The best vacations are debt-free. Here’s how to save for one.
Sometimes, you need a real vacation. Not just a weekend camping at the lake or a road trip to Grandma’s cabin – a real getaway. It can be hard to justify a spendy trip when you have to save for retirement or pay off student loans, but with a nip here and a tuck there, you can remake your budget without too much pain. And at the end, with the worries of home far away, you’ll be glad you did.
Make a budget.
Sit down with everyone who’s going on the trip and figure out everyone’s priorities. Take into account transportation, lodging and food, of course – but don’t stop there. Familiarize everyone with your destination’s main attractions. You don’t want to get all the way there before you find out those aquarium tickets are $75 at the door and it’s the only reason Aunt Sally wanted to go.
Use your tax refund to start a savings account.
Most American families get more than $1,000 back from the federal government every year. Instead of blowing that money, start a separate account devoted to vacation savings. You’ll have fun watching it grow while you get excited for your trip.
Change your direct deposit.
Yeah, it can be a pain, but take the time to fill out a new direct deposit form with your employer. Socking away $50 to $100 from every paycheck into your new vacation savings account will add up fast.
Side note: If your tax refund was huge, you might be able to offset the effect of saving more by just altering your withholding. A giant refund means you’ve been giving the government an interest-free loan.
Make up for that extra savings.
The idea of a vacation fund is that you don’t have to loot it for funds. So you’ll have to make some sacrifices. You might consider a monthlong spending freeze, where you don’t spend on anything except necessities like food and gas. Get tips on weathering a freeze here.
Meal planning is another good way to save. If you look at how much you spend on food every month, you might be shocked. So eliminate those takeout lunches and pizza deliveries for a while. Dust off your cookbooks, examine your pantry, and make a plan every week before grocery shopping. You’ll save a ton, and you might even look better in your swimsuit when it’s time to hit the beach.
Get everyone involved with earning and saving.
If you’re taking kids or teens on your jaunt, tell them their souvenir and shopping budget for the trip is their responsibility. They can mow the lawn, babysit, organize the garage – all the stuff they got paid for before, only now that cash goes into the vacation fund.
Don’t underestimate how much money you could earn by having a garage sale or putting outgrown toys and furniture up for sale online, either. You’ll just be freeing up more space for vacation memories.
Use the right credit card.
If you’re flying to your dream destination, consider a credit card with a rewards program that pays off in airline miles. Use the card to buy gas and groceries, then pay it off every month while the miles rack up. Just make sure you can use those miles when you actually want to – and that the affiliated carriers go where you want to go.
Book in advance.
This vacation is happening, right? So book it. You’ll get better deals on airfare, hotels and tickets to big attractions like museums. Sometimes, getting early passes to theme parks lets you cruise past long lines like a VIP. And forgetting to pre-book tickets to some in-demand attractions means you just won’t get to go.