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We have been trained as a culture to feel guilty when we do things for ourselves. Let’s face it, if we are going into deep levels of debt to pay for, we should feel guilty. But if we can afford it, we deserve a guilt-free way to spend it.

Vidova Gora, Brac

As Americans, we are constantly fighting a war against vacation, or more specifically, our vacations are under assault. At my job, it took me 4 months just to get my vacation request approved. All the while in Europe, courts just ruled that if you get sick during your mandatory 4 week vacation, you get a do-over. Quite a contrast.

For those playing at home who are in a financial position to afford a nice vacation every few years (one that costs a few thousand dollars), we need to equip ourselves with an attitude to combat the snarky comments like “that’s a long time to be gone from work” or “I hope your boss likes you.”

Anyone who utters these types of comments is simply spreading the brain-worm meme of vacation hate.

In order to eliminate any guilt and fend off judgement, just follow these simple, yet often-ignored steps:

  • Estimate It
  • Save It
  • Spend It


Estimate It

I say “estimate” because “calculate it” sounds nerdy. While we can’t figure out to a “t” what a trip of a lifetime opportunity would cost, it’s safe to say it’s going ot be a few thousand dollars.

The best way to estimate it is to write down all the things you think you will do when on the road for a week to three weeks. We will probably have transportation, meals, tour and museum fees, evening entertainment, souvenirs, hotels, snacks. If you are renting a car, think of gas. 

Rather than try to guess how much we will spend in the smaller areas like eating and museums, we just estimated that on top of lodging, car rental and other expenses we knew ahead of time, we’d probably spend an average of $100 per day on eating, museums, and gasoline. Once we had this number, we multiplied it by the number of days we’d be active, and had our final number.

I would advise to always err on the side of overestimating. This is to account for new clothes or a new camera – unplanned purchases  that you may decide you need.  The estimation is a very crucial step in the process, because it will help you understand and decide if you can actually afford it or not. If you add up your dream vacation to Paris, halfway across the world and it's just way outside your budget right now, something closer could be just as fun for a whole lot less. Paris will still be there after you've saved up for another trip.

Save It

Once you have a pretty good idea of your total trip cost, you know how much you need to save each month to ensure that you will have the trip paid for before you leave.

Saving in advance is a great way to put money out of your head for your trip and truly enjoy your limited time.

We used an online savings bank that allows you to set multiple savings goal and take an automatic withdrawal from your checking account each month.


Spend It

You may be wondering why the third step of guilt free vacation spending is…spending. That sounds a bit obvious, right?

For some people, though, it’s not. I’ve been there myself so I know firsthand. Even after budgeting an adequate amount on a prior trip, I still spent too much time keeping mental notes of the daily spending and seeing if I could come in under budget.

Don’t do this.

Spend your money. You deserve it.

End of the day approaching and you’ve got $40 left for the day? Take a horse-drawn carriage ride or get a massage. Or ask your concierge if they can put two bathtubs in a forest for you and your partner, like in those Cialis ads.

Unless you’ve greatly overestimate what you needed, just spend it. All of it. Buy refrigerator magnets just because. Get a sweet airbrushed t-shirt because it made you laugh. Buy a new camera or tablet. Eat a dinner that is WAY more expensive than you would have ever eaten while saving for the trip.

Just make sure to leave yourself enough money to buy a postcard for your boss.