CONSIDER THIS: Vacationing
According to a 2015 End-of-Year Consumer Survey by Georgia Credit Union Affiliates (GCUA), 71 percent of Georgians are planning a summer vacation this year, down from 75 percent last year and also down from last year’s national average of 85 percent.
The survey revealed 21 percent of respondents have been saving for their summer vacation for 1-3 months, 27 percent from 3-6 months and 33 percent from 6 months to a year. Only 7 percent of respondents said they started planning for their vacation more than a year in advance.
Eighty-one percent of respondents said cost influences where they go on vacation, 54 percent said their schedules play a role in the decision, 44 percent said travel distance and 41 percent said it’s the destination and amenities that most influence their travel choices.
According to a 2015 report for the U.S. Travel Association by Oxford Economics, when Americans do travel internationally, most stick close to home – going to places that are more affordable and easier to reach.
The average amount Americans spend on travel has been gradually creeping upward over the past few years, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2005, taking a trip within the U.S. cost an average of $440. By 2013 (the latest data available), that amount was $583. Average spending on international trips went from $1,991 in 2005 to $3,273 in 2013. Overall, according to the U.S. Travel Association, people in the U.S. spent an estimated $805.7 billion on travel in 2015, up from $662.1 billion in 2008.
President and CEO of Midsouth Community Federal Credit Union Roy Bibb said it’s not a good idea to put all vacation expenses on a credit card.
“It really depends on how disciplined you are,” Bibb said. “It’s not a problem to park some of your expenses on a credit card, but it’s not wise to borrow on something you don’t have continued use for. For example, owing on a house or a car makes sense because it’s an investment, but with a vacation, you’re basically paying for a memory.”
Bibb said the gratification is short-lived. And once the moment is gone, only the debt remains.
“It’s best to save up for those things rather than having to pay it back with interest, Bibb said. “Overusing a credit card is really about letting our wants take precedence over our needs, and that’s never a good thing.”
Bibb suggests considering a vacation loan if extra funds are needed for a vacation.
“A closed-end loan (a loan that must be paid in full by a specified date) rate is 7 percent as opposed to a credit card, which is 8 or 9 percent,” he said. “The other problem with putting vacation expenses on a card you can’t pay back right way is if you’re only paying the minimum payments each month, it draws it out so long you end up paying a lot more in the long run.”
Bibb said the best thing to do is open a separate savings account exclusively for vacations. He suggests putting extra money away at certain times of the year, like tax refund time, and notes that even tucking $15 away each payday isn’t missed much at the time, but it does add up.
If a consumer does plan to use a credit card for certain vacation expenses, Bibb says they should consider whether or not it’s beneficial to do so.
“Can you pay it back right away? Do you get reward points for using the card? More than anything, it’s all about being prepared,” he said.
Tips for Vacationing:
- Book reservations separately – Try booking your hotel and airline tickets at different times– Online sites sometimes have rates based on the time and day of the week you book. Try different combinations and see if you can get a better deal.
- Be financially prepared – Instead of charging vacation expenses to a credit card, consider opening a savings account specifically for vacationing. Another option is to take out a vacation loan, which will cost less in the long run than a high-interest credit card.
- Travel Off Season – Consider traveling off-season – like a skiing trip in spring instead of winter. Or a trip to the beach in autumn. Airline tickets and hotel accommodations are usually less expensive and it’s also less crowded.
- Plan meals ahead – Decide where you are going to eat each meal or whether or not you will cook it or eat out. Keep plenty of snacks on hand for during the day. Also, consider eating a larger lunch than dinner. Fancy lunches are often less expensive than dinners.
- Sign up for rewards – Even if you aren’t a frequent traveler, sign up for reward points. It’s no cost to you and the points will eventually add up and give you savings.
- Talk to the locals – Wherever you go, talk to the locals. They often have insight into restaurants just outside of town that serve great food at a low cost – or entertainment venues off the beaten path that won’t break your budget.
- Credit Unions can be a good source for helping you to save for vacation. To learn more about credit unions in your community and what financial literacy programs they offer, visit: http://www.asmarterchoice.org/.