Taking Family Vacations Without Debt

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Beautiful slim legs of three young women in swimming pool

I cannot WAIT for my kiddos to get out of school!  We have so many summer plans and we are taking a big old roadtrip in August.  This is the first big road trip we will be taking in a long time, and I’m a little nervous as a single mom, but I know it will be fun.  And I definitely chose this type of trip because I knew it would be affordable.  Since I have been making a huge effort to take chunks out of my student loans, I don’t want to add more debt.  Which is why I’m super happy to pass on these awesome tips from author Rachel Cruz for taking a summer vacation without breaking the bank!

  1. Make a budget.

I know it sounds boring, but this is the most important thing you can do if you want to take a trip without going broke. Before you start daydreaming about a Caribbean cruise, take a good, honest look at how much you can afford to spend on a vacation this year—and stick to that number! Avoid the temptation to spend more than you have. Trust me, you’ll have more fun on your trip if you aren’t worrying about unexpected expenses.

  1. Pick a location.

Maybe you can’t swing a luxury condo on the beach this year. That’s fine. Challenge yourself to get creative about where you can stay. You don’t have to stick to the traditional trips, like the beach or a big city. Consider going somewhere smaller or doing something totally new—like taking a family camping trip. National park admissions cost very little compared to the big resorts. And the memories you take home will cost nothing!

  1. Set a daily allowance.

As the spender in my family, I know how easy it is to get caught up in the excitement of a vacation and spend too much, too soon. Just ask my husband! But the last thing you want to do on your trip is blow all your food money at the beginning and be left snacking on cereal for dinner until you get home. Or even worse, go way over budget and leave your bank account in a post-vacation mess. So, set a daily spending allowance to cover all the food and fun. 

  1. Focus on the family.

Once you hit the highway, remember why you’re going on vacation in the first place. It isn’t about squeezing in as many big-ticket adventures as possible. It’s about taking time to rest, relax, and make memories. Don’t feel like you have to go out to fancy restaurants every night or pick up a new souvenir every day. Vacation is about quality time together, not the receipts and trinkets you collect along the way.

Remember, the purpose here isn’t to spoil your fun. The purpose is to set you up financially to have even more fun later. If you simply can’t afford a vacation without pulling out your credit card, just take a year or two off from traveling. It won’t kill you. Don’t forget that vacation is a want, not a need.

The best vacations are those that don’t follow you home.

About Rachel Cruze

As a #1 New York Times best-selling author and seasoned communicator, Rachel Cruze helps Americans learn the proper ways to handle money and stay out of debt. She’s authored two best-selling books: Love Your Life, Not Theirs and Smart Money Smart Kids, which she co-wrote with her father, Dave Ramsey. You can follow Cruze on Twitter and Instagram at @RachelCruze and online at rachelcruze.com, youtube.com/rachelcruze or facebook.com/rachelramseycruze.


  1. Rosie says

    People often have excuses why they justify spending a huge amount on vacations, I don’t know how many people can truly afford it, especially seeing how many people do not have much savings for retirement. Good to find a way to have fun and within a genuine budget, and also, keep chipping away at paying off the student loans.

  2. My Teen Guide says

    You are so spot on! Taking a vacation that is way over budget would make you have a great time, but cause lots of headaches afterwards. The point is for us to create memories, not debt. If we dream of a grand vacation, it is just proper that we save for it.

  3. says

    It’s awesome to be able to take the kids on vacation without worrying about the money or the strain on your bank account. I usually set a budget and make sure that I save for it months before we go on the actual vacation.

  4. Rebecca Swenor says

    These are all great tips for going on a vacation without debt. Making a budget before the vacation and sticking to it is so important. Saving money from each check for the vacation is a great idea. thanks for sharing the tips.

  5. says

    we always went full hog on vacations. Now that we’re retired, we can’t afford a vacay at all. We’re hoping to go to Disney in the next year, so it will all begin with budget

  6. says

    thanks for these good tips on saving money when you go on vacation with the family… I’m a single mom of two so I would love to take them out of the city on vacation and not go broke because of it ; )

  7. says

    It’s always been a struggle of ours juggling vacations vs debt in the summer. I’ve learned to follow the tips you suggested. They really work!

  8. Jennifer G says

    LOVE these tips. It is SO important to budget, otherwise finances can get away from you far too easily. It’s just insane to me how fast things can add up.

  9. says

    Making a budget is super important! Following it is even more important, unlike me. It can be so hard to do, esp when you’re having so much fun.

  10. Bella says

    Budgeting is so important when you are taking time off and spending extra money. I learned this after my first real “adult” vacation.

  11. says

    I am always seeing people spending a large portion of their income on vacations and it worries me so much that I never went on one. Now we are going to Colorado and I am going to implement some of these tips!

  12. says

    Great tips, I’ve planned our family vacation and for the first time, I’ve used a budget. I’m so proud of myself. I need to make this a habit going forward.

  13. says

    This is so important to keep in mind. We try to do all of this when we vacation because I do not want to be in debt. We’re taking a trip in August too!

  14. says

    This is such a great post, it can be so easy to go a little overboard when you are off on holiday (and even while you are there) so knowing your budget and sticking to it is a must!

  15. says

    A lot of great tips. It’s so hard to go away on a family vacation without incurring some sort of debt. I use a “secret” bank account to save small amounts of money each week. It really adds up and hopefully we will be able to use it for some fun!

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