Planning a Bucks County Summer Vacation on a Budget

July 23rd, 2019

The summer vacation is a classic American pastime. From a road trip out west to a week at the beach, everyone likes to get away during the warmer months. However, paying for a vacation can be challenging, especially for families. And some people switch jobs over the summer, limiting their available time off. If you’re trying to plan a summer vacation on a budget here in Bucks County, there are plenty of attractive, local options. So, step away from social media, where it can seem like everyone but you is off on an exotic trip. The First is here to help you plan a more modest but perfectly enjoyable getaway. And if Europe or the Caribbean still beckon, we can set you up with a savings account to get closer to your travel bucket list goals. 

Forbes reports that 55% of Americans failed to budget for a vacation. The First offers several easy options to help you plan for your trip!

How to Save for Vacation

If you’re reading this article now and trying to plan a vacation for summer 2019, it may be too late to save much. Still, if you wait until August, you’ll have a month or so to cut your discretionary spending and save some cash for your trip. 

For the future, stop the last-minute vacation cycle by opening a personal savings account for travel expenses. No matter how tight your budget, you can always use the timeless strategy of dropping your spare change into a jar. Many a family trip to Disney World started out this way.

When you’re ready to move to the next level, The First offers several convenient savings account options. We can help you save money for vacation and other special occasions.

  • Statement Savings Account: Deposit a minimum of $100 to earn interest at a competitive rate. This account is flexible and convenient – you can use online banking to set up scheduled or one-time transfers between your FNBN checking and savings accounts. Even the smallest amount, set aside each payday, will grow into a bigger fund for your vacation.
  • Certificates of Deposit: If you have at least $500 to open an account with, a CD offers a higher interest rate than a deposit checking account. It also commits your money to stay in the account for a specific period of time. This can help you stay on track to your vacation fund goal, especially if you have a certain deadline in mind.
  • Special Purpose Club: The First is pleased to offer this unique savings account option to our customers. You identify your savings goal and timeline and we’ll help you reach it.

Why Save for Vacation?

Most people don’t have enough extra money on hand at any given moment to pay for an entire vacation. Saving in advance keeps you from going into debt through credit card use or a personal loan. Also, plane tickets and hotel rooms often book up in advance. Starting a vacation fund now will allow you to plan in advance, maximize your choices, and get the best deals. As a bonus, planning your vacation in advance brings the benefits of anticipatory joy.

According to Bankrate, a recent survey revealed that the average American vacation costs $1,979 per person – a cost that 60% of people say they can’t afford.

Budgeting for Your Trip

When it comes to vacation budgeting, make sure to leave yourself a margin of error. Murphy’s Law tends to come true while traveling. From delayed flights to illness and other mishaps, planning for an unexpected expense will make you feel less stressed about it in the moment. And if nothing goes wrong on your vacation, you can thank your lucky stars and use the leftover money for something else.

Other than margin of error, here are the primary categories to budget for:

Transportation

How are you getting to your destination? How will you get around once you’re there? Budgeting for transportation could include any of the below:

  • Personal Vehicle: Cost of gas, tolls, and parking.
  • Flight or Train: Cost of the ticket plus additional baggage fees (if applicable) 
  • Ground Transportation: If you fly or take a train to your destination, you’ll need to be transported from the airport to your lodging. This could be a taxi, car service, rideshare app, or public transit system.
  • Rental Car: If you need to rent a car, shop around for the best daily rate. Check your credit card policies to see if you already have collision insurance or need to pay for it. Remember that gas is cheaper if you fill the tank back up before returning the car. The cost of tolls and parking may also apply.
Americans spend an average of more than $2,100 each year on the transportation costs for their vacations.

Food and Drink

If possible, give yourself a food and drink budget that is realistic but also comfortable. You may decide to eat a granola bar for breakfast or cook some meals in your Airbnb in order to make the numbers work on paper. But once you’re actually there and in a vacation mindset, will you have the discipline to stick with your plan? Be honest so you can avoid using debt to pay for over-budget expenses. 

For many people, eating is an important pleasure and experience on vacation. You may have an iconic food or favorite restaurant you always try at your destination. Here are the top food and drink categories to budget for:

  • In-transit spending: If you have a flight or long car ride, you’ll probably buy food and drink along the way, even if you pack snacks. In the event of a flight delay, for example, you may need to eat lunch or dinner at the airport. Give yourself a budget for buying food and drink while you’re getting to and from your destination.
  • Daily meals: If you’re staying somewhere with free breakfast, you can cross that meal off your list. You may want to research lunch and dinner options in advance. For example, many budget travelers skimp on lunch so they can enjoy a nicer restaurant meal for dinner. If you’re staying in a rented house or apartment, you can keep lunch basics like bread and lunch meat in the fridge.
  • Drinks: Coffee, bottled water, and alcoholic beverages are just some of the drinks you may want to buy on vacation. Something like alcohol is more expensive to drink out, but can also be an enjoyable experience. For example, drinking a tropical cocktail at a beach-side bar as the sun sets is about much more than the drink itself. As with food, think through your drink preferences (will you need to go to Starbucks every day because the weak hotel coffee just won’t cut it?) and use your budget to reflect your priorities.
  • Miscellaneous: Trips to the ice cream parlor, boardwalk fries, and other snacks would fall into this category.
When it comes to food, you can save a bundle by preparing a majority of your meals yourself instead of dining out.

Lodging

From hotels to vacation rental sites, there are many options for overnight accommodations. One of the best budget moves you can make is to visit a location where you can stay with someone you know. If that’s not possible, compare pricing on the different travel sites to find a good deal on your hotel or Airbnb. There shouldn’t be much or any unexpected costs associated with your lodging, so you can budget for the weekly rate or the total daily rate for your trip. 

Entertainment

Budgeting for entertainment can be tricky unless you plan most or all of your activities in advance. Tripadvisor’s “Things to Do” section is a great resource for browsing activities in your destination and getting a sense of the cost. Similarly, Wikitravel is a crowd-sourced travel guide for destinations all over the world. 

If you decide to book some of your activities in advance, you can save money with deal sites. Both Groupon and LivingSocial have categories for Travel and Things to Do/Activities. Slickdeals, a similar site, also has categories for Travel and Entertainment.

Travel during off-peak times

Another way to plan your vacation on a budget is to travel during off-peak times. For example, it’s less expensive to visit Florida over the summer than during its peak tourist season of December through April. If you want to stay at the Jersey Shore, you’ll find discounted rental rates just after Labor Day. Beat the crowds in Europe and save money by traveling over the winter or early spring. These are just a few examples, but almost every destination has a peak season. Look for the sweet spot when it’s off-peak but still enjoyable (i.e. you can still swim in the ocean for a week or two after Labor Day). You can save on everything from lodging to airfare. Even the price of gas tends to rise in the summer, so a long road trip would be more affordable between Labor and Memorial Day weekends.

Consider a Staycation, Day Trip, or Weekend Getaway

Sometimes a longer trip just isn’t possible. If you don’t have the vacation time or the money to go away this summer, a staycation or series of shorter trips can be a fun and relaxing alternative. According to a 2018 YouGov poll, 53 percent of Americans have taken a staycation. Join this staycationer majority by enjoying a relaxed, non-work pace at home and catching up on your favorite activities. 

From parks to museums, Bucks County offers a number of local attractions that will delight individuals of all ages!

As part of a staycation or separate time off, local day trips and weekend getaways are always fun and help to break up the monotony of the workweek over the summer. Here are some of our favorite destinations in or near Bucks County to help you start a day trip bucket list:

  • Visit Bucks County has a list of “25 Free Things to Do in Bucks County” including Doylestown’s famous Kids Castle and other local parks and farms.
  • Linvilla Orchards in neighboring Delaware County offers hayrides, a petting zoo, and children’s playgrounds.
  • For an adults-only getaway, tour the Bucks County Wine Trail
  • Sesame Place Theme Park
  • Longwood Gardens near Kennet Square, PA
  • Try a day trip to a town in the Poconos or Jersey Shore.
  • Art aficionados can feast their eyes on the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown or make a day of it in Philly to see the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Barnes Foundation, and Rodin Museum.
  • For music lovers, the XPoNential Music Festival in Camden, NJ, and the Firefly Festival in Dover are popular local events. The Mann Center in Philadelphia also features a Summer Picnic Series in which you can watch great music performances outside and enjoy your own wine and cheese pairings, or whatever you’d like to pack.
  • Lancaster County is a popular destination for day trips and weekend getaways. Popular sights include Dutch Wonderland, the Amish Working Farm, and Lancaster City.
  • Camping and hiking at one of the state’s many natural parks.

Let us help you save for vacation!

The First is your local financial partner in Bucks County. Let us help you save and budget for a vacation with our wide variety of savings account options. Our employees are longtime Bucks residents who can recommend weekend and day trip activities for any taste. We also offer a full menu of financial products and services. Contact us today or visit your nearest location in Newtown, Langhorne, Richboro, Levittown, Wrightstown, Washington Crossing, Fairless Hills, Jamison, Warminster, New Hope, or Doylestown.

Start planning your next vacation – Contact The First to learn how we can help you budget for your trip!