Need a vacation, but traveling feels out of your budget? Here are tips to afford a summer trip.
Whether traveling solo, with friends, or taking a family vacation, a getaway gives you a chance to escape from your daily routine and make wonderful memories. But how do you afford a vacation when the cost of housing, groceries, gas, and just about everything else has gone up?
The good news is there are a number of tips and tricks you can use to turn your vacation plans into a reality, despite today’s high inflation rate. Whether you’re longing for a relaxing trip to the beach, a European getaway, or anything in between, here are some budget-friendly travel tips to help you fund your next trip.
Tips on How To Afford a Vacation
1. Use a travel credit card
If you use a credit card to cover everyday expenses, make sure it’s a travel credit card. With a travel card, you can earn rewards that you may later redeem toward travel perks like airfare, free hotel stays, airport lounge access, first class upgrades, and more.
Many credit cards have an introductory offer you can receive by spending a certain amount within a certain time frame. If you are planning to make a large purchase on a credit card, this could be a way to rack up some travel rewards. A popular card among frequent travelers is the Chase Sapphire Preferred that comes with a generous 60,000 point sign-up bonus once you meet their requirements.
When considering signing-up for a new credit card, take into account other factors such as annual fees, APR after the introductory period, and your own ability to pay the premium to avoid interest fees. Since credit cards can easily steer you into a cycle of debt, make sure you pay off your balance in full every month. Not only can credit card debt lead to financial stress, it can delay your progress toward collecting travel rewards.
2. Open a dedicated savings account
A dedicated savings account for travel savings to take those trips on your bucket list. You can open one at a bank, credit union, or online lender and contribute to it on a regular basis.
You can likely even set up automatic transfers from your checking account to be certain you stay on track to reach your savings goal. Even if you can only contribute $25 per week, your savings will add up quickly and before you know it, you’ll have a substantial travel fund to use for your next vacation.
3. Explore hotel alternatives
While it may be tempting to stay at a hotel, doing so can be expensive, especially if you’re traveling to a touristy area in a popular destination, like say Disney. Therefore, you might fare better finding a place listed on vacation rental websites or apps like Airbnb or VRBO.
There are many affordable house, condo, and apartment rentals that can give you a lot for your money. Most of them come with kitchens, which can give you the chance to cook and save even more. Other cost-effective hotel alternatives that should be on your radar include hostels, homestays, and outdoor camping.
4. Consider a volunteer travel program
Organizations like United Nations Volunteers, Help Exchange, and WWOOF offer free accommodations to volunteers. If you’d like to explore a new city or country and make a positive difference in the world, a volunteer travel program might be a good option.
While you will have to volunteer your time for some of the trip, you may also have a chance to explore and travel on your own, and even get to see things off the beaten path. Do your research to find a program that meets your preferences for location, length, and service.
5. Get a side hustle
A side hustle can give you the opportunity to earn some extra money outside of your day job. You may put the additional cash in your travel fund and also use it to meet other financial goals. Since there are so many side hustles out there, you’re sure to find one that fits well with your schedule, interest, and skills. You might want to deliver food, drive for a rideshare company, babysit, clean houses, sell crafts or other handmade items, pet sit, or tutor.
6. Sell your belongings
Take a look around your home. Do you see items, like clothing, furniture, toys, and appliances that you no longer use or need? If so, you may want to sell them on sites like Craigslist, OfferUp, and Facebook Marketplace. It may also make sense to have a garage sale if you have a lot of stuff others may appreciate. By selling your belongings, you’ll have some extra money to put toward a vacation.
7. Be flexible and spontaneous
Ideally, you’d travel to Paris or Rome in the summer and Miami or Cancun in the winter. But doing so will cost you a lot. That’s why it’s important to be flexible and travel off season, if your schedule allows you to. Not only will you save on travel costs, you’ll also avoid crowds and the headaches that come with them.
You may also score a great deal on flights and lodging if you’re spontaneous and wait until the last minute to book a trip. Many airlines and hotels are willing to sell any remaining flights or rooms they have at a low cost. After all, it’s better for them to make some money than no money.
8. Fly during the week
There’s no denying that it’s more convenient to fly on the weekend. If you do so, however, you’ll pay a premium for your ticket. Even though it can be difficult to take time off school, work, and other responsibilities, flying mid-week is a great way to land cheap flights — or at least cheaper. If you’re willing to travel on Tuesday or Wednesday, for example, you’ll save much more than you would if you were to fly later in the week on Thursday or Friday.
In addition to flying during the week, look at regional airports, which often offer flight deals from budget airlines. If you have some wiggle room in your dates or maybe a few extra days of vacation time, compare round-trip tickets to one-way prices and consider flying into one location and flying home from another. Also flying at less popular times, like overnight on a red-eye flight could save you some cash as well.
9. Find free attractions
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a great time. No matter where you go, there will be plenty of free or low-cost attractions. Do your research in advance to find out what they are. Go to Google and search for “free things to do in” and enter your destination.
Oftentimes, cities offer free walking tours and festivals. You should also consider nature activities like hikes in parks or lounging at the beach as they won’t cost you anything, and you can bring your own food and beverages to cut costs as well.
10. Be strategic with rental cars
Thanks to inflation and supply chain issues, rental cars are quite expensive these days. Fortunately, there are ways you can save on them. First, book as far in advance as possible. When you do, check the rates of all car sizes as sometimes larger cars come with more affordable rates.
If you know how to drive a stick, this considerably rare skill could save you some money as these manual transmission models are less popular than automatic. Lastly, consider bundling your car rental with a flight and hotel while shopping online or through a booking agent.
11. Don’t overspend on food
Food is an exciting part of a vacation. But eating out for every meal can easily put a damper on your budget. To save some money, find accommodations with free breakfast and evening happy hours. Lunch meals are often cheaper than dinner so midday may be the most financial savvy time to treat yourself.
You can also grocery shop and cook most of your meals in your hotel or rental (as long as it has a full kitchen). Don’t forget to visit local markets, grab street food on the go, and choose hole in the wall restaurants off the beaten path instead of trendy spots in touristy areas.
12. Avoid unnecessary shopping
If you typically buy some souvenirs and gifts to take home to your family, you might want to stop. There’s a good chance those souvenirs are in a closet collecting dust and your family won’t mind if they don’t get a coffee mug or magnet when you return.
Instead of shopping when you don’t really need to, take as many pictures as possible so that you can remember your trip and share it with your loved ones.
13. Be mindful of foreign transaction fees
Foreign transaction fees are charges you may have to pay for making transactions out of the U.S. You might face them every time you take out cash or swipe your credit card. Since foreign transaction fees may be anywhere from 2% to 3% of the entire purchase, they can take a serious toll on your travel budget. Before you fly overseas, get a credit card and checking account or debit card with no foreign transaction fees.
14. Stay with family and friends
If you have friends and family living in different parts of the country or world, you may want to take them up on their offers every time they tell you to visit and stay with them. Not only will you save on accommodations, you’ll also be able to catch up with those you don’t get to see on a regular basis.
If you go this route, just make sure you treat them to a meal or do something else to thank them for their hospitality. Also, return the favor the next time they’re in your neck of the woods.
An Affordable Vacation Is Within Reach
At a time when everything is so expensive, you may think that a vacation is a pipe dream. But as long as you plan ahead and get creative, you can enjoy some time away without breaking the bank. You work hard and deserve a vacation so don’t let inflation get in your way.
About The Author
Anna has written for Credit Karma, LendingTree, Experian, Freedom Debt Relief, among many other publications. She is passionate about helping people from all walks of life make good financial decisions. Anna lives in a suburb of sunny Cleveland, OH and enjoys working out, trying new restaurants, and volunteering.