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How I Save for a Vacation: 12 Tips to Consider

Updated: Jul 21

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My wife and I love to travel every chance we get. The only problem is, travel can be expensive. But with our busy schedules and seemingly countless commitments, we love having a chance to get away together and experience new places together.


Luckily, over the past couple of years, we've mastered the art of saving money to travel the country and hopefully the world.


Here are my top 12 tips that I use to save money to take vacations.


 

Table of Contents


  1. Establish a vacation fund

  2. How to save for a vacation

  3. Spend less while on vacation

  4. Conclusion


 


Establish a vacation fund


I recommend that you use a new vacation savings account to save for your trips! It makes the process a little more manageable and fun!


And depending on the bank or financial institution you decide on, you may be able to label your account with a nickname online. I always do so, and rename my account based on the trip that I'm financially preparing for.


I'll use this same account over and over again, rebuilding my balance for whatever trip happens to be next!


No matter where we go, we make sure that our trips are paid off (at least to the maximum amount possible) before we leave home.


This way, you can enjoy your trip, while knowing that you've financed it in a responsible way.



The best vacation savings account


Generally, I recommend that you use a high-yield savings account to save for your vacation. Especially in today's high interest rate environment, these accounts now yield 4% or more, and you can receive sizable interest payments each month.


Among my favorite high-yield savings accounts in 2023 is CIT Bank, an online only bank that offers great yield and a professional customer service experience.


Plus, your account will not carry any monthly or one-time fees.


CIT Bank High-Yield Savings


​CIT Bank's Savings Connect product is an excellent high-yield savings account option for travelers looking to save money for their future vacations.


How to save for a vacation


Now that you've established a vacation fund, the symbolic first step is complete. Now, you'll want to get started actually saving for your trip. Here are 12 tips I regularly use in order to save for my upcoming vacations.



1. Join rewards and loyalty programs


Saving Potential: Varies, in future


Rewards programs are one of the best ways to save money on a vacation. Airlines, hotel chains, and rental car companies all offer rewards programs to customers to take advantage of.


I'm a Southwest Rapid Rewards member, Hyatt Rewards member, and a member of National's Emerald Aisle.


So if you don't mind trying to fly the same airlines and stay at the same hotel chains, you can save some serious money over a period of time, particularly once you start to redeem free flights and nights.


And that is just what I have done.



2. Work a side hustle or two


Saving Potential: The entire cost of your vacation


If you're looking to save money for your next, upcoming trip, I recommend that you start a side hustle or two to help you reach your goal more quickly. Remember - the more you make, the more you'll be able to get out there and see the world.


Luckily, there are a seemingly unlimited number of side hustle options available to you, some of which you can even work from home.


I want to focus on two different strategies in particular:




Make money with your car


Your vehicle presents an opportunity for you to make money in two ways - passively, or by driving around. Here's how it works.


You can make some passive income renting your vehicle out for others to use through platforms such as:


  • Turo

  • Hyrecar

  • Getaround

  • Lyft

  • Uber


Or, if you'd prefer to not make money from strangers using your car, there are a number of ways that you can make money for your vacation by driving around.


Your options include:



If you're interested in learning more, I've written an entire piece on how you can make money driving.



Make money with your computer


If you'd prefer to not have to leave your home, particularly after working a long day, don't fret. There are plenty of ways for you to make money for your upcoming vacation comfortably from your couch.


You may opt for a number of side gigs, such as:




3. Use money saving apps


Saving Potential: $100+ per month


I pride myself in being proficient in personal finance. But that doesn't mean that I won't leverage new tools to help make sure that I'm still on track to meet my financial goals, vacation savings among them.


I recommend that you find and download a budgeting and saving app or two to help you stay on track.


I highly recommend that you start with Acorns, an app that will automatically round up all of your purchases to the nearest dollar in order to save or invest. It is a genius model - you won't notice the difference each time you save $0.01-$0.99 per transaction, but you'll actually be building your savings to travel!


Plus, if you sign up here, you'll receive a $10 bonus just for getting started!




Acorns is a personal finance round-up that will save/invest your spare change each time you use a linked credit or debit card.


Plus, here is a $10 bonus to get started.


I also recommend that you download a more traditional budgeting app to help you monitor your spending.


Your best options are likely to be either Rocket Money or Quicken Simplifi.




Rocket Money is one of the best budgeting apps to help save for a vacation.


4. Collect spare change


Saving Potential: Up to $200 per year


When I moved out of my parents' house a couple of years ago, I found over $120 in change in my bedroom, $80 of it quarters. I realized that I had accumulated this really quickly too.


Because of this, I recommend that you make emptying your pockets of spare change part of your daily routine. Not only will you be able to save money to travel with, but you'll also begin to find it fun as you watch jar after jar fill up with change.


Then, when you count it, you'll get even more excited as you're able to find lots of quarters.


Think of it as like Acorns, but when you pay for something with cash.



5. Try cash envelope budgeting


Saving Potential: The entire cost of your vacation


I'll be the first to admit - this budgeting technique was foreign to me until a couple of years ago. But it is undoubtedly effective. Once you've decided to take a vacation, I recommend that you price it out as accurately as possible, keeping in mind the many incidentals that may pop up, such as gratuities, beverage packages, and more.


Remember to take into account your lodging, transportation, food, and any other expenses you are likely to incur along the way. Once you've estimated how much money you'll need to take your vacation, consider keeping an envelope around the house where you contribute money each week, pay period, or month until you have enough to take your trip.


Envelope budgeting can be really effective as long as you stay disciplined. You'll also want to keep in mind that saving for a vacation is not an excuse to take a break from saving for your retirement down the line.


I used it for the first time before my honeymoon last year to Cancun, where we stayed at an all-inclusive and knew we'd need lots of small bills for tips for housekeeping, servers, luggage porters, and other airline, transportation, and resort employees we'd encounter.


If cash envelope budgeting isn't for you, you may opt for one of my favorite budgeting apps.


And if you can't afford to take a vacation this year, you may also opt to check out our best staycation ideas this year.



6. Eliminate unneeded expenses


Saving Potential: $200 per month


If you're really serious about saving money for your next travel adventure, you'll want to save some extra money around your home. This can take many different forms, but you may opt to consider a couple of strategies, including:


  • Your food/dining out expenses

  • Home expenses



Food/dining


Whenever my wife and I get the itch to travel, even for a weekend trip that we want to save as quickly as possible for, we'll give up eating out, even just for a couple of weeks.


The amount of money we can save in a relatively short period of time makes it easy for us to plan weekend trips into New York, Boston, or anywhere else we want to go!


It is harder to save money for travel by cutting your grocery budget, of course, but you can find savings if you avoid purchasing prepared foods, like pre-chopped fruit, to name one example.



Home expenses


Likewise, you may find that you can afford more getaways if you cut a few expenses around the home. Of course, some strategies will help you save more than others, so I'll focus on some of the larger and easier items to implement:


  1. Do your own lawn maintenance

  2. Shovel your own snow

  3. Do preventative maintenance on your home and car




7. Create financial goals


Saving Potential: Varies greatly


One of the most important things that you can do is to create financial goals and hold yourself accountable for your progress. For example, when my wife and I decided we wanted to do a Disney trip together in January 2023, we crafted a set of financial goals and strategies that would help us pay for our trip in its entirety well before we even leave home.


For example, we set out to:


  • Save $100-$200 per pay period in order to prepare for our trip. This comes out of the discretionary part of our budget, not from retirement or other saving or investment components.

  • Limit our restaurant and takeout expenses for a period of time.

  • Aim to pay off our trip in chunks as we accumulated savings.


These three ideas helped us to pay for our vacation well in advance, as well as responsibly helping us to prepare for it.



8. Sell any old items around the house


Saving Potential: Varies greatly


Saving for a vacation may require you to make somewhat difficult decisions at times.


I'm not suggesting that you sell sentimental items from around your house, but rather to see if there is anything of value that you don't use.


If so, you may opt to sell items on eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or another site altogether. Financing a vacation while clearing clutter out from your house sounds like a win-win to me.



Tips to travel on a budget


Of course, saving for a vacation is only half the financial battle sometimes. To truly keep your expenses under control, you're also going to want to pay attention to these money saving tips as you plan your vacation!


Here are my top tips for doing so!



9. Travel off peak-season


Saving Potential: Varies greatly


Many of the most popular tourist destinations around the United States and across the world have peak seasons, where prices are the highest and crowds are also dense. Rather, I recommend that you explore these places away from the peak travel seasons.


My wife and I went to Cancun in June after our wedding, square in the middle of the slow season. Sure, it was 3 degrees warmer each day, but the resort was also not at capacity, and we saved over $200 per night off what we would have paid in November or December, for example. It was cheaper and a better experience!



10. Take a cruise


Saving Potential: $1,000 or more on your vacation


If you're committed to saving for your vacation and spending less on your actual trip, I'd recommend that you explore cruising.


Cruises are a great fit for couples, singles, kids, teenagers, and grandparents due to the number of (included!) entertainment options on board. In my experience, cruising also offers travelers more value than all-inclusive resorts do.


Fares tend to be cheaper overall, and include your cabin, food, and much of your entrainment.


This is a clear contrast to a vacation in popular spots like Florida, California, and Arizona because you'll have to arrange for your lodging and food separately. Plus, it makes it a heck of a lot harder to try to prepay all your vacation expenses in advance.


The cruise line I'd recommend you consider depends on your budget and traveling party, but I'm personally a huge fan of cruising with Celebrity.


Browse Celebrity Cruises



Celebrity Cruises can be an excellent choice for travelers looking for an upscale all-inclusive experience at affordable rates.


11. Book your airfare early


Saving Potential: Varies greatly


Typically, you'll want to book your airfare as soon as possible.


And while there are exceptions to this rule, more often than not, flight tickets will increase in price the closer you get to your anticipated travel date.


Sometimes, I book my airfare directly through the airlines, but I also like to use flight aggregators to find and sometimes schedule my flights too!


My favorite of these sites is probably CheapOair, where you can schedule flights, hotels, cars, packages, and activities.




12. Buy discounted travel gift cards


Saving Potential: 2-8% of your vacation price


You could potentially save money for your vacation by virtue of buying discounted travel gift cards. For example, my wife and I use her Target RedCard to buy gift cards for travel companies such as Disney, Southwest Airlines, and hotel brands for 5% off.


You may also be able to find discounted gift cards through sites like CardCookie, which I have successfully used in the past, so I can vouch to the


Always do your own research to make sure an offer is legitimate, however.



Final thoughts


When you think about it, these are just twelve of the many strategies that you can use to save money for your vacation and spend a bit less money when you do travel.


Do you have any other tips? Leave us comments below and let me know!



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About Nathan Zarcaro

Nathan Zarcaro is the founder of The Student Debt Destroyer and is passionate about personal finance related causes.  A 2018 graduate of Providence College's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Nathan studied Finance, and worked for one of the world's largest asset management firms before starting his own consulting practice.  In his free time, Nathan enjoys playing golf and traveling with his wife Brigid.

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