HOW TO: Create a Travel Budget You Can Stick To

Traveling to Wisconsin Dells is a great way to enjoy a family vacation, and although it can be an affordable option compared to well-known destinations such as Las Vegas or New York City, it can still be tough on the budget. It all depends on how well you plan and budget for the trip. With the right steps ahead of time, and a little research, you can travel to the Dells affordably with a travel budget you can stick to.

Main Expenses to Consider

Budgeting for your trip to Wisconsin Dells begins with understanding the basic categories of expenses.
• Travel to and from the Dells
• Travel in the Dells (public transportation, rental car or gas for your car)
• Accommodations
• Food
• Entertainment
• Souvenirs
For most, all of these categories are essential. You perhaps could leave off souvenirs, but who wants to go on vacation and not come home with a little trinket or two? With the exception of souvenirs, the other categories you will need to include in your budget.

Deciding What to Spend Each Day

Once you know your basic expense categories, it’s time to determine what you are going to spend each day. I have found this to be very helpful, because it helps lead you to make good decisions when choosing your activities. For example, if waterpark passes were included in the accommodations price for your resort you might consider spending the day there rather than visiting an off-property attraction.

Don’t forget food when you set this daily spending amount. You might be able to live on the coffee in your hotel room and a few snacks from the gas station, but your vacation is not going to be very much fun if you don’t have a plan in place to feed those other hungry mouths you bring with you.

Another benefit I have found to these daily spending limits is the ability to determine the length of the stay. Here’s the formula I use: subtract the amount you will spend to get there, such as the cost of airfare or gas for your car, from the total amount you have to spend on the vacation. Then, subtract your expenses for accommodations and travel within the Dells. Divide this amount by your daily spending amount, and you have the number of days you can afford to stay.

Affordable Activity Ideas

The great thing about Wisconsin Dells as a vacation destination is how reasonable things can be. To make things as affordable as possible, see if you can find a room in one of the resorts that has its own amusement and water parks included with the reservation price. Sometimes, there is also an option to book a room that has a kitchen; that way you can bring your own groceries and cut down on food expenses.

Many visitors to Wisconsin Dells stay so focused on the water parks and other attractions that they forget what made this region such a popular vacation destination to begin with, and that is the natural beauty of the area. Take a stroll along the Wisconsin River, see the state’s largest natural arch in Natural Bridge State Park or take a hike in Rocky Arbor State Park. All of these natural wonders are quite affordable and give you a nice break from the resort scene.

Here is one of the best-kept secrets about Wisconsin Dells: the Wisconsin Dells Coupon Book. The Wisconsin Dells Coupon Book provides discounts and 2-for-1 deals on everything from meals to entertainment, should you want to venture off of your resort to see something else.

Monitoring Your Spending

Once you have set your daily spending limit and have chosen the length of your trip and daily activities you will enjoy, it is time to go on vacation! Now, don’t get so excited that you forget about you spending budget you just created, you’re gonna need it as soon as you leave the house!

One way to avoid making the mistake of overspending is by tracking your purchases. Now, this does not mean you need to write down every little thing; after all, who wants to carry a notepad to the amusement park and write down every hotdog or slice of pizza they buy? That will seriously cut down on the amount of fun you are having! I have found that it works quite well to keep receipts and tally them at the end of the day.

Keep in mind that, going your travel budget can be flexible, going over your daily spending amount is allowed. If you have $100 to spend each day, and one day you spend $110, that’s fine, just make sure you use some discipline the next day and only spend $90. This can be achieved by utilizing discounts and the amenities at your resort to make your day a little more affordable.

Getting Disciplined

I have found that working on a cash basis forces me to be disciplined. Here’s one way I do it. Pull out the spending money in cash before you leave, and then stick it into envelopes marked for each day. Then, put those envelopes into the hotel safe, and only pull out the money for that day. If you can see the money disappearing as you spend it, you will be less tempted to make an impulse buy. To add flexibility, keep a small stash of “fun money” you can draw from for those unexpected opportunities.

If you know you are not disciplined, you need to take steps to restrict yourself; it is well worth the effort to do so. By forcing a bit of financial discipline, you can enjoy all that Wisconsin Dells has to offer your family as a vacation destination, without breaking the bank.