Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, but it’s hard to unwind when you’re constantly stressing about how you’re going to pay for it all.
With summer nearly upon us and road trips, cruises and much-needed getaways in the works, now is the time to start saving up for that vacation you’ve been dreaming of all winter. With a little creativity, you can bulk up your bank account and be ready to hit the road or beach in style, without going into debt to do it.
Here are 10 strategies to save for your next vacation.
1. Open a Dedicated Vacation Bank Account
One easy way to save for a special trip is to open a dedicated vacation savings account. You can set up automatic payments into the account, and, with a little restraint, leave that money there until it’s time for your trip. If you choose an interest-bearing account, your money might even grow while you’re looking forward to your trip.
There are a bunch of great online banks, but one of my favorites is Chase because they’re offering Penny Hoarder readers a $250 bonus when you open a new checking account.
You can open a savings account at your local bank, but my suggestion is to go with an online bank. You’ll be less likely to withdraw the money.
Once you’re on your way, a vacation account is also an easy way to track how much you’ve spent on your vacation.
2. Cut Back on Your Monthly Food Budget
Now, to fill that vacation account…
For many households — especially those with little ones or teenagers running around — food can be a huge monthly expense. Shave a little off the top and in no time, you’ll notice you’ve got some extra cash to put toward your getaway.
Save money by buying in bulk, by shopping at farmers markets or by joining a CSA. You could even do what this family did and slash your grocery bill in half by shopping for organic foods. Start a garden in your backyard, or save on produce by regrowing vegetables at home. Earn rebates on your groceries by taking pictures of the receipts with apps like Checkout51 and Ibotta.
Or simply look for a few items you don’t really need, like pop and treats, and keep them out of your grocery cart while you’re saving for your vacation. Wouldn’t that ice cream taste even better if you were eating it on the beach?
3. Use Your Car to Make a Little Cash on the Side
Why not use your car for a little extra income? Some communities will pay you to carpool to work, and you could make additional money as an Uber or Lyft driver. You could also make $3,000 a year by renting out your car.
If you’re flying to your destination and want to park at the airport for free, let FlightCar rent out your car to other travelers while you’re gone, and you could have a check waiting for you when you return.
You could also consider ditching your car completely, like this family did, and save $11,500.
4. Pick Up a Side Job
Sure, you may need to work a little harder now, but think about all that relaxing fun you’ll be having on your stress-free vacation that’s already paid for.
Look for ways to earn extra money outside your regular job, whether they’re more traditional (babysitting, serving) or a bit less orthodox. Clean headstones, alter clothing, stand in line… the sky is the limit for odd, side jobs that help bring you one step closer to affording your dream getaway.
Consider short-term work opportunities related to the season. Around the winter holidays, many retail employers look for seasonal workers to cope with extra demand. During the spring and summer, look for businesses that need extra support, like farms or pools looking for workers and lifeguards. In the fall, try offering leaf-raking services or picking apples in an orchard.
Working these side jobs may mean sacrificing your weekends for a while, but it will help make your vacation possible.
5. Save on Housing
Move a little extra money to your vacation account each month by cutting back on your housing expenses. Get rid of your costly mortgage insurance, downsize your home or even make a few small home improvements to save on your utility bills.
And make sure to save on housing during your vacation, too, by using Airbnb or one of these other cheap accommodation options.
6. Sell Your Stuff
If you’re into vacations, you know that life is about experiences, not stuff. Especially when your stuff can put cold, hard cash in your pocket.
This mom made $600 selling her stuff in Facebook garage sale groups — and you can, too. Try selling used stuffed animals or thrift-shop finds on eBay. Check your attic, too; a fortune could be there waiting for you.
7. Make Your Credit Card Work for You
Consider using a credit card that accumulates airline miles for all of your regular expenditures throughout the year. Come vacation time, you could be flying for free.
You can also earn tons of frequent flier miles without signing up for a credit card by shopping online, eating out, taking surveys and other methods.
Another option is to earn credit-card sign-up bonuses. Writer Steve Gillman made more than $1,000 from these bonuses last year — that’s a lot of money to put toward your next road trip!
8. Spend Less on Your Workout
Want to get in shape for the itsy bitsy bikini or new swim trunks you bought for that trip to the beach? Think of how much better your wallet will look if you could work out without forking over loads of cash.
Consider saving money on the cost of a gym membership with these free or cheap workouts, or by following fitness-focused YouTube channels. You could even get paid to work out by teaching yoga or leading fitness boot camps. If you can’t bear to leave the gym, look for deals on discounted memberships and classes through your employer or sites like Groupon.
9. Find Deals on Outdoor Equipment
If your vacation involves costly items like skis, snowboards, kayaks, tents and more, you could be wasting money on gear. Consider buying used rental equipment, shopping at company “garage sales” and hunting in thrift stores to cut down on the cost of equipment for your adventures.
Also consider buying and reselling gear at your destination. Who knows, you may even come home with a little money in your pocket.
10. Get Paid to Take Your Vacation
Consider making your vacation work for you, instead of the other way around.
Some companies — like this one that will pay two lucky winners $20,000 to explore Canada, or this one that gave away a $1 million vacation — look for intrepid adventurers for various projects. Get paid to lead whitewater rafting trips or work in a national park. At the very least, check out these ways to make money on vacation.
Saving up for a big trip isn’t easy, but these strategies should help you save a little bit faster and have your trip already paid for before you leave home. Stretch your vacation savings a little further by finding deep discounts on trips using websites such as LivingSocial and Groupon.
Your Turn: How do you pay for your vacations?
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. We would have shared them with you anyway, but a true “penny hoarder” would be a fool not to take the company’s money.
Sarah Kuta is an education reporter in Boulder, Colo., with a penchant for weekend thrifting, furniture refurbishment and good deals. Find her on Twitter: @sarahkuta.