How to Plan Your Best Summer Vacation Yet
A little preparation could set the stage for an amazing -- and affordable -- adventure.
There's a reason summer is a popular time to travel: The weather is warm, school's not in session, and it's easier to pack up and escape the daily grind.
Are you eager to get away this summer? Some advanced planning could help you pull off your dream trip without breaking the bank or, worse yet, racking up lots of debt. Here are a few things you can do to pay for your best vacation ever.
1. Cut back on spending in the weeks leading up to your trip
It's hard to deprive ourselves of luxuries for the promise of far-off milestones like retirement. But if you significantly reduce your spending in the weeks before your vacation, you'll have more money on your travels. You should have an easier time motivating yourself to make those sacrifices since they could translate into an extra few days on vacation.
To this end, take a look at your budget and see where you've got some wiggle room. You may decide to avoid dining out for a month or two before your trip so you can bank your savings and use that money to upgrade your flight or hotel room.
2. Work a side hustle for extra cash
These days, you can turn just about any interest into a side hustle. Computer work, pet care, crafts, cooking, and almost anything else can help you pad your savings.
Want to indulge this summer? Put in some time working a second gig before your trip arrives. Since the money you earn won't be earmarked for other bills, you can use it to enhance your itinerary.
3. Apply for a credit card with a generous sign-up bonus
If your credit is great, consider applying for a card with a sign-up bonus before your trip. You could earn a nice chunk of cash to fund your vacation.
Let's look at an example. Some cards offer cash bonuses for spending $3,000 in the first three months. If you know you'll be spending $3,000 between now and your trip, you could take advantage. Charge your regular bills on that card and score an extra $500 to spend when you're away.
4. Ditch the hotel -- unless you have points to pay for one
There's a reason sites like Airbnb are so popular: They help you save a fortune on lodging costs with comfortable, convenient housing. Staying in a home instead of a hotel can save you $100 or more per night. And, as an added perk, you'll generally have access to a kitchen that allows you to prepare your own food and save money in another way.
Is staying at a hotel an integral part of your vacation experience? Maybe you're looking to stay at a resort with a giant pool and on-site fine dining. Bank your credit card points and use them to cover the accommodations you're looking for. Just as importantly, sign up for that hotel chain's loyalty program. You never know when doing so might score you a complimentary upgrade.
5. Cash in your frequent flyer miles
Depending on your destination, airfare could be the most expensive part of your trip. If you have a credit card that makes it easy to rack up miles, use that card in the months leading up to your trip. Then cash them in at the right time.
Of course, there's also another option: Round up some friends, rent a car (or use your own), and drive to your destination. Not only are you apt to save loads of money, but you'll enjoy the bonding experience along the way.
6. Use a travel rewards card for extra perks
Travel rewards cards don't just let you rack up air miles and hotel points; they also offer perks that make traveling more comfortable and affordable. Using a travel card for your vacation this summer might get you bonus features like
- free checked bags when you fly,
- priority boarding, and
- airport lounge access while you wait to take off.
If you're headed overseas, you can generally avoid foreign transaction fees, too. Just as importantly, most travel cards offer some degree of insurance that protects you from mishaps along the way. That peace of mind is certainly a nice thing to have.
There's nothing like vacationing during the summer. Save and plan carefully, and with any luck, you'll enjoy the fun getaway you deserve.
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