4 Things I'm Doing to Save for a Big Summer Vacation

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We don't know what summer travel will look like, but one writer is hoping for an improvement over last year.

The summer of 2020 was fun for my family, considering everything that was going on. We spent a lot of time at the beach, at our neighbor's pool, and exploring local sights. But from a travel standpoint, it was a huge bummer.

My husband and I spent the better part of 2019 saving for an Alaskan vacation with our kids that was scheduled for August of 2020. But then the pandemic hit, and suddenly, we found ourselves scrambling to recoup our deposits, cancel our flights without penalty, and resign ourselves to putting that dream trip on hold for a long time.

We won't be attempting a major trip like Alaska this summer -- I can say that with certainty. But I am hoping we can travel more than we did in 2020. Of course, any trip we're able to take will cost money, and to that end, we'll need to save. Though we still have a lot of the money we didn't spend on Alaska tucked away in a savings account, we're trying to keep that cash untouched for when an opportunity to go there arises. In other words, we're starting from square one for this summer's trip, so here are some strategies I'm employing to sock away funds for it.

1. Cutting back on food delivery

Though my family isn't dining at restaurants these days due to safety concerns, we've been ordering our share of takeout meals. Part of that is to support local restaurants, and part of it is to enjoy more variety and take the pressure off on those nights when we're too tired or busy to cook. But even takeout can be an expensive prospect for us.

Sometimes we'll pull off a meal for under $30, but often, we're in the $50 range when we account for our kids' pickiness and taste. I'm hoping that by ordering in a bit less, we can squeeze out an extra $100 a month or so that can go toward a vacation.

2. Taking on extra work

Being self-employed means I have the option to take on extra work and earn additional money. Finding the time to do that work, however, is a challenge. As it is, I work eight to nine hours a day while looking after three children who are currently learning remotely full time. Oh, and there's a dog who needs to be fed and walked, too. Thankfully, I have support from my husband, who's fully remote right now as well, but what I don't have are a lot of extra open hours during the week.

Still, I've already spent the first few weekends of 2021 putting in a little time on the work front, and I plan to continue doing so if I'm able. Since we're mostly hunkering down during the pandemic, I'm not missing out on much by spending a few hours on a Sunday at my desk, and I know that extra cash will be helpful in funding a trip.

3. Selling items we don't need

Having three kids means that through the years, we've accumulated stuff that has either been outgrown or hardly used. Such is the case with our massive haul of barely touched toys, electronics, clothing, and exercise gear.

Recently, a friend told me she made $2,000 selling old household and kid items online while clearing out her basement, and it's inspired me to try something similar. Granted, I'll be setting rules: I won't try to sell anything I can't get at least $20 for, because otherwise, it's not worth my time when I could do extra work instead. But that way, I can accomplish two goals -- bank money for travel and declutter my house.

4. Maximizing credit card rewards

Getting my hands on free money is a good way to finance the trip I'm hoping to take, so to that end, I plan to apply for a new credit card strategically. I already have my eye on one card with a generous sign-up bonus that's coupled with a relatively low spending threshold -- $200 cash back for spending $500 in three months. In my family, we spend over $500 on groceries in one month, so that's more than doable.

At the same time, I'm charging expenses on my existing cards in a purposeful way. One card gives me bonus points for gas purchases, and while I'm not driving as much as I used to, I'm making sure to put all fill-ups on it. I'm also paying better attention to rotating bonus categories so I can charge my expenses in a way that gives me the most cash back.

I don't know what summer travel will look like this year, and I'm not planning on flying anytime soon. Rather, there's a good chance we'll aim to take a road trip -- something we normally do every year. But even car travel can be expensive. There's fuel, lodging, food, and entertainment to account for, so I'm doing my best to save ahead of time. The more money I put aside, the more options we'll have for a getaway if things improve on the pandemic front and we're comfortable exploring more corners of the country. And if that doesn't happen, then hey, I suppose we'll have more money on hand for the summer of 2022.

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