It Ain’t All Palm Trees
Navigating the Financial Side of Travel
When it comes to travel, most people have more questions than answers. Even after the easy questions have been answered like where and when to go, difficult questions remain — most of them involving money.
People wonder if they can afford travel, if they should buy travel insurance and how best to pay for their trip. Collette Peck, travel adviser at Andavo Travel, the vacation-planning division of Christopherson Business Travel in Murray, Utah, has a few of the answers.
The Savings Question
For most people travel is not a necessity. If you’re living on a budget, it can be difficult to justify the cost of airfare, hotel accommodations, event tickets and souvenirs. But with a little creativity, most people can find a way to make it happen.
“It’s just a matter of your personal finances,” Peck says. “If it’s easier for you to put $50 away every paycheck, that’s great. If it’s the end of tax season and you know you’re going to get $2,500 and your bills are paid, you might want to use it on a trip.”
But every vacation doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars. Some people travel on a budget, purchasing only the cheapest flights and enjoying free entertainment. Like the beach.
The Insurance Question
Most airlines, hotels and even vacation packages offer some type of insurance in case your trip is unexpectedly canceled. The concept is appealing — if your parent is hospitalized or you break your leg or your house burns down the day before your trip, you can stay home and get a full refund on your vacation. But is it worth it?
“It all depends on how much you can afford to lose,” Peck says. “It’s a way of protecting your investment. If you’re spending $2,000, $3,000 or even $4,000 or more, you’ll want that protection. I buy it anytime I go anywhere because my in-laws are elderly and frail. If we plan a big trip and then find out we can’t go because they’re in the hospital or something, we can always get our money back.”
And she’s needed that insurance a few times. “I ended up going into the hospital before a trip to Mexico, so I filed a claim,” Peck says. They make it really easy. Some agencies require a lot of paperwork and can be confusing, but Travelex Travel Insurance (the agency Peck uses) is really good to make claims simple and get you your money back quickly.”
The benefit of travel insurance is obvious for trips that cost thousands of dollars. For shorter trips costing much less, the cost of insurance may not be worth the possible payout.
The Question of Extra Costs
The most significant travel costs are easy to list: airfare, lodging and car rental. But what about food and entertainment? How much should you plan to spend on these variable needs?
Peck says there are many ways to manage these costs, but especially recommends two.
First, prepare a budget. “Calculate your costs in advance,” she says. “For example, what’s the cost of lunch, and of going out to dinner? Maybe budget $150 a day for food. Some days you’ll spend less and some you’ll spend more, but figuring those costs can help take the strain off every decision.”
Second, Peck encourages travelers to book early and prepay for as much as they can. “You can prepay for airfare, and with many vacation packages you can prepay for large portions of the trip. Doing so in advance lets you spread out payments and better manage the cost of travel.”