I’m really excited to welcome Greg from Club Thrifty! We have a few family vacations planned for the upcoming year so I was really glad they had some tips they wanted to share with you all. I’ve already implemented a few of these 😉
Travel is one of those things that almost everyone wishes they could do more of.
And can you blame them? There’s nothing like getting away from your day to day routine and seeing the world.
So what’s the #1 reason people don’t travel as much as they’d like?
If you guessed money, you’re right.
The fact is, although most people would like to travel more often, they don’t believe they can afford it.
Sure, travel isn’t always cheap. You can certainly spend a fortune on it if you want to. But, if you approach it the right way (i.e. the thrifty way), travel can be affordable.
Here are 5 tips your family can use to save for your next vacation.
Maximize credit card rewards
It blows my mind how many otherwise financially savvy people are not leveraging credit card rewards.
Credit cards get a bad rap, and some of that is earned. If you don’t know how to manage them properly, you can get yourself into a financial disaster.
The good news is that the rules are pretty simple. Here’s the most important one: Always pay your credit card in full by the statement due date. As long as you do this, you’ll never pay a cent in interest, and your account will always be in good standing.
If you can’t do that, then forget credit cards for now. If you can, great! Let’s keep going.
Credit card rewards basically work like this:
- You sign up for a card
- You earn a welcome bonus based on meeting a minimum spending requirement during the first few months
- You earn a fixed reward for every dollar you spend
- You accumulate these rewards for a while and then cash out – cha-ching!
Some cards offer cash back rewards and others offer points that you can redeem towards travel.
Personally, our favorite points to earn are Chase Ultimate Rewards. Why? Because we believe their flexible redemption options offer the best value in the industry.
You can earn Chase points using one of several Chase credit cards. Then, you can redeem them for cash back, book travel using their online portal, or transfer to other loyalty programs. See what I mean about flexibility?
My family and I have had incredible success leveraging credit card rewards to fund travel. I’m talking saving hundreds (or even thousands) on flights and hotels per trip. If you’re serious about traveling for less, you need to get in the credit card rewards game.
Wanna give it a try? The key is to use your credit card on all of your regular spending so that you maximize your points. It doesn’t work if you only use your card now and then! And of course, always pay it in full every month so you don’t overspend and avoid interest.
Start a travel fund and automate your savings
Credit card rewards are awesome and will absolutely save you a ton on travel if you maximize them. But, sometimes you need some actual cash money, too.
Don’t start saving a month before you’re ready to leave. You’ll be left with empty pockets and a fist full of debt. Instead, save throughout the year by starting a savings account specifically for travel. Then, build regular contributions to that savings account into your budget.
Let’s say you decide you’d like to save $2,000 for a trip you’re going to take in 12 months.
Open a free online savings account just for your travel plans. After doing the math, you discover that $2,000 divided by 26 bi-weekly pay periods is $77. So, you know you need to put $77 from each paycheck into that account in order to have $2,000 saved at the end of the year.
You then set it up so $77 is automatically transferred from your main account into your travel savings account every pay day. Easy!
This works well because, while $2,000 might sound like a big goal, $77 is much more manageable. By automating your savings, you don’t really miss the money. And, because you’ve built it into your budget, you know you can afford it.
Choose destination based on price
Sometimes you may have a specific trip in mind – a family trip to Disney, a brother’s wedding at Niagara Falls. But other times, you’re probably more flexible.
I don’t know about you, but there are literally hundreds of places I’d love to visit. So, when planning a trip, why not narrow it down to three or four places your family would like to go? Then, choose the one that fits best with your budget and timing.
Depending on how flexible your schedule is, timing might play a big role in this.
Suppose you know you want to travel during July or August when your kids are on summer vacation. Check prices for July and August for your top three or four destinations and see which spot offers the best value.
Certain destinations have “off seasons” that come with heavy discounts. Maybe it’s because the weather isn’t as nice during that time, but don’t let that scare you away from checking into it. Often times, the weather is still enjoyable and the attractions are less crowded.
Looking for inspiration? Check out these cheap vacation ideas.
Consider driving instead of flying
Depending on where you’re going, it might be cheaper to drive instead of fly.
Obviously, flying could be faster. But, depending on your vacation goals, driving might actually be better – and not just financially.
If you’re only going as far as the next state, a road trip can be a fun and economical way to see more or what’s in-between your destinations. By driving, you get to check out cities and attractions that you’d miss completely if you flew.
The cost-savings can be significant for a family. Sure, you have to pay for gas and maybe an overnight in a hotel along the way, but that will likely be much cheaper than airfare for three or more people.
Another lower key and low-cost option is to consider traveling within your own state. I know that may not sound super-exciting at first, but the fact is there may be a few unknown gems you haven’t explored yet.
You don’t have to pay for airfare, it’s closer so you won’t spend a fortune on gas, and you get to know your home state better. Win-win-win.
Traveling can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. With these tips, your family can vacation for less.
Whether you save up your credit card rewards for a dream trip or plan a budget-friendly road trip, my advice is to travel whenever you can!
What are some strategies you’ve used to save on travel?
Greg Johnson is a personal finance and frugal travel expert who leveraged his online business to quit his 9-5 job, spend more time with his family, and travel the world. He is the co-owner of the popular blog Club Thrifty, where he teaches others how to spend less and travel more.