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Tips For Saving For Vacation and Minimizing Vacation Costs

February 1, 2011 · 118 comments

in Misc Tips, Travel

I am so tired of winter, and it is only January.  February is almost always miserable, but at least March provides a few days of nice weather.  I also start my tomato plants and such for my garden indoors in late March, so I at least can ‘feel’ summer on the horizon in March, even if we do get the occasional snowstorm.

Normally, we would go to Florida for what our school calls ‘mid-winter break’.  However, the rigors of high school basketball forbids us from leaving during that week anymore.  So, I am trapped in Michigan until April, when we will head to Florida.  Our trip will be nice, but I think Florida and other warm places are nicer when you are escaping the snow and the cold.

Anyway, I was reading the post Start Saving For Your Summer Vacation Now at the blog Not Made of Money, and I started thinking about how we save for vacation.

In the past, we always just kind of ‘absorbed’ the cost without a whole lot of planning.  (We put charges on our credit card for the rewards, but always paid it off immediately.)  Now, what I do is just put the money I make from the blog into a vacation savings account.  Since I enjoy writing so much, it feels like we will be getting a ‘free’ vacation in a sense.

So, while pondering how we pay for our vacation, I came up with some tips for saving for vacation:

  1. Put all spare money into a vacation fund.  You could put spare change or any dollar bills that you have in your wallet at the end of the day into a container of some sort and earmark it for vacation.   Or, even make some extra cash recycling aluminum cans (or cashing them in at the store, depending on the state you live in.)  I know this won’t entirely cover your vacation by any means unless you are camping or something somewhat cheaper.  However, just accumulating the spending money for vacation in a pain-free way can be fun.
  2. Research your vacation destination thoroughly.  Find out what time of year has the best deals to minimize your overall costs.  (Not suggesting you cruise the Caribbean during hurricane season though…).  Tripadvisor.com is a fantastic resource for researching vacation destinations.
  3. Buy an Entertainment Book for the city you are headed if you plan on eating out a lot, or if you think you will save more than what the Entertainment Book costs.  (A friend of mine did this recently, and I thought it was a great idea.)
  4. Take advantage of any and all deals you can.  Everyone knows AAA offers great deals on hotels, rental cars, etc.  However, you may even get benefits from your credit card, even if it’s not specifically a travel rewards card.  Check out the post “Credit Card Perks You Never Knew You Had” from Wealth Informatics to see what deals your credit card may offer.
  5. Earn money on the side that can be used for vacation.  It doesn’t have to be something as time intensive as starting a blog, but even selling things you have around the house, taking on a holiday job, or maybe turning that hobby into a business on ETSY or something.  Think about what hidden talents you have and take advantage!
  6. Traveling with kids?  You have got to plan ahead of time and really consider some of the extra costs that children bring.  Stroller rentals, increased food and drink costs, constant begging for souvenirs, etc.  Try to step through what you will be doing on your vacation and try to mitigate as many of those costs up front as possible.

Regardless of where you are headed on vacation or how you are getting there, make sure you have the money saved for the trip ahead of time.  You do not want to go in to debt for a vacation.  Memories are great, and getting a break for day to day life can be fun.  However, the stress created by carrying high interest debt is not fun at all.

What are  your vacation plans this year?

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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Moneycone February 1, 2011 at 7:36 am

Using spare change for a dedicated cause is a great tip Kris! I usually start selling stuff I don’t use like books and old gadgets to clear clutter and get some spare cash!


Kris February 1, 2011 at 3:12 pm

MC – it is great when you can get rid of old items and make money off of it too. Very rewarding.

I have a separate vacation fund that I am forbidden from touching. I love when the money is in the account ahead of time, and making small deposits is fun.


Nicole February 1, 2011 at 7:36 am

What’s a vacation?

Last year DH and DS flew up to see the in-laws while I was at an annual conference. That seemed to work out pretty well. This year they might drive instead.


Kris February 1, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Nicole, a vacation is when you don’t get up and go to work for a span of time. It can be a trip away from home, or a ‘staycation’, which is a new word created to make people feel better about taking time off work, but not being able to leave the city they live in.

Aren’t you off during the summer? I would think you could have a ton of fun!


Nicole February 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Off during the summer. HAHAHAHAAHHAAHAHA.

hoo… boy… off during the summer… *koff koff*

We should probably do a longer post on that common misconception, but here’s our brief mention: http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2010/07/23/housing-the-academic/

No, summer is the time when we can actually do real work because there aren’t students stopping by every 15 minutes asking things like can they borrow your copy of the textbook all semester, or can they skip class because their cousin is in town, or can you correct their homework that is due tomorrow… (these, and others, will be making an appearance in a future RBOC), and there aren’t (so many) committee meetings about service. We get a little work done during the school year and a lot done during summer. Summer is also for conferences.

Because, contrary to common misconception, the primary part of a professor’s job is not teaching or doing administration (though many of us do a bang-up job of both)… it’s actually producing research. In my case that means mostly doing program evaluations of important projects that directly affect national policy.


Kris February 1, 2011 at 6:29 pm

I did not mean to imply you do not work in the summer. However, I would think that you would have more flexibility in the summer to guide your own schedule. Meaning, if you want to take a couple days to go to the water park, you can do it without missing classes.

(Publishing is a big reason why I did not become a math professor. I wanted to teach high level math, but didn’t want to have to worry about the writing part of it.)


Nicole February 2, 2011 at 8:45 am

Nah, our flexibility is still primarily determined by daycare. No daycare on the weekends.

Maggie generally teaches summer school for the extra $$.


Molly On Money February 1, 2011 at 7:54 am

It cold and snowy here and it seems like I’m never going to get warm again! We have a planned vacation but not until August:(
Last year we took our cheapest vacation EVER. We camped a few hours away and spent a week playing in the river. I think we spent about $350.


Kris February 1, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Molly, one of my favorite vacations ever was camping down in the Smoky mountains when we were first married. We did buy a tent, but the overall cost for the week was about two hundred dollars. We luckily had good weather though.

We are expecting up to 18 inches of snow starting tonight. I think a vacation sounds absolutely wonderful. Just 2 more months for us…


Roshawn @ Watson Inc February 1, 2011 at 9:04 am

You are right that this is a fabulous time to begin planning those summer expenses. It bears repeating because it is so easy to get off budget otherwise.

I’m ready for my mid-winter break!


Kris February 1, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Shawn, I want a mid winter break. Instead I am getting a blizzard.

You don’t have to wait until summer though!!!


Jacq February 1, 2011 at 9:21 am

I’m taking my mid-winter break in a couple of weeks – ski trip tho. Vacay is the one time I go cash and record stuff cuz I have a “woohoo vacation!” Tendency to overspend.
Depends on though because I didn’t last year when we spent $1500 for over a month of RVing.


Kris February 1, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Jacq- I love the ‘woo hoo’ vacation. That is the only time of year I do overspend. However, I must have the money saved ahead of time.

You can come to my house and ski for free!! Hill might be a little disappointing, but the company is great! 🙂


DoNotWait February 1, 2011 at 10:12 am

When I was a child, even around the age of 7, my parents would give us some tips to save money for the vacation. Recycling aluminum cans was one of the best paying tip for us. When the vacation arrived, we would have that money to use it as we want (candies, souvenirs, clothes, etc.) but when it was gone, it was done! We could spend it in one day if we wanted to, but then we would have to spend the rest of the vacation buying nothing. And don’t bother asking for more money, the answer was no! Still, my parents would sometimes give us spare money as well, as long as we did not ask for it. I think this is a good way to teach kids and not dealing with their “asking” every 10 minutes.


Kris February 1, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Do Not Wait- what a great lesson from your parents. I am curious though, did your spending pattern change over time? I picture a young one would go through their money relatively quickly and may be more conservative as they got older.


101 Centavos February 1, 2011 at 10:19 am

We raided our vacation fund very heavily last year, what with the investment in the new house. This year, it’s going to get replenished and turned into Fort Knox. No touching!


Kris February 1, 2011 at 3:22 pm

101 at least you used the money for a good thing instead of buying a sportscar or something. I am sure it was a wise move to use that money for the house.


JT McGee February 1, 2011 at 10:58 am

Put all spare money into a vacation fund

My parents always did that for both vacations and Christmas. Somehow the change always added up to a ton of money.


Kris February 1, 2011 at 3:25 pm

It is amazing how quickly it can add up, and you are using money that you don’t even miss.


Sandy L February 1, 2011 at 11:24 am

My family is supposed to be in florda this week and they’re flights were all cancelled because of snow.

I paid in full for our rental house and now I am regretting not getting renters insurance.

Hopefully it will all work out.


Nicole February 1, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Oh man, we have two job market candidates due in tonight. I sure hope their flights aren’t canceled.

Good luck with your vacation!


First Gen American February 1, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Yup, no one can get out until at least Sunday cuz all the flights are booked(the day we are supposed to fly back), which means we just lost $1200.

Lesson learned, if you are going on vacation during blizzard or hurricane season and have to pay for someplace in full ahead of time, get renter’s insurance.


Nicole February 1, 2011 at 6:21 pm

One of our candidates has made it to The City, but has to catch a later flight to The Town because of a canceled flight, so dinner is delayed until 7:30. I am snacking. No idea about the other candidate.

That sucks about your vacation. 🙁 I shake my tiny fist at climate change.


Kris February 1, 2011 at 6:38 pm

This is one huge and crazy storm. I would plan on a lot of snacking…


Nicole February 1, 2011 at 9:44 pm

dinner was canceled… she’s still stuck in The City. She’s supposed to get in on the 10pm flight, but who knows


Kris February 1, 2011 at 10:41 pm

I bet she is stressed. I hope you got some dinner!!


Kris February 1, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Oh that is right Sandy- I am so sorry!! I hope you can get a rain check for the rental house. I had to pay in advance for a stay in South Carolina this summer in advance but could not go. They sent me a gift certificate to use instead to use whenever I would like to visit.


First Gen American February 1, 2011 at 10:38 pm

This guy is not being as accomodating. I’m basically getting nothing back for the 5 days I booked..he says he only gives rain checks for hurricanes, but not other storms. (even though the whole east coast is shutdown for 2 days). I’ll wait until I get my security deposit back and then he’s getting one major thumbs down review on VRBO.


Kris February 1, 2011 at 10:41 pm

What a bummer! You need to rip on him at Tripadvisor too, if you can. You would think he would be a little more understanding. It is bad enough to have your vacation canceled at no fault of your own, but then to lose all the money?? I am so sorry!!


retirebyforty February 1, 2011 at 12:23 pm

It’s going to be staycation for at least a year. I think it will be too much trouble to bring baby on a trip. We have plenty of things to do here anyway.


Kris February 1, 2011 at 6:33 pm

RB40- We did plenty of staycations when we had little ones. We actually flew to California with a 4 year old, 3 year old and 18 month old and it was horrifying. (The 18 month old had severe ear pain during the flight. It was the longest 5 hours of my life, except for maybe labor…)

You will have plenty to enjoy with a new baby anyway!


Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog February 1, 2011 at 12:35 pm

These are some great tips. In addition to an entertainment book, look for other discounts, like citypass. I got the citypass in Atlanta and it saved a boatload of money and gave us so many options of things to do. I also second the motion to sell unused items before you leave – it will make them easier to sell!


Kris February 1, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Jeff, I don’t think I have heard of a citypass. Is it like an entertainment book?


krantcents February 1, 2011 at 1:31 pm

During Spring Break, we are heading to New Orleans. This summer, we are going to Vancouver. I am using frequent flier miles for tickets and found a really great B & B in New Orleans.


Kris February 1, 2011 at 6:34 pm

I would love to go to Vancouver, it seems so beautiful there. What are your plans once you get there?

I will wave to you as we drive to Florida over spring break. I have never been to New Orleans. I hope you write a post about your trip!


Money Reasons February 1, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Great ideas! I could use a vacation just from today alone…

I was planning on going to Hawaii or Europe this year, but the rest of my family isn’t too keep on it surprisingly. So now I don’t know what we are going to do… :\


Kris February 1, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Sorry your day is not a good one MR.

Your family doesn’t want to go to Europe or Hawaii? What???

I can tell you what I would do…I would go to Europe or Hawaii!!


Evan February 1, 2011 at 4:31 pm

We set up a separate fund in ING and throw 25 or 50 at it bi-monthly so when we have to pay the bill it feels like half or a third of what it actually is.

We are going to Atlanta sometime this year to see a falcons game (I am a huge fan but live in NY). PUMPED


Kris February 1, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Evan, isn’t it great when you don’t feel too much pain when you pay the vacation bill? I also love watching the money accumulate in my account too.

Do you have family in Atlanta at all, or are you going strictly for football?


Evan February 1, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Strictly, 100% football lol


Squirrelers February 1, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Good tips, all around. Today’s a good day to think of vacations over here, with the crazy weather that’s hit. Just saw forecast calling for 14″ to 24″ of snow in the Chicago area, with 14 to 18 foot waves crashing ashore on Lake Michigan.

Of course people here couldn’t fly anywhere if they wanted to, but it’s fun to daydream for a few about upcoming trips.


Kris February 1, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Squirrel – I can’t imagine waves that are that height, along with all the blowing snow, yikes.

Stay warm, stay dry, and dream of vacation. (Since flying is out of the question.) You can still fly out of Detroit at the moment, but not if the plane was coming from Chicago, or St. Louis, or most other places first…)


Deidre @ TransFormX February 1, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Great tips for saving for the vacation! The nice thing is that if you decide not to go then you have money for the Christmas fund, tax season or 401K!


Invest It Wisely February 2, 2011 at 11:32 am

These are some good tips, and I would also add that if you won’t have the cash to pay off the vacation before paying interest, you probably shouldn’t go. Vacations are great life experiences but they are pure consumption that don’t leave anything of material value remaining, so paying interest on one is doubly punitive on your finances.


Kris February 2, 2011 at 4:44 pm

IIW- I totally agree. Paying interest on vacation is a bad idea. So many people have the ‘well I deserve it’ mentality and just pack their bags and go without thinking of how they are going to pay for it.


ski vacations February 15, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Great tips.thanks for sharing anyway. Winter or summer there is always a fun vacation trip for the entire family and friends. Skiing on snowy mountains or enjoying the sun on the beach are just few fun activities.


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Ski Package May 24, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Great tips. Choosing a smaller to mid sized resort or lodging option for shorter stay will allow you to save money.Maximizing occupancy is what my family would usually do when we go out of town.


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