When you’re on a budget, funding a family vacation might seem impossible. After all, what with flights, food, hotels, and sightseeing, the expenses incurred on a trip for four or five people can rack up quickly. But with a little creativity and some discipline, paying for a vacation is definitely doable.
Paying for a family vacation doesn’t have to mean crowdsourcing the money from friends, family, and strangers online. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can come up with the money for a trip by setting up an automatic transfer into a savings account, for example. You may be able to make payments on your vacation through a layaway program. Start planning now, and you could rake in a nice tax refund next spring that could help you cover travel costs. Get creative with lodging solutions, and if your trip has a business, volunteer, or educational purpose, apply for a travel grant.
Here are 5 ways to pay for your next trip!
1. Set Up a Travel Savings Account
The easiest way to work traveling into your budget is to set up a savings account dedicated to your vacation fund. Many banks will let you set up a savings or checking account for free, but make sure there aren’t any minimum balance penalties; that way when it’s time to start spending the money, you’ll be able to spend it all. A debit card is also a good idea, so when you book travel reservations, you can pay for them right out of your travel savings account.
How are you going to fund your travel savings account? The best way is to set up an automatic transfer. It doesn’t have to be big; just $10 or $15 a week will add up to hundreds over the course of a year. Save your spare change and make an extra deposit once or twice a month — just $1.37 a day in quarters, dimes, and nickels will add up to about $500 over the course of a year. If you have a yard sale, sell something on Craigslist, or get a bonus at work, put some or all of that money into your travel fund.
2. Maximize Your Tax Refund to Get a Vacation Windfall
Lots of people pay for dream trips using their tax refund checks. It’s never too early to start planning for tax season; most experts recommend that you start forming your tax strategy for any given year in January, before you’ve even paid the previous year’s taxes. Make sure you take advantage of all the tax deductions at your disposal. Charitable contributions are a major overlooked deduction that could help you get the cash you need to take your family to Disneyland or Machu Picchu. Most people have plenty of stuff lying around that they don’t use anymore. Consider donating old furniture or household goods; donate your old boat to charity and stick the money you would have spent on upkeep and your larger tax refund into your vacation savings fund.
3. Use a Vacation Layaway Program
I bet you didn’t know you could put vacations on layaway, but you can! Look for reputable companies like Sears Vacations or Gate 1 Travel. Vacation packages through these chains can cost as little as $399 and you can pay for your vacation in installments. While you can reserve your vacation package for as little as $100, you’ll need to make sure you stick to the agreed payment schedule — late payment fees can make travel layaway programs as costly as high-interest credit cards. Remember, if you don’t pay off your trip by the deadline, you forfeit the money you already paid.
4. Try House Swapping to Cut Lodging Costs
After the plane tickets, lodging is one of the biggest expenses you’ll incur when traveling. If you can take the cost of lodging out of the picture, your trip will become a lot more affordable. For a small monthly fee, you can list your home on a swapping website that allows you to trade houses with another family in your destination city. You’ll each get to take the vacation of your dreams, without shelling out for hotel rooms.
5. Apply for a Travel Grant
While you probably won’t be able to get a travel grant for a family vacation, you might if your trip has an educational, research, or professional purpose. This applies to students who want to travel abroad, too. If you’re traveling for volunteer purposes, you may be able solicit donations to cover the cost of your trip from your church or temple, a local charity organization, or a community-minded nonprofit.
Traveling isn’t cheap, but that doesn’t mean it’s beyond your means. Funding your family vacations is largely a matter of discipline and creative problem-solving skills. So get out there and see the world — there’s no reason not to!
Guest article provided to Jen is on a Journey.