Ahhhhh. Vacation. The time to get away from it all, sleep in a different bed, eat food someone else makes, and see new sites.
It’s fun. It’s relaxing. It’s budget-busting. Hold up! Wait a minute on that last one, because it doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to—and you shouldn’t—overspend or go into debt to enjoy a getaway.
Cash-flow your trip! It just takes planning ahead. We’re here to help by sharing how to save for a vacation in 6 easy steps.
1. Decide when to travel.
We’re going to be really frank here. Frank as in honest. Not as in Sinatra.
If you have debt, it’s not in your best financial interest to take a big vacay. You need to buckle down and drive debt out of your life. Get furious. Get fast. Get debt-free.
So the first “when” you need to consider is “when you’re out of debt.”
Ready to start saving? Get started with a free trial of Ramsey+ today.
Secondly, did you know certain times of year and even days of the week make traveling cheaper? Seriously. Look into off-season rates to your desired locations. Fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Saturdays for cheaper tickets. Arrange your trip to check in to your hotel on a Sunday (the cheapest day) instead of a Friday (the most expensive). That’s right—staying during the week rather than the weekend is usually cheaper.
How do we know that great stuff? We learned from our friend, the best-selling author and money expert Rachel Cruze. Thanks, Rachel! We love your show, btw.
2. Pick a destination.
It seems there are two types of people: beach goers and mountain lovers. Okay. Really, there are millions of types of people. International adventurers, all-inclusive cruise enthusiasts, treehouse shack seekers, National monument and attraction advocates . . . you get the idea.
We don’t claim to know where you want to go—but just remember some of those previously mentioned tips: consider off-season, fly and stay on cheaper days of the week, etc.
And don’t assume a travel agent is an expensive idea. Some of them charge you no fee whatsoever for their services because they’re paid by their associated vendors. Aka, they’ve got connections and knowledge—something incredibly valuable if you’re going overseas.
3. Determine the cost of the trip.
Once you know the when and the where, start breaking down the how much. Let’s say we’re going on a trip to Washington D.C. This is a super-smart destination because the place is packed with free attractions. It’s like our country ‘tis of thee wants to us know more about our history. Win-win.
So while we do our budget breakdown, we figure in lodging, food, transportation, and flight. Looking into good deals, we see a train pass for our stay is just around $10 a person. And we know we’ll walk around a lot too. Bravo, us. Here’s to being healthy and saving money.
Total expenses look like they’ll be around $1,570 for a couple, and we add in $50 just in case. We’re going to need $1,620 to make this trip happen.
Do the same kind of math with your own trip to find out the grand total. Too much too soon? If you push your trip to a further date, you’ll have more time to save. Also consider shopping around for more deals or tweaking a couple of your plans. Aim for a doable date and reasonable costs.
4. Start budgeting for your vacation.
It’s time to get down to business. The business of budgeting. This is the literal saving-for-your-vacation step. And it’s way easier if you set up a fund in your EveryDollar budgeting app.
Tactically speaking, this is how you do it:
- First, pick a budget category. We decided on “Lifestyle.”
- Then click “Add Item” and label your fund—we called ours “D.C. Vacay.” And we even added in a patriotic American flag emoji.
- You’ll see a piggy bank pop up next to the words “Make this a fund.” Click this and the next button with the same words.
- Scroll down and put the total you need for this big expense as the “Savings Goal.” That’s the screen shot you see below.
5. Work to make your vacation savings fund grow.
You’ve got a plan. So let’s make it happen! Grow that fund bigger and stronger than Bruce Banner when he gets angry. But, unlike the Hulk, you’re totally in control of your green.
How many months do you have until your trip? Divide the total amount you need by the months until you travel. This is how much you should budget to save each month.
Again, tactically speaking, as you add money to your fund throughout the month, type it into the “Planned” section. Every time you add money to the “Planned” section of your Sinking Fund, it immediately adds that amount to your fund. As you watch the fund grow, the trip becomes more and more real.
And where does that extra money come from? You can tighten spending in other budget categories, sell some stuff, pick up a side hustle, or take on overtime for a few months to make a higher income.
What you don’t do—at all ever—is put any of this on a credit card. And don’t be tempted to take out a credit card for “points” or “miles.” In the end, it’s not worth it. You don’t want to still be paying off the trip months after it’s over.
When you save cash and pay cash for your vacations, you bring home memories—not debt.
6. Track your spending on the trip.
This last one is what we call a pro tip. You see, budgets aren’t just numbers you put down on paper and never think about again. If you want your money plans to happen—you’ve got to interact with your budget.
In this case, we mean that you need to be tracking all the spending that happens for and during your vacation.
Let’s get tactical one more time. Before you head out for all the fun—set up budget lines for each of the main categories of your trip.
You’ll see in our screenshot what we made one for lodging, food, transportation while there, and flights to get there. You may need a line for attractions and entertainment. Remember, in our example we’re about to live it up with all those free museums and memorials in our nation’s capitol. That’s why we don’t have a line for the stuff we’ll be doing.
Thank goodness EveryDollar has a mobile version, so you can keep up with it all on the go. This means you can log your spending throughout the trip to make sure you don’t overspend. It’s this kind of thinking that takes you from half-app budgeter to professional money goal slayer.
So if you’re thinking of fun in the sun or being chill in the hills—when you’re ready to make the vacation dream come true, it’s time to budget.
Get a fund set up in EveryDollar today so you can soon enjoy all the relaxation of your vacation.