by Ellen Barone
Think you can’t afford a vacation? Think again. Here are five easy ways to save for your next adventure.
If there’s one common question that people ask upon learning that my husband, Hank, and I have headed off for a year (or more) of travel in Latin America, it is “How can you afford it?”
It helps, of course, that we chose a wallet-friendly destination like Latin America where our dollars go further. But the secret to successful travel budgeting is as much about priorities as it is about the money. Here are five insider tips to help you save up and cross some items off your adventure travel bucket list.
1. Feel the buzz. It’s easy to dream about getting away, but just as easy to be sidelined by the daily grind. The key to success is sustained excitement. Make time to indulge your inner-traveler and ignite your desire to go. Read travel magazines. Watch movies set in places you want to go. Post travel photos on the refrigerator. Do anything it takes to feel the buzz and keep the dream forefront in your daily life.
2. Prioritize. Once you’ve decided that budgeting for travel is a priority, it’s time to start saying YES to travel by saying NO to other things. Saving money by not throwing it away on non-essentials becomes surprisingly easy once you catch the travel bug. For me, deciding where to spend my dollars is a no-brainer: NO to stuff. YES to experience.
3. Create a travel fund. Start now. Whether you use a dedicated savings account, automated transfers, or empty your pockets each evening into a change bowl, creating a travel fund provides a surefire way to make sure there’s money for your next vacation. Sound impossible? It’s not. Begin with a daily amount you can live with. Put away $15 a day for a year, for example, and you’ll have $5,475 towards your dream vacation. Freeing up that kind of cash could be as simple as packing a lunch versus buying one at work.
4. Become a subscriber. To help you find the best deals, many travel websites offer free e-mail updates and newsletters. Sign up to get plane tickets, hotel rooms, vacation packages, car rentals, airline promotions, and more, delivered straight to your in-box. A travel-savvy friend joined us in Nicaragua this month, for example, after bagging a highly discounted hotel package off the Jetsetter newsletter. Other online resources I use to save money on travel include Kayak.com, SmarterTravel.com, Bing Travel, BudgetTravel.com, HomeAway.com, and Hotels.com.
5. Play the point game. Loyalty reward programs can be a great way to help offset travel expenses. Sign up for an airline-affiliated credit card, for example, and receive enough miles to subsidize your next flight. Pay your monthly bills on a card with a strong rewards program, like American Express, and use the accumulated points to book travel, purchase travel accessories, or transfer points to partner airlines, car rental agencies, and hotels. Enroll in hotel frequent-stay programs and be rewarded with complimentary upgrades, exclusive discounts, extra perks, and free nights. Starwood Hotels Preferred Guest Program, InterContinental Hotels Group Priority Club Rewards, and Wyndam Rewards offer lucrative incentives, worldwide coverage, and hotel choices for every budget and taste. Not a big-brand traveler? No worries. Don’t be afraid to ask any travel provider – from mom-and-pop innkeepers and travel agents to independent adventure tour companies and regional airlines - if they have any special promotions, discounts, or low-season sales. Ask, and more often than not it is given.
What about you? How do you save for vacation? Share your tips below.
With her passport perpetually packed, writer/photographer Ellen Barone is a respected resource for travelers seeking travel advice, vacation tips, gear and gadget reviews, and trusted recommendations. From the best hotels to exotic new destinations, her popular website, EllenBarone.com helps travelers plan memorable journeys and discover the world.