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7 Sneaky Ways to Save for Your Next Vacation

Let’s be honest: It takes more than a wish to make travel happen. For many, the biggest hurdle is the cash.

I’m here to tell you that the trip you daydream about is possible. Saving up doesn’t have to be so hard. And yes, you still can have that fancy coffeehouse drink if you want it!

Here’s a few sneaky ways to save for your next vacation.


1. Get clear on your goal (& write it down!).

7 Sneaky Ways to Save for Your Next Vacation

It’s hard to save for something if you don’t have a concrete number in mind. Research your ideal trip. There’s the flight, accommodations, and transportation once you arrive. Will you have a kitchen? Factor in groceries. If not, how much are meals out? Be sure to include all the fun activities you hope do once there. Is there a big splurge, like a helicopter ride or meal you want to enjoy? Will you buy souvenirs? Once you’ve calculated how much your dream trip will cost, boom. You have a goal! Write it down somewhere where you’ll see it. Bonus points if you pick a date for taking said trip.

2. Give yourself daily reminders.

7 Sneaky Ways to Save for Your Next Vacation

I know this might sound a bit woo-woo, but daily reminders of your dream vacation will help keep you on track. Make that white sandy beach the screensaver on your phone or computer. Place a photo of your destination in your wallet—a good reminder each and every time you reach for the credit card or cash.

3. Dollars and cents.

7 Sneaky Ways to Save for Your Next Vacation

I’ve read that the average person’s change equals around $40 to $50 a month! Even if it was just $30 a month, you’d save $360 dollars in a year. Maybe that’s the money you do something extra splurgy with.

Want to take it a step farther? A friend of mine and her husband decided to not spend every $5 bill that crossed their path for three years. By the end of their savings experiment, they had enough to pay for everything but airfare (which they bought with miles) for 16 days in Thailand. She said it led to guilt-free spending on their trip, and the saving process was painless! Store your fives in a coffee can, or if that’s a little too Great-Aunt Mildred for you, deposit them into a designated travel savings account.

4. Really look at your spending.

7 Sneaky Ways to Save for Your Next Vacation

This one might be a bit painful, but it’s worth it. Print out your bank and credit card statements from the last 60 days. Then, take out a green, pink and blue highlighter. Highlight all your necessary expenses with the green marker—stuff like rent or a mortgage, insurance, utilities, getting your car fixed, etc.

Next, highlight all the expenditures that make you truly happy. Do you love going to concerts or getting a nice haircut? Maybe your morning latte is the thing that gets you through the day. If it makes you smile, mark it pink.

Lastly, highlight every ambivalent purchase (or ones you can’t even remember making!) with the blue highlighter. You might realize you’re spending $20 a month on bottled water because you forget to bring your own, or that you’re somehow spending $100 a month on crappy sandwiches from the sub shop by your office. It can be shocking to realize how these small expenses really add up. Sure, it takes more planning, but could you save enough for a flight by bringing your own lunch to work?

I love this method because it’s so individualized, and if done right, singles out purchases you won’t even miss.

5. Tell everyone about your upcoming trip.

Talk to your friends and family about your travel savings goal. This is a great way to keep yourself accountable, and it will also influence the kinds of activities you plan together. Dinner and drinks out can really add up. By letting your loved ones know you’re saving for something special, they’ll be more understanding of your desire to stay in. Why not make dinner together? Let’s be honest, for most of us, it’s less about the food and more about the camaraderie.

6. Get inspired!

A great book to have as a crash course on fun ways to save money is David Pogue’s Basic’s Money. It just came out, costs $15  and has a lot of great day-to-day tips on how to save money everywhere.

Here’s two of my favorite tidbits of advice from his book. gives you coupon codes from 50,000 stores to redeem at the end of an online purchase. You know when it has the space to enter a special promotional code to save money and you’re like how do I get one of those? Just go to this website.

The other is which tracks purchase prices from Amazon. It then gives you a history chart on that particular item so you know how low it can go. You to sign up for price alerts so you know when you want to buy. Brilliant!

7. You’re gonna use a credit card anyway…

Why not make it a good travel rewards card? I have two: a Chase Sapphire Card and a Bank of America Travel Rewards card (I am not a spokesperson for either).

Sapphire gives me 2 points per dollar on every travel purchase and 1 point for everything else. They also have a rewards center online where I can book travel.

My Bank of America card has no annual fee (woohooo!) and I earn 1.5 points on every dollar on every purchase. I just use those points to pay down travel purchases made with the card. Both have no foreign transaction fees. It’s a great way to earn points towards travel by doing something you were going to do anyway. And now when your furnace breaks this winter, you’ll think “I know, I’ll charge it!…Hawaii, here I come!!!” 

What are some of your favorite sneaky ways to save for travel? Share in the comments!

How many of us said we’d like to travel more in 2017? Here’s a few sneaky tips to help you save up for that next vacation.

This Post Has 25 Comments

  1. Only keep $5 and higher bills. If you want to buy a candy bar, you pay with a $5 bill and the change goes to your savings jar.

  2. The saving $5.00 WORKS! I have been doing this for years. In 2013 I paid for tickets to four different Broadway shows this way. Last year I saved up the cost of a limo and the cost to board our dog in style with my $5.00 savings. Best savings advice I have ever received. I already have $300 saved for our next adventure to Australia.

  3. I claim zero withholding and use that yearly refund towards a trip. I also bought a $99 cappuccino maker which paid for itself in the first month ($4.00 Starbuck Lattes x 7 = 112.00) and continues to save me a huge amount of money. In December we take advantage of restaurant offers that give you an extra incentive if you buy their gift cards (i.e. Buffalo Wild Wings $5.00 given with $25.00 gift card). We try not to eat out too much and/or find cheap alternatives. My credit cards are linked so that if I eat at a participating restaurant (MileagePlus) I get points. I only used credit card that give points and pay everything with credit cards. If I have an expense at work I use my personal card (for points) and get reimbursed instead of using company card. Thanks for the post!

  4. If you want to know if a shop, cafe or restaurant serves good food check to see if there is a long line there.

  5. While shopping for necessary items that are on sale at CVS and other stores that calculate savings and print these savings on the receipt, I actually save this savings and place in my vacation stash/vacation account. This includes savings from coupons cut from the Sunday paper. This really, really adds up! I also save change and don’t spend $1 bills.

    1. Couponing totally works! Every time I would save money with coupons, I would put that amount away in my savings jar. So far I’ve paid for baby furniture and a Disney World vacation.

  6. Use auto deduct from your paycheck. Open a separate savings account and nickname it in your on line banking, “travel cash”. Then take out as much as you can ($50 per paycheck?) and direct deposit it to your travel cash account. When you get a raise, increase the amount-the very first week! Otherwise you’ll get used to your higher amount. After your trip, keep it up and plan another one!

  7. Keep checking prices even after you’ve booked. If you’re traveling domestically, Southwest Airlines lets you rebook a flight for no fee if the price drops and get a credit valid for one year from date of original purchase. I’ve done this several times and had credits that paid a large chunk of my next flight. Also, hotel rates often fluctuate and you can usually rebook without penalty if a lower rate comes up (unless you booked a non-changeable reservation).

  8. I have a Southwest card and a capital one CC. My trip to Italy a year ago I got all the airbnb’s we stayed in free! I have gone to Nashville 3 times in this past year, never paid any airfare, all saved up miles, plus at least 4 other RT airfares free. And my next trip in June will be completely free, air and hotel (really nice one too)! For me, this is the easiest for me as I have a hard time saving for travel, so I pay for every little thing on my Credit cards!

    1. Can you share the name of the places you stayed in Italy. Working on this trip and that would really be helpful to know the great places to book.

  9. Saving change!! I do all, yes all, of my Christmas shopping from saved change every year. Painless!

    Love the tip about telling friends. Have already gotten a couple of helpful comments from them when I mentioned taking a holiday.

  10. Coupon. I save approx $30/week clipping and using store coupons and discounts. The points I accrue at my grocery store save me $1/gallon on gas.
    It adds up. It pays for a trip to a spa in Mexico each year.
    And the points I get using a travel rewards credit card all year pay for another free flight.

    1. Take couponing two steps further. Step One: sign up for apps like Ibotta and Savings Star that give you rebates on many grocery items in a cash account. Step Two: Look at your grocery receipt to see how much you saved with coupons and store savings, and then deposit that amount in a travel savings account. Together, these steps don’t just save you money, they build up your travel savings! #ChaChing!

  11. I suggest the 52 Week Money Challenge. If you stick it through you can save up to $1378. There’s your trip or whatever. I try not to use credit cards anymore to pay for anything I don’t have the money for.

    1. Toni, you use a credit card for whatever you would pay cash for. You link to a checking account to auto pay. Get the points and never have a debt.

  12. I have an automatic small transfer from checking account to vacation account every two weeks. I don’t even miss the money. I just see my vacation growing every month.

  13. We have finally moved things from storage $130 a month to a garage at our apartment complex $50 a month. Great savings there already, but we have also sold things we no longer want or use. It has paid for our upcoming trip to Italy for 8 days plus our spending money. Not using credit card at all and have money in savings from selling stuff we no longer use

  14. My daughter and I each picked a couple letters starting the serial numbers of $1.00 bills. We each took 2 letters. We each saved for ourselves and each other. Those bills could NOT be spent. When we got to $50.00 or $100.00 we took them to the bank for our vacation fund. You would be surprised how fast they add up. (Not so fast since Covid). Paid a good portion of our Alaskan cruise.

  15. I put EVERYTHING on a Marriott Credit Card. Anything I put on the Credit Card is paid off as soon as the charge posts. My last trip to Europe was 100% points (airfare and hotel). In 3 weeks i’m taking my Niece to London and Paris for 14 days. Again, all on points. I also transfer a small amount into a “Bucket” every month – building up vacation money.

  16. 2 ways to save at Target is to buy gift cards (excluding Target GC’s and Visa type cards) at Target using the Target Red card, either the credit or debit card will work. You save 5% on every Target purchase. Gift cards are considered entertainment purchases at Target. You can buy a GC to say Chilis and use it on your vacation or buy it and put the money you save into your vacation fund. They also sell some travel type GC’s for airlines and even Disney. If you are going to Disney you can use them to save on tickets, lodging, and vacation packages. If you are going to spend day 5k on a Disney vacation using the GC’s save you $250 dollars that you can use elsewhere, depending on where you are staying it’s like getting a night free.

  17. My credit union has an automatic vacation savings plan. My check is direct deposited and my credit union takes my desired amount out each paycheck. Then they mail me a check in June that says “Happy traveling!” in the memo. It’s actually so exciting to get that “gift” each dimmer! Then I combine that with my BofA Cash Rewards and I have a good chunk to spend on trips.

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Here’s a few sneaky tips to help you save up for that next vacation.
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