While there are a select few people who get their travel paid for them, I'm not one of them (but I'm willing to change that - Ed) and chances are neither are you. So where do we come up with the money to travel with?
Be sure to include an estimate of how much food will cost and how much your hotel will feed you, if at all. If you're driving, figure out your gas mileage and calculate that too.
Once you have that amount, add at least 10% to that to cover any incidentals along the way, total it all up and that's how much you'll need to save.
Figure out when you want to go, how many weeks away from now it is, and divide that number by the cost of the trip. That's how much you'll need to sock away each week. Do that, and you'll have enough to go when the time comes.
The other way to figure out how much it will cost is to set aside a certain amount each week, say $50 and then decide when you want to go, let's say 6 months from now. 26 weeks of $50 will get you $1,300.
When the time gets near, find out where you can go for that amount and plan your trip to somewhere you can afford (don't think that amount is too little either...we did a week in the Dominican, all-inclusive including air, for less than $1,200 per person).
Some people will say they don't have the discipline to put aside that set amount of money each week. That's sad...you need some discipline to travel successfully anyway so why not start with the money? If you don't think there's any money to save, try skipping one Starbucks latte and an extra value meal each week...there's $10 right there and it's going to be healthier too.
OK, let's think of some other strategies...
Does your employer use Direct Deposit? Many employers that use Direct Deposit allow you to not only automatically deposit the money to your bank account, but also a few other accounts as well. For example, if you work for the U.S. Government, you can set up your deposit to be split up to as many as three accounts so let's say 80% can go into your main checking account, 10% into a household expense account, and another 10% into a vacation account.
Now you're saving up your vacation money without even thinking about it.
If you can't take advantage of this, talk to your bank or credit union. Many will allow automatic transfers into separate savings accounts that can be used the same way.
However you pay for your vacation, I strongly urge you not to charge it. Save up for it, don't end up paying for it long after it's over.
Other ways to help pay for travel, or at least soak up some of the costs is to use reward credit/debit cards and to join loyalty programs.
Travel rewards cards earn points for each dollar spent that can be cashed in for things like airfare and hotels. Be sure to read the fine print, however, because many of these cards charge a lot of fees for it. Here are some recommended cards: http://www.consumerismcommentary.com/the-best-travel-rewards-credit-cards/
We don't travel by air a whole lot, so we prefer a cash back card that pays you a certain percentage rebate for each use. Our favorite is the Costco Citi Visa card that racks up several hundred dollars a year for use in everyday use including 4% for gas, 3% for travel and restaurants, 2% for purchases at Costco, and 1% for everything else (our cash back is paying for this year's spring trip). Some other recommended rewards cards are listed here: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-5-best-rewards-credit-cards-2011-2
Hotel loyalty programs are also good to earn free room stays. Find a chain you like, join the club, and start racking up the points. We use Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, and...to a lesser extent...Choice Hotels. By joining the loyalty program, which is completely free, we not only get points for free stays (and get at least a free night in a hotel each year), we also get some added perks at the hotel just by being a member such as upgraded rooms or late check-outs.
These are all tips to help you accumulate the money you need to afford a vacation. It's actually not too hard to do. Figure a price, save an amount each week till you reach it, use rewards and loyalty programs to help you accumulate free travel and lodging, and off you go.
Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick (updated 2017)
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