How to Save for a Vacation Without Breaking the Bank
You’re ready for a vacation, but is your bank account?
Rising inflation, increased travel demand and worker shortages have contributed to eye-popping prices for flights, accommodations, meals and more. You may be left wondering how you can possibly save for a vacation.
Below, we offer instructions on how to find additional funds to pay for your travel desires, and how to save those funds specifically for travel rather than spending them while at home.
3 Strategies to Save for Your Next Vacation
If you’re saving for a large expense like a trip, it is imperative that you put that money somewhere that it can earn additional cash or be safe from your spending binges. A dream vacation is a solid motivation to create a savings system.
These three money-saving strategies will help you fund that dream vacation in no time.
1. Open a Dedicated Vacation Bank Account
One easy way to save for a special trip is to open a dedicated vacation savings account. If you choose a high-yield savings account, your money might even grow a bit while you’re looking forward to your trip.
You can open a savings account at your local bank, but if you go with an online bank, you’ll be less likely to withdraw the money.
Set up automatic deposits into the account, and, with a little restraint, leave that money there until it’s time for your trip. Bulk up your account balance by depositing any $1 bills or $5 bills that you receive as change from everyday purchases. Funnel any extra money — like a work bonus or birthday cash — into your vacation fund as well.
If you have a side hustle, sign up for automatic deposits or deposit the money directly to the vacation account so you aren’t tempted by seeing the extra funds in your regular bank account.
2. Create a Savings Goal
If you budget for your trip in advance, you don’t have to spend time stressing over your spending while you’re on vacation. The easiest way to do that is to set up a sinking fund.
Begin by researching the costs of your expected expenditures, such as airfare, rental cars, gas, hotel stays, meals, souvenirs, special excursions and tickets to attractions or events. After totaling those costs, you’ll have an estimation of how much you’ll need to save.
Now work backwards to reach your savings goal. Divide your estimated vacation cost by the number of months you have before taking your trip to figure out how much money to save aside each month. For example, if you’re taking a $2,400 vacation a year from now, you’d need to save $200 a month to fund your getaway.
If your vacation date isn’t set in stone, you could figure out how much you’d like to save monthly and divide your total estimated vacation cost by your monthly savings amount to figure out when you can afford to take your trip. Using the $2,400 vacation example, if you could only afford to save $150 a month, you’d have the funds for your trip 16 months from now. And if you need a little help calculating all the costs for your vacation, check out this online sinking fund calculator.
3. Download Money-Saving Apps
Take advantage of technology for extra assistance with saving for vacation.
Digit is an app that links up to your checking account and automatically transfers money to your savings account. It uses an algorithm to calculate how much money users can afford to have pulled from their checking account without causing them to overdraft. You can even set a vacation savings goal within the app.
Digit is free to use for the first 30 days, then it’s $5 per month afterward.
If you’re looking for even more options, check out our review of money-saving apps to help you set aside more money to enjoy your vacation.
8 Ways to Bank Extra Money for Your Trip
Strategizing how you’ll save money for your upcoming vacation is just half the battle. Making extra money or finding smart ways to free up some of your cash will get you there sooner.
Saving up for a big trip isn’t always easy, but these ideas should help you pad that vacation savings account and have your trip already paid for before you leave home.
1. Pick Up a Side Job
To come up with extra cash, you may need to pick up extra work. There are side gigs that can add to your travel budget without taking up all of your free time at home.
Look for ways to earn extra money outside your regular job, whether they’re more traditional (like tutoring or waiting tables) or a bit less orthodox (like reselling shoes or getting paid sleep). Side jobs help bring you one step closer to affording your dream getaway.
Consider opportunities related to the season. Around the winter holidays, many retailers look for seasonal workers. Leading up to the summer, you may see postings for camp counselors and lifeguards.
Working these side jobs may mean sacrificing your free time for a while, but it will help make your vacation possible.
2. 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.
If you have unused items around your home you can sell stuff online or find places to sell your used clothing. Check your attic, too — that old Nintendo system might be worth more than you think.
Our guide to the best times of year to sell things online will tell you what you should sell in certain months to take advantage of increased demand and possibly bring in more cash.
3. 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.
Another option is to sign up for a travel credit card to earn rewards that you can put toward your next trip. (Just make sure to ask yourself these five questions before opening a new credit card for the rewards.)
4. Cut Back on Your Monthly Food Budget
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, shopping at local ethnic grocery stores, or by joining a community supported agriculture — or CSA — program. You can even 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 Ibotta and Fetch Rewards.
Or simply look for a few items you don’t really need, like soda 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?
Make sure you immediately put any money you save by cutting back on food purchases toward your travel fund.
No need to blow your food budget when you leave home. Here are some smart ways to save money on food when you’re on vacation.
5. Use Your Car to Make a Little Cash on the Side
Why not use your car for a little extra income? You could make additional money as an Uber or Lyft driver or delivering food.
If you’re flying to your destination and want to park at the airport for free, car-sharing services like Turo and TravelCar allow you to rent out your car when you’re not using it.
And if you’ve been using the same car insurance for a while, now might be the time to shop prices. With EverQuote, users can view car insurance options from more than 175 carriers and find the best price for their car. Spending a few minutes searching, and you could save hundreds of dollars in insurance a year.
If vacationing is so important to you that you’re willing to resort to drastic measures, you could ditch your car completely, and sell your car.
Save money on your trip by forgoing the vehicle. We rounded up a list of fabulous cities for vacations without a car.
6. Make Money With Your Home
Move a little extra money to your vacation account each month by listing space in your home on Airbnb. Renting your home on Airbnb can help you make vacation money fast ‒ one couple made $2K renting their apartment for just 15 days.
Even if you don’t have a dedicated room available, you can get creative with your Airbnb listing by hosting people in a tent in your backyard or letting guests crash on your couch. You could also rent out your entire home, stay with a friend or relative and split the profits with them.
And if you’re not interested in renting out your space, you can also use the app to create Airbnb experiences for travelers. Experiences can range from art, nature, entertainment, sports, food and drink ‒ anything that gives visitors a fun way to get a taste of your hometown.
7. Spend Less on Your Workout
Want to get in shape for the 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 by getting some inexpensive gym equipment, building your own home gym, or working out at fitness stations at public parks. You could even get paid to work out by teaching yoga or leading fitness boot camps. One woman earned $6K in a year working her yoga instructing side hustle and with it was able to fund her tropical vacation to the Dominican Republic.
If you can’t bear to leave the gym, look for deals on discounted memberships and classes through your employer or sites like Groupon.
8. Find Deals on Outdoor Equipment
If your vacation involves costly items like skis, snowboards, kayaks, tents and more, consider buying used rental equipment, timing your purchase for outdoor gear deals and hunting in thrift stores to cut down on the cost. Some helpful websites for purchasing second hand outdoor equipment are Facebook Marketplace, Next Door, and Gear Trade.
Also consider buying and reselling gear at your destination. Who knows, you may even come home with a little money in your pocket.
Sarah Kuta is an education reporter in Boulder, Colo. Contributors Kent McDill and Caroline Gaspich and former senior writer Nicole Dow contributed to this article.