1-Start saving early. At least six to twelve months in advance. Even before we decide where we are going, we begin saving for our vacation. Where you decide to stash your money can be as simple as a rinsed out pickle jar or an account set up specifically for your vacation fund.
2- Decide on a vacation destination and travel dates. We plan our vacation six months out or even more to ensure that we’ll have ample time to save the money needed. The earlier you choose your travel dates the more time you’ll have to plan and prepare. .
3- Research the details of your trip. Free travel guides and internet research will help you figure out what your total cost will be for lodging, food, transportation, entertainment and any other expenses. Now divide your total by the number of months until your vacation. Your answer will be how much you’ll need to save each month for your trip at full price.
4- Now that you have some concrete numbers to work with you’ll need to get focused on how much you throw into the pickle jar. If the total from step three is unreachable within the time frame you set, consider changing your vacation dates to allow more time to save.
5- Follow the destination discounts. This is the fun part because as you begin to find deals on dining, attractions and more, you’ll see your vacation balance begin to decrease.
:: Dining – The first place I look to reduce cost is on dining. I begin by using our vacation dining budget to purchase discount dining certificates from Restaurant.com, and Groupon. These sites help me cut my dining budget in half yet still eat the same amount and in some cases more food for my money. Just be sure that you are search for dining deals for in the city that you plan to visit. When were planning our vacation to Orlando in 2010, I changed my city in my Groupon account to Orlando. That way, I was able to receive deals for the city I planned to visit versus the city I lived in.
:: Attractions & Events – Social shopping sites Groupon and Living Social can save you as much as 70% off local activities, shopping and events. I use these sites to track daily deal updates in my destination city. When I check my email I can easily see what the daily deals are available in my destination city. These sites generally offer only one deal a day so the emails are not overwhelming. The deals range from discounts on restaurant, attractions, events, shopping and more.
:: Visit a Timeshare. Time share tours allow you to stay several nights in a beautiful resort for less than the cost of a one night hotel stay. Companies that own timeshares have been providing discount vacations for decades. This type of deal gives you the opportunity to experience what time share ownership would be like. They also allow you to vacation in styles for a fraction of the cost. There do have a downside though. You must be willing to give up an hour and a half of your vacation time to attend a sales presentation. The presenters can be aggressive in their sales pitch. Many families have attended thinking they got a great deal on a resort vacation only to return home with a new mortgage. So please use wisdom in your decision to visit a time share resort.
:: Use Member Discounts. Take a look at your AAA, employee, and Alamo FREE member benefits packages to see what discounts are offered. These resources usually offer lot’s of discounts toward vacations during the travel season.
6- Find extra money to fund your trip. Not all of us have a built in vacation budget so we’ll need to be a little more creative with our vacation funding. I believe that the sky is the limit in terms of how you can come up with cash for a vacation. I have used survey earnings to pay for vacations and money earned from blogging. You could also take a part-time job or consider creating a business that could fund your vacation.
7- Begin a coin spending freeze. A coin spending freeze takes place when you decide not to spend any coins, only dollar bills. If you use cash only this will be easy to do. Every time you break a bill, the change from your transaction will be placed into the vacation savings account. This can be done at the end of each day or week. If you use a bank card more than cash just use the round up method. Every time you make a purchase instead of recording the exact amount down to the penny in your checkbook, simply round up to the nearest whole dollar.
At the end of the day or week you can transfer the overage amount into your vacation fund.
8- CouponingtoVacation is a play on words I’m borrowing from Kristin at CouponingtoDisney.com. She was on the right track when she began designating her weekly grocery savings toward her annual Disney vacation. Whatever amount her receipt said she had saved, was deposited into her Disney vacation fund. You can use her technique to coupon your way to any destination. If you are already couponing you’re half way there. For this to work you’ll need to set a weekly, biweekly or monthly grocery budget. The goal is to try and come in under budget each month. Having a grocery, hygiene and household items stockpile really comes in handy when trying to reduce your grocery budget. If your monthly grocery budget is $650 but you only spend $450, you now have $200 to add to your vacation savings.
9- Make a little extra money for your opinion on national brands. You can use your time at your to test products, mystery shop and provide your feedback for compensation. Getting started is easy and you can read more about that HERE.
10- Don’t go into debt. The final tip is simple. If the vacation is going to encourage you to borrow or neglect other obligations, consider putting it off for a few months. The best part of vacationing debt free is coming home and knowing that you won’t receive any bills in 30 days.
To learn more about the habits that help me pay off $52,000 in debt, read the This Way to Debt Freedom series.