Activity Idea: Plan that $1,600 Summer Vacation

May 05, 2015
Activity, Budgeting, WebQuest, Current Events

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The calendar rolls over to May and students (and teacher’s thoughts) turn to summer.  How about using summer vacation as a means to teach students about budgeting and shopping on the internet?  Their task:  Plan a weeklong summer vacation for a family of four for $1,600 or less, which according to Money Magazine is the average vacation cost for an American family.

Have your students work in teams of 2 and complete a webquest to create a travel budget.  First, students can search for budgeting tips online to keep their costs as low as possible for their summer vacation.  Here is one article that might be helpful.

Here are the steps that they should complete once they have decided on a destination: 

Budget Spreadsheet

  • I came across this travel budget tool that students might find helpful.  They can open this tool in another tab on their browser and complete it, as they progress through their planning.


  • If by car, use Google maps to 1) Calculate the miles driven (round-trip).  2)  Determine the miles per gallon that the family car gets.  If unsure, use 20 miles per gallon.  3)  Calculate #1 divided by #2 to determine number of gallons required for your trip. 4)  Multiply #3 By Average Gas Price Per Gallon (AAA updates data on weekly basis) to get fuel cost.
  • If by air, use Kayak to estimate airfare between home and destination.  Be sure to incorporate a weekly rental car if you decide to fly to your destination, as well as some gasoline too.


  • Find lodging at your destination (hotel/motel/campsites).  Students should know that campgrounds may be challenging in the summer in the more popular state and national parks.  Be sure that they factor in fees and taxes which often make up a large percentage of a lodging bill.


  • The Travel Budget tool provides a range of options from Inexpensive to Luxury for each of your meals during the day.


  • Now that you have arrived at your destination by car or air, checked in to your lodging and planned your meals for the week, don’t forget about your activities for the week.
  • Enter each of your activities and their cost in the fields provided.


Reflection questions:

You can have students create a brief presentation (3 slides or less) describing their summer vacation.  Be sure they include at least one image showing their destination.  Here are some questions for them to mull over:

  • What was easiest/most difficult aspect of this activity?
  • What expense category did they end up spending the most money on?  Were they surprised by this?
  • Did they have to go back and make adjustments to stay within your budget?  What changes did they make?
  • What money saving ideas were they able to come up with?


Check out NGPF’s most popular activity:  Creating a Salary-Based Budget

About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.