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Family Vacations on a Budget

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Just the thought of taking a family vacation to get away from it all can spark excitement. But if you’re worried about the cost, having a budget (and knowing what to budget for) could make it easier to build a getaway plan. 

Need a reason to take off? Bringing the family together is fun and a great way to bond. To help you get started, we’ve put together a how-to for building a family travel budget.

Pick a destination in your budget (and check the exchange rate)

If you’re working with a small budget, it could be helpful to consider something local so you can forgo airfare and drive instead. (Search the internet for a calculator that can help you figure out if it’s cheaper to get to your destination by road or air.) 

If you have a large vacation budget and are looking at international destinations, make sure to check the exchange rate. While we were researching this, for example, we found that while traveling through Europe could cost a bit because of the euro’s strength over the dollar, traveling to Brazil could be cost-effective because $1 was worth more than 3.7 Brazilian real. 

Build your vacation budget

Include these five items when building your vacation budget: 

Transportation cost

According to data collected by Reward Expert, which allows users to search travel options and rewards, the average transportation cost for travel in the U.S. is $246.30 per person and, for international trips, is about $1,922.30. 

When budgeting for airfare, allocate funds for not only the airline ticket price but also any baggage fees or airport parking. If you decide to drive you can estimate fuel cost. 


Reward Expert said Americans spend on average $162.57 on lodging for domestic trips. For international travel, they said Americans tend to spend an average of $744.17 on lodging. If you’re staying at a hotel or resort ensure your budget includes any taxes and fees (simply ask your hotel to send you their fees before you book).


As for food and alcohol, Value Penguin crunched data from an expenditure survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and found that, on average, people spent about $155 on food for four-day trips in the U.S., with around $27 going to restaurants every day. The average for food on international trips tends to be about $520 for a 12-night trip, with most of that being spent in restaurants. 

If your hotel offers free breakfast, you can remove that from these estimates (more food money for later in the day!). Be sure to pad your food budget to include a fancy dinner or two and make sure you’re factoring in lunch, snacks and drinks for each person you’re traveling with. 


Visiting a city? Calculate the cost of entry to museums. Going to the beach? Add money to your budget for beach chair rentals. Of course, it’s always a good idea to investigate free things to do in your destination, and sitting on your own towel at a public beach costs absolutely nothing. 

Extras, there are always extras 

When planning for a vacation you also need budget for the unexpected, like when a fun activity comes up that you simply must take part in, or when a souvenir catches your eye.

Start saving early and set it aside

Now that you’ve figured out your lodging, food, activity, transportation and extra costs, it’s time to start saving. Every day, week, or month set aside a little bit toward your vacation budget goal so when it comes time for vacation you won’t feel a financial hit. That way, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy that fruity drink (with a mini umbrella, of course) with your family in peace. 

Reaching your goal starts with saving for it.


This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. Individuals should consult their own tax advisor for matters specific to their own taxes and nothing communicated to you herein should be considered tax advice. This article was prepared by and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs, but does not reflect the institutional opinions of Goldman Sachs Bank USA, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or division. Goldman Sachs Bank USA does not provide any financial, economic, legal, accounting, tax or other recommendation in this article. Information and opinions expressed in this article are as of the date of this material only and subject to change without notice.  Information contained in this article does not constitute the provision of investment advice by Goldman Sachs Bank USA or any its affiliates. Neither Goldman Sachs Bank USA nor any of its affiliates makes any representations or warranties, express or implied, as to the accuracy or completeness of the statements or any information contained in this document and any liability therefore is expressly disclaimed.