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You’ve decided to plan a vacation, but you’re having a hard time finding a way to afford it. We’ve all been there!
But finding ways to save money for a vacation is easier than you may think. When looking for ways to save money it can be hard to find ideas that won’t take a lot of active work on your part.
I’ve got you covered! These ideas will not only help for your next trip but can also be part of a long-term money-saving strategy. If you implement even a few of these simple ways to save money, you’ll be on a plane, cruise, or whatever your ideal vacation is in no time!
Grab your FREE Travel Hacking Cheat Sheet!
Advance Planning and Flexibility
Advanced planning and flexibility are first up on the list. When you plan ahead, you give yourself time to set a budget that you can stick to.
Probably one of the most important and easiest ways to save money on travel is to plan ahead.
This doesn’t mean that you need to book everything a year in advance (although sometimes that is needed), it means giving yourself enough time to save up and find the right deal.
Depending on the type of trip, I like to start planning around 10-12 months in advance. This gives me time to do my research and monitor for pricing.
This works well when I have a destination in mind but am not locked into travel dates.
Before you think about booking the trip, do your research on how much it will cost. It’s easier to plan if you know exactly how much you want to spend. Now, knowing how much you want to spend is not the same as how much you’ll actually end up spending.
It’s important that you anticipate and plan for unexpected expenses, so give yourself some wiggle room in the budget.
You can calculate your expenses by considering the amount of money you’ll need for airfare, rental car, meals, souvenirs, special excursions, or tickets to attractions. By doing research, you’ll be less likely to spend more than you can afford.
Decide what is most important to you and plan for it. For instance, if you’re traveling to a destination where you know that you want to splurge on excursions, research how much they will cost when you’re setting a budget.
The next part when thinking of ways to save money on vacation planning is to be flexible with your travel dates and destination. Many airlines and hotels offer discounts for travelers who are willing to be flexible with their plans.
For example, you may be able to get a discount on airfare if you’re willing to fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday instead of a Friday or Saturday (more on this later).
Or, you may be able to get a cheaper hotel room if you’re willing to stay off the beaten path.
Being flexible with your travel plans can also make it easier to find deals on activities and attractions.
For example, many museums offer discounts for visitors who come during off-peak hours. And, many theme parks offer discounts for visitors who are willing to come on weekdays instead of weekends.
And if you’re like me and enjoy using credit card points and miles to pay for travel (I’ll be covering this in more detail later in this post), planning ahead and being flexible can save you a lot of money.
I’ve been able to book destinations with the least amount of points possible by giving myself some time and flexibility.
Create a budget with Mint and track your credit with Credit Karma
Mint by Intuit
We’ve talked about creating a budget, but I know for some this can be easier said than done. It doesn’t have to be! I use an app like Mint to help me create a budget for all of my expenses. How much do you think you spend on streaming services every month? I bet you have no idea!
When you know what you’re spending your money on, it’s easier to figure out how much you can afford for a vacation. CNBC named Mint by Intuit (the same people that bring you Turbotax and Quickbooks) the best overall free expense tracker app.
I personally have been using Mint for years as one of the tools to track my spending and monitor my checking, savings, investment, and retirement accounts. Mint even gives you access to free credit scores and credit monitoring that will not negatively affect your credit.
I think it’s important to note that although Mint may use the same level of security as your bank, it is not your bank, so keep in mind that it may mislabel purchases. So, it’s a good idea to check your purchases manually in order to allocate your budget properly.
One of the main reasons that people may not track their budget is likely because it can be time-consuming. A budget app can be a convenient option because it does all the heavy lifting.
Mint lets you create a monthly budget and then tracks how much you spend in different categories. If you have a lot of expenses that don’t fit into one category, Mint will alert you so that you can make the necessary adjustments.
Unlike paper budgets, an app like Mint will automatically create a personal budget for you based on your spending history. It will also give you advice when you go over your budget. Mint lets you manage several accounts simultaneously. It can also work with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
The best part is that Mint is completely free. Forbes Advisor wrote a review on Mint and said “Among free budgeting apps, it’s hard to find another app that provides more value than Mint”.
You can check your budget anytime and from anywhere. Mint is easy to use, highly customizable, and easily accessible. It’s user-friendly, so you can make adjustments without having to spend hours learning how to use it.
In the end, an app like Mint will keep you on top of your financial situation and help you save money!
Like Mint, Credit Karma is a free online service and mobile app. It gives you access to your credit score and credit reports along with personalized recommendations to help manage your finances. I think it’s a great buddy to pair with Mint.
If you’re planning or have several credit cards or lines of credit open, Credit Karma will help keep you on track without having to lift a finger! I’ve been using Credit Karma since I opened my first credit card (back in college, so a long time ago!) and I love how it will prompt me to consider shopping for lower car insurance or tell me to check a site to see if the state owes me money.
If you’re looking to buy a house or car, Credit Karma can help. If you find something incorrect on your credit report, Credit Karma can help. Not sure which is the next credit card that you can get approved for, Credit Karma can help. Need life insurance, Credit Karma can help!
With Credit Karma, you’ll have access to a wealth of possibilities and opportunities specifically tailored to you which can help you stay on top of changes and better understand how your credit score affects your financial life.
Limit your impulse purchases
Now, this one is definitely not easy, but it is simple and important.
You probably don’t want to think about it, but limiting your impulse purchases can really help you save money. I suggest giving yourself a limit of one impulse purchase per month or something really nice once a quarter.
When I find something I want as my “treat yourself” purchase, I try to make sure it’s on sale. If it’s not on sale, I either wait and watch or I use one of my points or cash back strategies (keep reading).
Never pay full price and if you do, make it count.
Grab your FREE Travel Hacking Cheat Sheet!
Get a side hustle
When I talk about side hustles, I’m not really talking about an active one like Instacart or Doordash. My ideal side hustles take as little effort as possible.
Check out what I mean below!
Use Rakuten or BeFrugal to get cash back on purchases
Now that you have your budget established, make sure that when you are spending that money you’re also making money. A great way to do this is to use cash back sites like Rakuten or BeFrugal.
My current favorite is BeFrugal. I use their Chrome extension and have their app downloaded on my phone.
Whenever I’m shopping online, the Chrome extension will let me know if I can get cash back and then will automatically apply it with the click of a button. Once the purchase is made, BeFrugal will send an email letting you know that you’ve earned cash back.
My advice would be to check the BeFrugal site or app before making a purchase because it will let you know which retailers are giving the most cash back.
When cash back is available to redeem, BeFrugal gives you plenty of options including direct deposit into your bank account. You can also choose a gift card payout which can come with even more cashback as a payout bonus. When I redeemed my cashback for a Sephora Gift card, I was given 6% more than if I had done direct deposit into my bank.
So, if you’re ready to start getting paid to shop, sign up for BeFrugal and automatically get $10 cashback.
Rakuten is also great because you can earn American Express Membership rewards when you link your accounts. So if you have an American Express card, you should definitely join Rakuten now and earn $30 when you spend $30!
But you don’t have to choose, join both programs and see which one works best for you!
Download Upside to get paid for shopping
Previously known as GetUpside – Upside is a free app that gives you cash back on gas and other everyday purchases.
I’ve used Upside for gas, restaurants and grocery shopping. It can also be combined with a points credit card!
It’s easy, just go to the Upside app and claim a cash back offer that is available in your area. Once you claim the offer, you will have a few hours to upload the receipt. After you’ve purchased gas, dined at the restaurant or purchased groceries, you go to the app and upload the receipt. That’s it!
It will take a few days to get processed, but then you will see cash back within the app.
Cashback can be redeemed for gift cards or cashed out to your bank account or PayPal account. You will need a minimum of $10 in cash back before you can redeem.
You can earn even more by paying for your purchase with a points credit card!
Cha-ching! Sign up for Upside and get an extra $15/gallon in free gas when you use the app for the first time.
Get paid to answer surveys
Another idea is to answer online surveys. Yes, it may seem tedious, but trust me it’s worth it.
There are many companies that will pay you for your opinions, and this is a great way to make some extra money in your spare time.
There are a ton of survey companies out there and I’ve tried many of them. If you’re new to answering online surveys, I think you should start with Survey Junkie. Survey Junkie, is easy to join, not spammy and has a wide variety of surveys and ways to earn points.
Whether you spend 2 mins or 2 hours answering surveys, you’ll earn points that can be redeemed later. You can go at your own pace. Some days I answer 10 surveys and other days I don’t answer any. It really is a great way to maximize your time.
Survey Junkie also has an app! So you can answer surveys from home while drinking your morning coffee, waiting at the doctor’s office or boarding a plane. Super convenient.
Redeeming your points is easy! Pay out options include Visa gift card, PayPal, Cash out with bank transfer or Redeem for other gift cards. You only need $5 available to redeem which makes it even more convenient.
One of the best things about passive income streams is that they can provide you with money even when you’re not actively working. That’s why answering surveys can be such a great way to earn passive income.
Let’s get you making money with Survey Junkie!
Grab your FREE Travel Hacking Cheat Sheet!
Open a High Yield savings account
Investing in a high-yield savings account is a great way to save money and it’s easy!
Plus, if you need to access your money in a pinch, you can always withdraw it without penalty.
In addition, high-yield savings can earn you 20 to 25 times more than a standard savings account – per this article from Investopedia. Also, many do not require a high minimum balance or monthly maintenance fees.
With a high-yield savings account, you can earn interest on your deposited funds, which can help you reach your financial goals faster.
If you want some help deciding on which bank to open up a High-Yield Savings Account with, check out this article on the Best High-Yield Online Savings Accounts from Nerdwallet.
I have had an account with American Express for a few years now and I have been very happy with our return. I also have an American Express credit card and can access both accounts from the same app, which I love.
I know that there are many of us that do not have a lot of savings, but if you can afford a Starbucks coffee every day you can put a little bit away in a savings account.
And with no minimum balance or monthly maintenance fees, it’s a no brainer!
Automate your savings and invest at the same time
It can be hard to put money away to save. The best way I’ve learned how to save money without even thinking about it, is to automate a small amount each week, month or quarter.
You can automate this with your bank into a savings account or you can use an app like Stash which will not only save your money, but invest it too!
Stash will let you invest your money with as little as $5. Stash offers advice on how to grow your personal finances and open up a retirement account.
I’ve been using Stash for years and have always taken advantage of their auto stash option which will automate your savings and investments at the same time. Stash pricing plans are reasonable and their goal is to help you grow financially.
If you’re not sure how much you can afford, just think again about how much you spend on Starbucks each week and have one less coffee. 🙂 All jokes aside, you can start with just a few bucks each week, the key is to be consistent.
You likely won’t notice the amount leaving your bank account and then the next thing you know, you have enough for the vacation of a lifetime!
Shop around for Cheap flights
Airfares change daily, hourly, and sometimes even minute by minute, so you definitely want to shop around as a way to save money.
A great way is to use a travel aggregator website, such as Google Flights, Skyscanner or Kayak. These websites allow you to enter your travel dates and destination, and then they search multiple airlines to find the best price for you.
I set alerts through these sites so that I can monitor pricing and be ready to pounce when I find the right deal!
Nowadays, the airlines are a lot more flexible with cancellations. Many will let you cancel for any reason within 24 hours of booking the flight. Most will even let you cancel later for a credit towards future travel with no penalties. These credits may expire at some point, but the airlines are getting more flexible with this too!
So don’t feel bad about booking a great deal as soon as you see it. You don’t have anything to lose!
I need to clarify that, while it’s a good idea to use these websites to get the best deal, you should always book directly with the airline. This way, you can be sure that you’re getting the most accurate flight information. If you need to make changes or a flight gets cancelled, you’ll be able to deal with the airline directly.
Trust me, you don’t want to deal with a 3rd party when your flight gets cancelled.
Additionally, many airlines offer loyalty programs and other perks when you book directly with them. So, next time you’re looking to book a flight, remember to go straight to the source!
If you’re looking for more guidance on destinations and which ones have the best deals from your home airport, I recommend signing up for Scott’s Cheap Flights. Scott’s Cheap Flights sends you deal alerts for flights and tips for the best way to book them. You can sign up for their free program or their premium program.
Also, look at one-way flights when possible, so you can compare prices easier. You’d be surprised at how booking one way flights can really help with the price tag. When it comes to ways to save money on travel plans, being flexible and setting flight alerts is super important!
Also, check out my post on 5 big mistakes to avoid when booking flights. But first, keep reading.
Apply for a points credit card
This one is hands down my favorite because it’s probably the most passive way to save money on the list. By using a points credit card, you’re earning points on purchases that you are already making. What’s not t0 love about that?
You can use these points to pay for travel by transferring points to travel partners like airline or hotel. Other ways include booking travel through their portal, redeeming for gift cards or applying a statement credit.
A welcome offer or sign up bonus can make it very easy to earn enough points to cover travel expenses. We’ve been able to earn enough to cover a week long hotel stay or roundtrip flights to Europe.
A credit card will award you a sign up bonus if you make the minimum spend required for that particular offer. This can easily be done if you have a big purchase coming up or by using the credit card for all of your bills (when you can) and everyday shopping like groceries and gas.
There are a ton of awesome credit cards that will give you points when making a variety of purchases. I personally have several credit cards that I use depending on the type of purchases that I am making. Some credit cards will give you more points for dining, travel, groceries or even gas.
There’s definitely a big element of strategy when it comes to the credit card points game. For an in depth analysis on which credit cards are best for you, I highly recommend subscribing to The Points Guy, they have a great article for beginners. They have a large team located around the world conducting all the research and do an amazing job of breaking it all down.
But don’t get discouraged.
Even if you don’t understand all of the valuations or don’t have a complex strategy, you can still take advantage and earn enough points to pay for travel.
If you don’t have a lot of credit cards and are nervous about applying for one, that’s ok. I started off small by applying for a cash back credit card that did not require an annual fee.
Once I realized how much I could do with points earned on purchases that I was already making, I was hooked. I have since been able to expand to other cards with annual fees, but more perks.
My biggest advice would be to not bite off more than you can chew. You must always pay off your monthly statement balance. The only exception is if your card offers an introductory 0% APR, but even then it’s best practice to pay off the balance every month.
It does not make sense to pay high interest rates. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it with a credit card. And if you’re applying for a credit card that has an annual fee, make sure to do your research and take advantage of all the perks that come with the card. That is the only way to realize the full value of this strategy.
If you’re afraid that applying for new cards will negatively affect your credit score, this is a myth. Opening up a new credit card is only one small factor when calculating your credit score. So what are you waiting for?! The world of credit card travel hacking awaits you!
Ready to Plan?
However you choose to plan, vacations are a great way to reset from the stress of work and life. It can open your eyes to new cultures and experiences. Luckily, finding ways to save money when planning a vacation doesn’t have to be painful.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to have an unforgettable trip on a budget. Traveling costs money, but it’s the best investment because it’s an investment in yourself.
Pin this post, share it, follow me on social media or check out the rest of my blog and let’s get you spending less and traveling more!