Vacations are often the one thing you feel entitled to splurge on. When you’re devotedly budget-conscious in all other aspects of your spending, a vacation is like a well-deserved burger after a week of healthy eating. It can be rationalized as a short-lived period of freedom from reality.

However, that freedom comes with a hefty price tag. According to AARP Travel Research, vacation costs have doubled in the past decade. The average vacation can set you back $1,145, as compared to less than $500 in 2005. Interestingly, most vacationers pay for their trips with their savings; however, those with incomes below $50,000 say they would be willing to borrow money to make their dream getaway a reality.

But is going in debt for a vacation a good idea? Unsurprisingly, the general consensus among finance experts is that it’s not. Financing a consumable item is ultimately not a money-savvy move. You “consume” the time and enjoyment for a brief period, and you find yourself stuck making payments long after.

Burying yourself in debt for a few carefree days doesn’t enhance your life. The following are other options you should consider if you want to go on vacation guilt-free:

Make your vacation a goal.

The rule of thumb for consumable items is that if you can’t pay for it with cash now, you can’t afford it. The best option is to plan a vacation in advance. You can open a dedicated “travel fund” account and regularly transfer money into it. You can work towards saving up enough money, then reward yourself with the trip you want. If you don’t make a lot of extra money, you can try to cut costs to afford an awesome vacation.

Pay for it in advance.

Deciding to save money for a vacation looks good on paper, but following through is a different story. The truth is that saving up can be a chore. A way to get around this is getting a layaway plan. Many airlines, resorts, and cruise lines allow you to book your vacation and pay for it in advance with monthly installments. And since transportation and lodging are usually your biggest expenditures, you only have your daily costs to worry about.

Start collecting “miles”.

Most credit cards with rewards programs let you earn miles or points that you can later redeem for airfare, hotel stays, or other travel expenses. You can get free plane tickets by simply putting your regular purchases on your credit card.

Plan a realistic vacation.

The bottom line: The temptation of taking out a personal loan for travel should be resisted in almost all cases.

So what should you do instead?

Be more realistic. Unfortunately, some situations call for a harsh reality check. “Dream vacations” are the stuff of dreams, hence the name. Extravagant vacations are more of a luxury, not a necessity. Taking a trip doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money. You can search for affordable vacation options and see if there’s a trip you can afford. If you can’t find a low-cost trip, consider a staycation to explore fun locations in your area. You should also remember that you don’t have to forego your dream vacations forever, just because you can’t afford the trip right now.

But if your vacation can’t wait and you truly feel the need to borrow money to fund it, there are steps that will limit the long-term impact on your finances.

To make sure you don’t turn your dream vacation into a lasting nightmare, you should try to repay your loan as quickly as possible. You’ll end up paying less in interest, which reduces the likelihood of paying for your vacation for years to come. You should also borrow as little as possible. While you might need the money for air fare and accommodations, you don’t have to spend a fortune on food and souvenirs. But always remember that a vacation loan will always end up costing more due to interest, and should still be a last resort.

Contributed by: Wendy
Wendy is a mom, bibliophile and fashion nerd who’s living life to the fullest.

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