HOW TO BUDGET & PLAN YOUR FAMILY VACATION

Just thought I give you an idea of how I budget and plan for a family trip.  My goal is for our trip to be as close to FREE as possible.
A week ago, while I was laid up from my surgery I had a ton of time with my laptop and me.  I did alot of Christmas shopping through the miles/points portals and then I decided to get going putting together next fall’s trip to the East Coast.
After several months of research and reading, I decided we would go to Massachusetts, Rhode Island & Connecticut on a 10 day vacation.  We would love to explore more of the east coast but there are always other trips.  As a traveling mother of little ones I’ve learned usually less is more.  Not that my itinerary isn’t busy.  I learned to stay in less locations and do day trips from a base location.  Changing hotels with kids is a big ta do!  It is nice to come back to our hotel from a long day of adventures and not be trying  to move to another destination.  I also like to keep the day trips under 2 hours travel time per day.  More fun to be had seeing sights and less time traveling.  Not that my kids can’t travel for long trips since both of them have flown on 11-12 hour international flights before the age of 2.  They are 2 & 7 now and awesome little travelers.  I think 3 nights in one location is about minimum.  After 4 or 5 nights, you are easily ready to move to the next home base.
Moving on to the budgeting part.  So since I plan way in advance for our adventures and earn the miles/points need, I already have a large “travel bank” to withdraw funds for this trip.  I just decide which miles/points are best for this trip and start making reservations.  I always suggest booking your airfare 330 days in advance.  This is when most airlines open up their award seats.  Strange huh!  Not 365 days in advance, 330 days.  Booking 11 months in advance gives you the best possibility of getting the flights times, days & connections you want.  I rarely have ever had trouble when redeeming this far in advance.  So for this trip I decided to use British Airways miles.  I logged on to BA.com and found a perfect direct flight from LAX to BOS.  Booked four (4) tickets for my family, a total of 100,000 BA miles and paid a whole $20.  I just chuckled!  My husband loved picking out the flights with me.  So much fun when you aren’t worrying about the cost.  These miles came from a score in April where British Airways offered 100k for their card.  When I applied, I knew I would only use these for domestic travel because their taxes for international travel are way up there.  Now British Airways has changed their entire program and calls it Avios.  Much of the domestic redemption’s are still the same but many international changes are not so great.  You can read more about this on The Points Guy’s website as I think he does a great job of explaining the changes.
I have not booked my hotels but I will shortly.  I think I have them picked out though.  We don’t need fancy accommodations and I plan to stretch some Marriott & Priority Club points pretty far for 10 nights.  If you would like to see my excel spreadsheet and see how I budget & track all of this while I’m doing it, here is the link.  You can download it, customize it, and use it for your vacation planning.  Works great for me.  I also posted awhile back about how I track my credit card sign up bonuses.  You can view that spreadsheet here as well.
The most important thing I can suggest when using miles/points for family trips is to plan way in advance.  Earn the miles/points a year ahead of when you want to use them.  No stress about having the miles/points in time and makes planning easy when you have your “travel bank” waiting for you to use.
Also, book all your award seats 330 days in advance.  Read and do lot of research about where you want to go before you plan a trip.  You might even discover in the process somewhere better you’d like to visit or that the place you thought would be a dream destination is not your “cup of tea”.  Do your homework.  You’ll never regret all your time reading and planning.  Plus you get to enjoy your trip before you’ve even left your home!
As always, if you have any questions or I can be of help to you in any way, please don’t hesitate to drop me a message.  I try to return email once a day.  Have fun planning your adventures!!

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