How A Family Of Four Is Paying For A Trip To Italy

a few money saving tips can help a family of four afford a trip to italy; photo of italian shoreline

By Adele Garcia

Earlier this year I was faced with some earth-shattering news. My daughter will be graduating high school next year and leaving our nest. Now, if you’re wondering how this could possibly qualify as earth-shattering, considering I’ve been raising her for close to 18 years, I’ll admit that you are probably right. However, the inevitability of this doesn’t mean I’m ready for the transition!

To be fair, I’m not entirely oblivious to what happens after our kids graduate high school, and I have done my best to save for her future schooling. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the fact that the summer of 2019 might be the last summer I get to spend with my first-born baby.

I plan on enjoying every moment.

Before I go any further, here is some context: Every summer my husband and I have made it a priority to take a family vacation. Some years we travel across the country, while other years we do stay-cations. But the goal has always been to provide our kids with summer vacations to remember. Both my husband and I work full-time, so we always do our best to be present and enjoy the moment when we take time off to be with our kids. We also try our best to pay for our vacations in cash and not equate quality family time with additional debt.

With all this in mind, we made a promise to each of our kids that when they graduate from high school, they get to pick the family vacation destination. Our oldest child, whom I might add has never really asked for much, requested a trip to Italy.

Before I responded, I took a deep breath and reflected on the fleeting time I had with her still under my roof….and then I said YES!

When she walked away, happy as a fiddle, I released that deep breath and faced two very real scenarios: 1. I now have 18 months to save and plan a trip to Italy, and 2. My baby is growing up! All of my fellow parents out there, let’s just take a brief commercial break to share in this highly relatable emotional breakdown.

The budget

Okay, back to regularly scheduled programming. After my initial freak out was over, I sat down to figure out how in the world we would make this work. I started with the trusty internet to check out flight and hotel prices, so I could set a goal for what we would need to save. Based on my research, I concluded that a family of four would need approximately $6,500 to fly and stay in Italy for 10 days.

Luckily, we still had some funds left in savings from our last vacation, so that would cover our spending money. Armed with my best guess on our funding goal, we had a family meeting. We talked about how amazing this trip would be, but also admitted that it was going to require some sacrifices.

For the 2018 calendar year, we decided not to take any big vacations. We opted instead to visit family for spring break (saving money on lodging and food) and to do some fun stay-cations this summer. I’d also been toying with the idea of eating healthier (translation: eating at home instead of going out), so it was the perfect time to align my financial and physical health goals!

Our savings plan

First, I did some math. I divided the $6,500 by 18 months I had to save up. It came out to $361 a month to save. Yikes. That’s a lot of money!

Then, I utilized Honor Credit Union’s Online banking feature to analyze where I was currently spending my money. The Money Desktop tool really helped me see the big picture of how much money I was wasting on fast food and junk food. This is where the healthy part comes in.

I sat my family down (again!) and discussed how we would have to cut back on our weekly trips to Taco Bell, Little Caesars and all the yummy quick and easy places we like to frequent. Family buy-in is critical when setting a financial and healthy budget.

We started planning our meals out for the week and food-prepping on the weekends, so we would stay on track and not be tempted to run out for quick food during the week.

I determined that realistically, there was no way we could save an additional $361 per month with our current expenses and choices. However, by cutting out fast food, we could save $300 a month (both my husband and I get paid every two weeks, and committed to saving $75 per pay check, which equals $300 a month).

By saving $300 per month for the next 18 months, we would have $5400 saved by the summer of 2019.

We opened a Tiered Interest Money Market account at Honor Credit Union to earn interest on the money we would be saving. We knew our balances would stay close to or below $5,000, so the TIMM account fits our needs best. Honor also has a Momentum Money Market account that offers a higher interest rate but requires a $5,000 minimum balance to earn interest.

Where would the remaining $1,100 come from? We had to get creative. As a family, we agreed that we would pass on store-bought Christmas gifts for the 2018 holiday season, and instead make homemade gifts and volunteer our time in the community for the holidays. This way we would take the money we would usually spend on gifts and put it towards our remaining vacation balance.

We are about 12 months away from our big international family vacation, and even though I am terrified of my daughter leaving the nest, I am looking forward to our last big family vacation with both girls. I am even more excited knowing that I have a plan in place to save my money, and a fantastic credit union to help me save!

As an added bonus I am down 10 pounds, and my family has grown used to our new norm of healthy eating at home. By the time our plane touches down in Italy, we will be ready, and able, to splurge on endless bowls of pasta and second helpings of gelato.