Published in: Credit Cards | Oct. 5, 2019

9 Essential Tips for a Fabulous Destination Birthday on a Budget

We are committed to full transparency as part of our mission to make the world smarter, happier, & richer. You should know that offers on The Ascent may be from our partners - it's how we make money. That transparency to you is core to our editorial integrity, which isn’t influenced by compensation.

How to do more and spend less.

You’ve experienced your fair share of typical birthday parties, and you’ve eaten enough supermarket cake to last you a lifetime. This year, you’re determined to celebrate in a way you’ll remember forever -- by organizing the trip of a lifetime for you and your friends. 

birthday gift with map wrapping paper

Image source: Getty Images

A destination birthday is an exciting choice that is sure to create unforgettable memories, but it can also be expensive. Here's how to plan a fabulous birthday trip and still stick to your budget.

1. Pick somewhere close to home

You might long to travel to faraway places, but have you considered exploring what’s right on your doorstep? Opting for a road-trip instead of paying for flights will save everyone money, and the trip there can even be one of the best parts of the entire vacation. 

You can search for interesting homes and experiences on Airbnb, or choose to “rough it” a little and book a stay in a tent or yurt at a nearby campground or national park. Your group might even pick the nearest big city and let yourselves be tourists for the weekend. Take the money you save on airline tickets and splurge on dinner and drinks.

2. Start a birthday savings fund

The best way to prepare for your destination birthday is to begin saving as far ahead of time as you can. Saving money is often difficult when you only have one bank account, so consider opening up a free savings account specifically for your trip.

Having more than one account is beneficial for so many reasons, especially when you know you have a large expense coming up. Most employers allow you to split your direct deposit for each paycheck over multiple accounts, so consider setting up a certain amount to automatically deposit into your savings each payday.

3. Pay for your trip with credit card points

An upcoming trip is the perfect time to use your credit cards -- and no, I don’t mean racking up a huge credit card bill. Instead, start earning and using points! Many credit cards offer travel rewards, and using them responsibly can allow you to purchase airline tickets and hotel stays for free.

Be aware, however, that using your credit cards to earn points is only a good idea if you pay your bill off in full every month. Otherwise, the interest fees on your purchases will cancel out any money you’ll be saving by using your points.

4. Split a vacation home with friends

Vacation home sites such as Airbnb, Vrbo, and HomeAway are becoming more and more popular, especially for those traveling as a group. Instead of booking multiple hotel rooms, why not split a vacation rental instead?

Not only can this save you money on accommodations, but you’ll save on food and laundry too, as these homes will likely include a kitchen and access to a washer and dryer. Not to mention you might enjoy waking up with your friends all in the same place on your birthday.

5. Use a budget travel tour company

If you thought booking a package tour with a travel company was only for the wealthy, think again. Many tour companies now focus on budget travel, with packages that feature everything you want but won’t cost your entire life savings. Explore travel companies such as Under30Experiences, Cosmos Tours, Intrepid Travel, and Contiki. 

You can find trips to Portugal from $849 per person through Cosmos Tours, or visit Morocco with Intrepid Travel from $964 per person. Contiki offers a trip to explore the Colombian rainforest from $639 per person! Under30Experiences offers $50 off your first trip just for signing up for their newsletter, and many other companies will offer a similar deal. Start checking these websites well before your birthday so you can take advantage of sales or last-minute deals.

6. Consider renting a car 

If you’re traveling as a group and need to move around, splitting the cost of a rental car may actually end up being more economical than other forms of transportation for your group.

A lot depends on your location, but it may work out cheaper than paying for taxis or multiple Uber rides, or even using public transportation. You may also want to consider the convenience of being able to get around as a group on your own schedule.

Some credit cards may even include rental car insurance, which will save you even more, plus you can split the total cost of the rental car between your whole group.

7. Keep your eyes peeled for flight deals

If you’re planning your birthday trip within the next several months, it’s time to set up a Google flight alert. This will allow you to be notified of any drops in the price of airline tickets for your particular travel dates.

Another great tool for finding airline tickets is to sign up for a service that lets you know about airline sales and mistake fares, such as Scott’s Cheap Flights. Also, make sure to compare multiple search engines. You can often take the dates you found on Google and place them into another search engine, such as Kiwi or Momondo, to find an even better deal.

8. Travel during off-season

Traveling during the off-season will save you money on your hotel, flights, and even food and entrance fees. Although Paris may be beautiful in the spring and summer, the best time to go is actually during the winter, when everything is less expensive. 

This is true for most places, so before you make your plans, spend some time researching when the off-season is for your particular destination. There will be fewer crowds to deal with and you’re sure to find some great deals.

A simple Google search will let you know what dates to book. Keep in mind there’s no rule that says you can’t celebrate your birthday throughout the year, so don’t feel like you’re restricted only to that one day.

9. Track all your expenses during the trip

One of the most difficult parts of traveling as a group is keeping track of expenses. Designate one person to keep copies of receipts, or at least write everything down in their phone. Then, you can use apps like Venmo and Splitwise to make sure everyone is paying for their fair share.

If you plan ahead and scour the web for travel deals, it's totally possible to throw a destination birthday party on a budget.

Our #1 cash back pick has a surprise bonus

This may be the perfect cash back card! That's because it packs in $1,148 of value. Cardholders can earn up to 5% cash back, double rewards in the first year, and avoid interest well into 2020. With such a deep bench of perks you'll wonder how this card packs in a $0 annual fee. Best yet, you can apply and get a decision in two minutes. Learn more with our in-depth review.

Find the right card for you

Travel