Courtney, a registered nurse, and her husband decided to take a last-minute vacation before she started a new job — a seven-day cruise to the eastern Caribbean Islands.

“We chose this option because we thought that cruises are affordable compared with other vacations,” she says. Unfortunately, as many of us have experienced firsthand, they ended up in choppy financial waters. Courtney felt “defeated and disappointed” after coming back to a mountain of credit card debt.

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Finding Ways to Avoid Vacation Debt

It's hard to enjoy yourself when you know that you're digging yourself into a financial hole. So make sure to follow these ways to avoid vacation debt:

  1. Avoid overspending.
  2. Learn from previous mistakes.
  3. Be mindful of the credit card trap.
  4. Save up for future vacations in advance.

1. Don't Overspend

It's easy to get caught up in the moment and overspend when you're on vacation. You're relaxed and ready to enjoy yourself, so the last thing you're thinking about is sticking to your budget. This happened to Courtney and her husband on their cruise.

“We had already used up most of our budget for the trip and had very little left to spend once we arrived at each destination. That's when the credit card came out of the wallet,” Courtney says.

Luckily, Courtney and her husband have learned from their mistakes — and you can, too. You don't have to go through a vacation-debt hangover when you return from an awesome trip.

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2. Learn From The Past

Making mistakes is part of life. However, you should make an effort to learn from them.

For instance, Courtney says, “All was going well until we stepped onto the cruise ship. We were not expecting how expensive things would be.”

It's difficult to know how much to budget for a trip unless you've been on a similar trip before. The next best thing to do is research in advance. There are many travel forums where you can ask people who have been on similar trips about anticipated expenses. Courtney was surprised by the cost of massages, as well as by the expensive menus at the specialty restaurants onboard.

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3. Beware of the Credit Card Trap

Many people break out the credit card to supplement their vacation budget. I suggest you make it as difficult as possible to access.

For instance, Courtney and her husband could have put their credit card in a plastic bag, duct taped it shut and left it in their cruise cabin safe during their trip. Doing something like this will give you some time to pause before you charge a purchase that you can't afford to pay off.

If you don't trust yourself with a credit card at all, only take cash or a debit card linked to your vacation bank account so that you don't overspend and can avoid vacation debt.

4. Save for Your Next Vacation Now

One of the best ways to avoid going into vacation debt is to start saving for it today, even if you don't know where you'll be going or what you'll do.

Simply decide on a set amount of money that you want to set aside from each paycheck and put it in a separate savings account earmarked for your next vacation.

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Personally, my wife and I save $100 per paycheck toward a future vacation. Courtney and her husband plan to do something similar. “Our next vacation will be with cash, and it will feel even more rewarding and relaxing because of it,” she says.

If you already have an idea of how much your next vacation will cost, you can divide the total cost by the number of paychecks you have until you leave. That calculation will tell you how much you need to save each paycheck in order to pay for your vacation in full beforehand.

If you don't know where you want to go yet, save anyway. Then, when you're ready to take a trip, look at your vacation savings and find a trip that fits your budget.