Vacations. How wonderful they are, yet how expensive they can be. As you probably know, I recently got back from a week long vacation in Walt Disney World. This trip took a lot of planning and even more saving to make happen (I work in social services, aka not a lot of money). So while I used these tips for Disney specifically, I think most of them can be applied to all kinds of travel. Let’s get into it.
- Try to get an approximate amount that you’ll need to start saving as early as possible. For instance, Disney doesn’t release their pricing for the following year until about the end of June each year. Since I knew I wanted to travel in February, and I started planning REALLY early, I couldn’t price a trip for the exact time I wanted. So I picked a couple of different weeks during the year and made up sample trips to see how much they would cost. I did this with flights as well. And actually, this turned out to be pretty spot on (my flights even ended up being a little cheaper than what I priced before!). Now you have an approximite amount you need. If you’re doing a Disney Dining Plan add that amount in as well. We paid as we went for food but I still came up with an approximate amount just by looking at the restaurants I wanted to go to (and you can do this for any trip). Also budget what you *think* you’ll spend on souvenirs – you know your spending habits, I don’t.
- Whatever figure you just came up with, add to it. It’s better to come home from vacation with money left over than go into debt because of a souvenir or fancy dinner you just had to have.
- When you’re saving, pick an amount and stick to it! If you’re saving for a trip, and you’re on a budget, you’re probably going to have to make some sacrifices somewhere. That may be taking a little from your fun/entertainment money or a clothing budget. Maybe its saving all of your change (my mom starting doing this a few weeks before our trip and ended up with enough to cover a meal for both of us). Whatever you do, pick a certain amount you’re willing to save, and move it to a savings account as soon as it comes in. I chose to put aside 10% of each of my bimonthly paychecks. It doesn’t sound like a ton, but it really accumulated fast. I also used any windfall money (like my tax refund or the rare milage checks I get from my job) and put it toward my trip.
- Save with your Target Red Card. Obviously you can save 5% on your shopping trips to Target, which is helpful, but here’s something else. This tip is not my own, but one I picked up from the DIS Unplugged youtube channel. They discussed using your Target Red Card to buy Disney gift cards to use on snacks, meals, or souvenirs on your trip. You still get the 5% off, so for every $100 of gift cards you buy, you’ll save $5. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but I think any savings, especially for Disney, helps a lot. You can apply this to other trips as well. If you know you’re going to go to a certain restaurant or stop by Starbucks, why not but a gift card and save on that as well! Bonus savings: if you have the Starbucks app you can enter the gift card there and earn rewards to a free drink!
- Use credit card rewards, if you responsibly can. I have a couple of credit cards that I earn cash back with. That’s great! And if you keep your balance paid off, that’s like free money! But if you aren’t so great with credit (believe me I’ve been there), you might want to stay away from the rewards because interest charges will be way more than you ever earn. I always put my rewards money straight into my savings and I probably earn about $100 a year. Again it’s not a ton of money, but I’m of the mindset that every little bit helps!
- Ebates! If you don’t already use it here’s my referral link (you’ll earn $10 if you spend $25!). I think Ebates is great for online shopping that you’re already doing. I mean why not get free money back for something you were already buying. Ebates will also try coupon codes to see if you can save even more. I have the Ebates plugin on my browser so it automatically pops up on online stores that offer cash back. So easy!
And that’s that! I can honestly say if you use some or all of these tips, you’ll be able to take a great vacation, even if you’re not made of money! (Also this post isn’t sponsored by anyone I mentioned, I just really did these things!).