Vacations

Planning a Family Holiday Trip

Traveling with family at the holidays means juggling schedules — and budgets. Here's how to plan a trip that works for everyone.

by Nell McShane Wulfhart - October 23, 2017

Thinking about taking a family vacation this holiday? It can be a great way to spend time together and share holiday traditions in a new setting. But with numerous opinions and budgets to consider, it’s important to plan ahead. Here are some suggestions for making sure everyone goes home with fond memories instead of empty wallets.

Set expectations

Conversations about money can be awkward, but not as awkward as trying to figure out who should pay for what after the fact. When planning for holiday travel, be upfront about what you can pay for and what you can’t, and make sure all participants feel comfortable about sharing what they can afford. Talk about what kind of trip you expect to take. Should it include expensive dinners and private museum tours, or shared hotel rooms and affordable meals? Having clear and honest communication before you buy tickets means fewer arguments and hurt feelings down the road.

Spoil the surprise

If you want to pay for airplane tickets as a gift or are happy to cover the whole family’s hotel rooms, make sure everyone knows in advance. This can help everyone budget for the rest of their travel costs, but it can also be a starting point for talking about who’s responsible for which costs. Maybe you’re happy to pay for dinner every night as long as someone else covers lunches, or you’ll pay the rental car fee if they cover gas. Whatever it is, make sure everyone knows ahead of time both what they’ll receive and what they’re expected to contribute.

Be flexible

If you’ve had some frank conversations ahead of time, it will be easier once you’re traveling to pick activities that are within everyone’s budget. But don’t forget that free and cheap outings — hikes, beach time, museums with free admission — can ease the pressure on those without much money to spare. Not every meal has to be in a five-star restaurant; cooking dinner together in a rented house can turn into a much more memorable evening. Also, not every sightseeing trip, shopping excursion, and dinner has to involve everyone. Let family members choose the activities they want — and can afford — to participate in.

Let technology help

Prevent the dreaded “Can you split this four ways?” scene at restaurants, and use technology to help you split checks and other shared costs. Apps like ZelleSM allow you to send money directly between almost any U.S. bank accounts with just an email address or mobile number.

Nell McShane Wulfhart is a freelance writer based in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Image by iStock

Additional Resources

Many people are turning to alternative lodging to save money and have more flexibility with their vacation accommodations. Learn more about the finances and reliability of this growing trend.