by Pamela J. Morton
Although I can’t say math is my favorite subject, I do have varied calculations for determining how and when a vacation could and should take place. If you'll indulge me, I'll share the process with you. (You may have already seen me on the cable channels late at night demonstrating how it works and telling you that it could be yours for only 5 installments of $19.95.)
Question #1: How much do I want to spend on vacation? (This includes the TOTAL amount.)
Question #2: How much can I REALLY spend on vacation and not go into debt? (Have you been watching Suzi Orman? She would NOT approve of overspending right now.)
Question #3: Where do I want to go? Where does my husband want to go? Where do the kids (if applicable) want to go? List all possible destinations.
Question #4: How will I get there? Plane? Train? Car? Rickshaw?
Question #5: What is the most economical transportation for all travelers?
Question #6: What kind of lodging will I stay in? 5-Star, camping, hostel, 3-Star, Mom and Dad's?
Question #7: How many days will I stay? (This could affect lodge prices based on length.)
Question #8: How much do I have left from the grand total when I subtract transportation and lodging?
Question #9: How many days can I stand to eat bologna? (No, seriously...now on to food budget.)
Question #10: Will I eat three meals a day plus snacks? If so, will it always be at restaurants, or will I have a place to do some cooking? Does the hotel include breakfast?
Question #11: Realistically, how much will it cost for each traveler to eat a day?
Question #12: What is the projected total cost of food for the vacation?
Question #13: What is my new total of money left?
Question #14: What would I like to do at the destination? Will it cost money? (For instance, a day at the beach usually doesn’t cost anything, but a trip to Disney World...well, Mickey needs a new pair of shoes.)
Question #15: Can I balance “expensive” days with “low-cost” days and stay within budget?
Question #16: Are there any discounts available for pre-purchased tickets, AAA, or package deals?
Question #17: Now how much money is left from the grand total?
Question #18: How much "fun money" do I allot for each vacation day? (You calculate this by your remaining balance, subtracting a small emergency amount and dividing by the number of vacation days. Any money left over from a day can be rolled over to the next day as bonus money.)
Question #19: Am I disciplined enough to put this on a credit card and immediately pay it off with the cash tucked away for this trip or am I better off going with the "cash-in-envelopes" system?
Question #20: Am I ready to have a fun, guilt-free time away?
You may laugh and think, "Does she really, really do all this?" The answer is "YES!" I have a few more questions I include for personalizing the trip, but overall if I follow this method, I am never surprised by the amount of money spent or feel the "post-trip guilt" of overspending.
For fun (or some might say ridiculous) I'll go through all the receipts to double check my projections and see how close I came. Having had vacations that provided a time of rejuvenation only to be confronted by a pile of credit card charges upon return has cured me of future similar behavior. I enjoy having parameters. It brings peace to my life. (I think Charles Schwab would be happy.)
Sometimes the budget will only go as far as a weekend away to a local hotel with a pool. At other times, places more exotic. Either way, we go knowing that it is all good and we can have fun with no worries.
Question #21: Do I think Pam needs a vacation from her planning?
YES! Yes, she does.
Pam and her husband, John, and two teenaged daughters packed up their fulfilling, understood Midwestern lives and moved to Cairo, Egypt in 2009. Her dream of serving overseas became a shocking reality of daily cultural encounters that often left her wondering if she’d actually landed on Mars instead! From Cairo to Khartoum to Upper Egypt to deserts unknown, Pam continues to learn, live and thrive in a sandy, sweaty, hospitable land. An author, global worker, teacher trainer and self-proclaimed “professional luncher,” Pam wants to share laughter, life and hope with her dear Middle Eastern neighbors while providing insight into their customs and everyday life with her friends in the West.
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