Now that Spring has officially sprung, and as the school year winds down to a close, I can’t stop daydreaming about taking a summer vacation.
Vacations are few and far between in our family. With all the commitments my husband and I have professionally, coupled with the school activities my daughter has going on, we just can’t pick up and go at any other time like we can during the summer. So our summer vacations are really important to our family as it is one of the few times we can relax, unwind, unplug, and reconnect.
One obstacle we have to overcome each year in our quest for a summer vacation is the economics of it all. How are we going to fund it? For us, there is the expense of the transportation getting there, money for the place where we plan to stay, the cost of meals and activities, and funds for the dog kennel that will care for our two pooches while we are away.
It can start to get downright expensive quickly. And since we don’t have an influx of funds coming in during the summer, we have to be thoughtful about how we plan to fund these trips.
Here are six ways to fund your summer vacation:
1. Start saving early by putting money away in a vacation savings account.
Since we know summer vacations are really important to the health of our family, we start saving for them ahead of time. We accomplish this by automatically taking a specific amount of our paycheck monthly and depositing it into an account we designated expressly for our vacations. It comes directly out of my check before anything else and is out of sight and out of mind. By the time we start making plans for our getaway, we usually have a decent little stash of cash saved up. It is a lot less stressful and a lot more fun to arrange these getaways when we know how much we have to work with and that we won’t be driving ourselves into debt.
2. Accumulate and use your points.
We have a couple of different credit cards we use personally and for my husband's business that offer excellent incentive programs. When we know we need to make large purchases that we would have paid for using our household cash flow; we’ll put them on the credit card first and then immediately pay them off at the end of the month when the bills come. As a result, we have racked up a considerable amount of points that have funded hotels, car rentals, flights, and even cruises.
I wouldn’t suggest this method if it isn’t something you plan to pay off immediately because you don't want to accumulate debt. However, if you have the cash flow for a specific expense and can be disciplined enough to pay off the card immediately, this method can help you earn points – thus enabling your vacation dollars to stretch a lot further.
Another points option is to join the rewards programs offered by major airlines and hotel chains. I often travel for business, and because I tend to go to a few specific areas of the country, I am often on the same airline and staying in the same hotels. These points add up fairly quickly and easily offset some of our summer vacation costs.
3. Sign up for travel alerts.
Most major airlines, hotel chains, rental car companies, amusement parks, and the like offer opt-in savings alerts for customers. These savings are rarely offered during peak travel times (so, NOT usually during summer), but, if you watch carefully and would be okay with booking a vacation well in advance, there is bound to be some incentive that will make your dream vacation more achievable.
4. De-clutter, simplify, and sell.
Each year it is a good idea to go through your home and get rid of stuff you are not using. Not only will it help you to de-clutter and simplify your life, but it can also be a money-making opportunity for you. Whether it is via a garage sale, Craigslist, eBay, thredUP, your neighborhood Facebook groups, or apps like letgo, Poshmark, or OfferUp, you sell your “treasures” and then stash the money away in your vacation piggy bank. That’s a zen-win!
5. Take on some extra work.
One fairly obvious suggestion is to find a way to take on a second job or a side hustle for extra money. If you are anything like me, the thought of more work sounds overwhelming. I just don’t have the time … but do I?
If vacations are a priority in your family like they are in mine, maybe you should honestly assess how you are using your time. If you are spending hours in front the TV or perusing social media (ahem—like spending hours and hours pinning vacation ideas on Pinterest), the truth is you DO have the time to make a few extra dollars instead.
And, as you probably already know, there is a myriad of ways you can do that from the comfort of your home. Or, if you already work from home for your primary source of income, you may want to consider some part-time work outside of your home, like these 19 Flexible Ways to Make Money With Your Car or Five Types of On Demand Money Making Opportunities.
6. Ask for the gift of travel.
Every year many of my family members (siblings of my husband, my parents, close family friends) struggle over what to get each other for Christmas. We either agree not to exchange gifts at all, or we end up giving each other dinner gift cards. In fact, one year my sister-in-law and I ended up buying each other the same dinner gift card!
Next holiday, you may want to consider asking for the gift of travel instead. Loved ones may have travel points on their credit cards or airline miles they can share, and the great news is it won’t cost them anything to pass them along to you. Also, most airlines, hotel chains, rental car companies, and amusement parks have gift card options.
The great thing about gifting travel is instead of adding another consumable item to a person’s life; you are helping them to build a memory they will likely carry with them for the rest of their lives. This would work for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, and other special occasions, and is a meaningful gift for adults and children alike.
All of us need a chance to unwind and recharge. And the memories my family makes while on summer vacations have kept us storytelling and laughing for years afterward. With a little planning, research, and effort, we’ll continue to make summer vacation memories for years to come.
How do you fund your summer vacation? What ideas would you add to the list? Any unique savings ideas you’ve discovered?