Vacations in the scope of financial responsibility are considered a lifestyle, not a fundamental goal. A financial planner is first responsible for guiding you to achieve fundamental goals, then lifestyle goals and helping you understand the difference.
Regardless if you consider time away from work mandatory to maintain sanity and your overall well-being, it is still a lifestyle choice for you to make. It is not a choice whether you pay your rent or mortgage because keeping a roof over your head is a fundamental goal.
While many things have changed in the world of travel, some things remain the same. Traveling without growing your debt is still the best plan. Rather than being impulsive about travel, plan by considering where you will go, how long you wish to stay and how much you wish to spend while there. Save for and stay within a planned vacation goal. If you dream of a month-long vacation overseas and cannot do so without incurring debt, then put that trip off in lieu of a less expensive option. Many people will tell you that much of their enjoyment comes from the planning and anticipation of the trip so take time to enjoy the process.
If your trip involves air travel, there are many issues to consider. Regarding the cost of airfare, the two cheapest days to travel are Tuesdays and Wednesdays according to AirfareWatchdog.com. Expedia states that for long-haul flights leaving on Thursday and returning on Monday costs about 20 percent less then leaving Friday and returning on Saturday. Time of day for the most part doesn’t make much difference except for red-eye flights if you can tolerate flying in the middle of the night. There are competing rates, promotions and frequent changes in the airline industry, so it is best to do your homework for example, pay attention to the small print on promotions and understand time frames and blackout dates if applicable.
In many cases, a connecting flight will save enough money to make the extra layover time worth the tradeoff. If you are traveling for an extended stay it might be better to book one-way flights rather than roundtrip. If you are certain of your travel dates opting for a non-refundable fare might make sense.
An area that has changed for travelers is the car rental industry. With Uber and Lyft in the picture, it has become much easier to get auto transportation to meet your vacation needs. In turn, due to this new competition car rentals have been forced to compete and become more flexible. I love the free market! To decide which route to choose, research using the ride-sharing apps which will give you a good idea of what the costs will be for you to get around once you arrive at your destination. Then check out rental rates through the plethora of car rentals available.
The latter can be a little more challenging than the ride-sharing apps, but it is a worthwhile and necessary exercise. Another consideration is the availability of services at your vacation destination. The less populous areas may not have as much ride sharing and therefore may be better suited for a car rental. If you plan on driving to your destination, you may even consider renting a car and not putting those miles on your vehicle. Just food for thought.
The lodging industry has also experienced major changes in recent years. Vacations in years past consisted of camping, cruising, time shares, RVs or a stay in a hotel resort. With the advent of companies such as Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO) and Airbnb there are more choices to consider. While I have yet to use either personally, many friends and associates have spoken very highly of the trips in which they have used these services. But in one recent trip, friends had booked a unit in New York City which was canceled a couple weeks prior to the planned trip. However, they had no problem replacing the stay with another unit. This may not always work out so well. Again, look at the fine print and make sure to understand what you have agreed to.
When it comes to lodging arrangements, you need to consider the type of experience which you want. If roughing it for you means no room service, then you are limiting your options. Staying in a hotel room means a lot of meals out while staying in a unit with a full kitchen allows for in-home cooked meals. Determine what is important to you and plan accordingly.
Another concern which has not changed is the need for insurance when traveling. Check with your home and auto insurer to confirm what your current policies cover and determine if you have any holes in your liability protection specific to your travel plans. Perhaps you do not need to pay extra for the car rental. Health insurance is often overlooked regarding travel plans and could be critical in the case of a health event while traveling. Most but not necessarily all health insurance plans offer at least limited coverage for an emergency within the states. I know of many that do not cover anything outside of the states. It is very important to understand your coverage prior to the trip whether it is group, individual or a Medicare health plan. It is also a good idea to confirm where you may get non-emergency health care services at your planned destination. No one wants to deal with this type of situation, but it is better to address prior as opposed to being forced to once there is a health event, emergency or non-emergency.
Vacations are meant for relaxation, creating memories and to be a reward for all the hard work which it took to get you there. Commit a little bit of time and planning to make your next vacation the quality memory you hope it to be. Until we talk again, be well.
Dale Immekus is the owner of Dedicated Financial Services and an accredited wealth management advisor. Registered Representative offering securities and advisory services through Independent Financial Group, LLC (IFG), a registered broker-dealer and investment advisor. Member FINRA/SIPC. Dedicated Financial & Insurance Services and IFG are unaffiliated entities.