60 months.

$8800 / 60 months = $146.67 per month

Let’s round up to $150 so that it’s easy to remember and to save.


4. Look at the raw numbers

You need to save at least $150 a month aside. If you can save MORE than that, it’s even better because you might be able to go earlier or do more and/or stay longer!!

Cut back on your spending, and every time you save somewhere, put it towards your goal.

5. Make an inspiration board / goal tracker

This is the way to keep kids and other members motivated to stay on track.


Print out images of the city you want to travel to, make a collage of the city, and talk about what you are going to see, eat and do when you go so that when your kids start asking for X, Y and Z, it will help them visualize the end goal.

I’d also suggest a nice goal tracker, like a chart of $8800 as the final amount, and each time you read $250, you and/or your kids colour in a block to show how much closer you are to that goal.

6. Be on the lookout for deals

Summer is the time everyone wants to go, so you will see that flights will cost more during holidays, or during summer months. Now, if your kids are in school, obviously they won’t have any more free time unless they miss school.

I am not advocating they miss school on a regular basis but if it shaves off a significant amount of money off your goal to go let’s say in the first week of September, or near to the end of the school year if possible (no exam periods), then DO IT.


School is important but missing a week or two won’t set any kid back beyond repair. They’ll just have to work twice as hard to catch up, or maybe you can get the work ahead of time so that they don’t fall behind, and review it quickly.

(Honestly, it’s up to you. I’d take my kid during school if it saved at least $1000.)

As for deals, keep an eye out on sites that can help you figure out when it would be cheapest to go. I like Google Flight because you can see all the prices for all the different times to go, and it even suggests when it is cheapest.

7. Keep it in a savings account

This goes without saying, but any money you have saved aside for your travel, keep it in a savings account so that it earns a little bit of interest, no matter how little.

Then just keep your eye on the prize and celebrate each month you do your budget and track your expenses, at how far you’ve come!



  • SarahN

    Travel is an auto savings for me – whilst it isn’t in it’s own account anymore, my spreadsheet tracks its growth, and I ‘subtract’ major travel expenses which I can’t cover with my usual cashflow. Works GREAT for me, one glance and most holidays result in me saying ‘yes’ (like two weeks in the US whilst the BF worked one week – YES! accompany my mother for a writing course to the US – YES! Ningaloo reef (google it) for a wedding – YES!)


      I wanted to do a travel account but with Baby Bun, this is something we have to do year by year. I need to hassle my partner more to go spend time in Europe while everyone is still around.

  • Shirley N

    This was wonderful!!!!! Thank you so much for writing this up. Will follow those tips. $146/mo is totally easy to do. Thank you. Will keep you posted. 🙂

  • Clarrise @ Savvy Scot

    I want to take a break and travel somewhere with my family. Btw, this weekend will be my birthday and I want to spend it to the beach. 🙂

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