Ask The Money Manual: How Much Can I Afford To Spend On A Vacation?

In this column, we answer readers’ pressing financial questions. No question, big or small, is off limits. Ask away by emailing us at This week, we attempt to tackle how much people can really afford to budget towards their summer vacation. Q: I am a 32-year-old married mom of two. We are a pretty frugal family, but it’s been a tough year, and I really want to go on a nice summer vacation for once–not stay with friends or family, not stay in a motel, but go on a real vacation. That said, I still want to be responsible about this, and am wondering how much my family can really afford. Call me the Wanderlust Mom.  A:  Hey Wanderlust Mom! First of all, the fact that you are even asking this question means that you are probably already on the right track (the alternative would be just putting an expensive vacation you can’t afford on a credit card). Scary number for you: 74% of Americans say they’ve gone into debt to pay for a vacation, and that’s a big no no. Per data, the average American household spends about $1,200 per person on their summer vacation. For a family of four, that comes to $4,800. Assuming a median household income of $59,039 a year and a household size of four, that translates to a little over 8% going to a vacation. But, just because that is what everyone else is doing, doesn’t mean you should, too. Here’s my personal favorite way to get to the bottom of this and it’s called the two-line budget technique: Write your income on one line, and the target percentage of your income you want to save (say 10%) on the second line. As long as you feel confident you are saving the right amount, does it really matter if you are splurging on a family vacation and cutting back on your takeout expenses? This is the best way to get to the bottom of your spending so you can start making choices that work for your family. Have a financial question that you want answered? Email us at and we will do our best to tackle it, or find an expert with more know-how than us to get an answer! Illustration: Laura Caseley For The Money Manual