How to Splurge on Vacation and Stay on Track with Your Goals

By: Adam Gentry, Financial Planning Analyst
America’s urge to splurge on vacations this summer and fall is real. During the past year many people either chose to save the money they had budgeted for travel and leisure or spend it on other major items such as home improvement. Now, after being cooped up at home since March 2020, vacation getaways may have moved near the top of most “to do” lists. But prioritizing a well-deserved treat, much needed time away, and a change of scenery is the easy part.

Vacation Splurge
The more difficult task is determining a “rule of thumb” amount for what’s appropriate to spend on vacations this year. Granted, like many others, your investment portfolio may be up year-over-year. If you worked remotely, likely you socked away much of the money you saved on transportation, clothing, and meal expenses. By staying close to home, your savings account balances may be at all-time highs too. All these factors explain why more than half of American consumers plan to spend their extra money treating themselves.¹

As long as you’re smart about it, there’s nothing wrong with splurging within your financial boundaries. After all, we just experienced a global pandemic and survived unimaginably stressful situations. Not being able to travel on vacations or celebrate holidays with loved took its toll on everyone.

You shouldn’t feel guilty about spending time and money on the experiences you’ve been deprived of or being with the people you’ve missed over the past year or so. If a special destination vacation will give you pleasure and enjoyment, plan away. If spending a few weeks at a luxury resort will improve your mental and physical health, book those trip reservations.

What are Americans spending on Vacations?

It comes as no surprise that travel preferences are as varied and unique as individuals themselves. Some families view travel as an annual expenditure built into their financial planning. Others may see it as a reward they save and plan for every few years or so. While some people would rather take one or two large, luxurious trips, others prefer spreading out their travel over multiple, smaller getaways.

Regardless of where and how you plan to vacation this year, few would argue that traveling with your family and spending quality time together isn’t a good use of your resources. The memories that are created during experiences like these can live forever in the minds of your children and grandchildren. Additionally, this time together may provide a well-deserved break for family members who may have struggled with job loss, financial hardship, illness, loss of family members, or anxiety during the events of the past year.

-Splurge within your boundaries. It bears repeating – while it’s understandable you and your family may want to a big trip as a release from what you’ve been through the past year or so, don’t let the experience be at the expense of your long-term financial goals. However, because everyone’s travel plans and financial situations are different, it’s difficult to recommend a set percentage or dollar amount as a guide for this major expense (i.e., 10% of your annual income, 20% of your budget, etc.). Begin by reviewing your budget and savings to help you determine how much you can spend on travel arrangements, accommodations, meals, and activities for your travel destination.

Keep in mind that if you’re looking to strike a good deal at this point in the summer, you’re probably too late. Many prices and rates have risen to or higher than pre-pandemic levels because of increased demand since the first of the year. Additionally, if you can find last-minute bookings due to cancellations, prices are high. Any travel into the late summer and early fall months should be booked in advance for the best accommodations and rates.

Smart travel tips: If you happen to have flight credits or reward points from travel you canceled in 2020 that are set to expire by the end of 2021, check with your airline to see if those credits need to be used – or simply booked – by the expiration date.

If you carry premium cards with travel benefits, consider using accrued points and miles for this special trip (or put this year’s vacation expenses on the cards to help plan ahead and pay for your next vacation).

Finally, if you’re taking an expensive trip and are wanting to add travel insurance, make sure there is protection against cancellation for COVID reasons. Many basic plans do not protect against pandemic-related cancellation, but companies may offer upgraded plans with that protection included.

-Take a two-pronged approach to budgeting for the trip. In terms of budgeting for specific travel expenses, you may want to consider a two-pronged approach before booking. First, outline and rank your preferences and priorities for the trip. For example, if you really want to take in a popular museum exhibit that is only offered for a limited time, make certain you’re traveling in a timeframe that coincides with the exhibition schedule and that tickets are still available. If possible, pre-purchase admission tickets to avoid long lines and possibly being turned away at the door.

After you’ve organized and ranked your family’s activity priorities, the next step is to book the biggest ticket items as soon as possible. Typically, transportation and lodging accommodations fall under this category, along with a Michelin-star restaurant, Broadway show, or headliner concert. If your preferences and priorities for activities don’t have a particular timeframe associated with them, then purchasing your biggest ticket items first can allow you to look for the best deal and save you money.

-Avoid going overboard. While it may be difficult to curb your enthusiasm and generosity when it comes to planning this exciting and well-deserved trip, try to curb the impulse to over-extend yourself to deliver this experience.

For example, if health and safety is top-of-mind and you want to charter a private jet instead of flying commercially or rent a luxury private home on an upscale island destination rather than stay in an overcrowded resort, talk about arrangement possibilities with family members before booking them for the trip. You and others might be surprised at how practical and affordable it can be to charter a private jet. Rather than having all family members book their own modes of transportation and arrive at various times during the vacation, a charter flight could get everyone there at the same time for about the same cost as all the individual commercial flights put together. You can find more information on this topic in our article, “Should You Fly Private or Commercial on Your Next Trip?” on our website.

Keep in mind that while you may be able to fund the entire trip for your immediate family, others may not have that luxury. It’s important to have clear communication about what will be funded ahead of time and who will be responsible for paying so there’s no unexpected bills for family members who were under the wrong impression.

Additionally, if this kind of trip is a one-off occasion, make that clear up front – wrong expectations can lead to unnecessary stress, resentment, or animosity down the road.

-Pay for the trip with excess savings, not your investments. Even though your portfolio may be looking pretty good at this point, it’s a smart financial move to keep your money invested in the stock and bond markets rather than withdrawing your assets to pay for this trip. Instead, pull from any excess cash savings that accrued over the past year, perhaps when expenses might have been lower than normal. Use those funds for your vacation and enjoy!

If you have questions or concerns about the best way to fund your next big family getaway vacation, our team of professionals can help you explore the options best suited for your budget, lifestyle, and long-term retirement goals so you don’t spend more than your financial plan can sustain. Contact Commerce Trust today.

¹ McKinsey & Company, “Survey: U.S. consumer sentiment during the coronavirus crisis,, May 13, 2021.
2 Source: Allianz Partners’ 13th Annual Vacation Confidence Index,, June 16, 2021.
The opinions and other information in the commentary are provided as of August 17, 2021. This summary is intended to provide general information only, and may be of value to the reader and audience.
This material is not a recommendation of any particular investment or insurance strategy, is not based on any particular financial situation or need, and is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified tax advisor or investment professional. While Commerce may provide information or express opinions from time to time, such information or opinions are subject to change, are not offered as professional tax, insurance or legal advice, and may not be relied on as such.
Data contained herein from third-party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed.
Commerce Trust is a division of Commerce Bank.


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Adam Gentry Financial Planning Analyst Commerce Trust
Adam is a financial planning analyst with Commerce Trust. He is a member of the financial advisory services team, a dedicated financial planning practice within Commerce Trust that provides objective financial advice to clients. Following a thorough assessment of a client’s unique situation and thoughts regarding wealth, Adam develops holistic and coordinated plans to help clients meet their short-term and long-term goals as well as take full advantage of various planning, tax, and investment strategies along the way. Prior to joining Commerce Trust in 2019, Adam started his career at Commerce Bank in the Ascend Bank Trainee program in the commercial credit department. He collaborated with commercial relationship managers across Commerce’s footprint to conduct comprehensive financial analysis for commercial loan packets and researched underwriting principles inclusive of loan structure, cash flow, collateral, competition and industry factors. Adam earned his Bachelor of Business Administration in finance from the University of Missouri. Adam volunteers his time at Harvesters and City Union Mission.