Save Now, Play Later: Cool Winter Tips for Making that Summer Vacation a Reality

When the winds stir up and temperatures dip below freezing, it might feel like the winter months are never going to end. But with a bit of planning, you could be sitting beneath swaying palm trees or exploring the old country next summer. Try these tips and tricks for saving enough pennies to travel in just about six months.

First Things First:

While you don’t need to book anything immediately, you’ll need an idea of where you’re going and when. This will help you estimate a ballpark figure for your holiday that covers transportation, lodging and spending money. Do a bit of research, so your figures are realistic. Once you have that number, you can break down how much you need to save each month, or make adjustments to a vacation budget that’s achievable (like researching different travel dates or another place to stay).

Start your holiday fund as soon as you can. Having a visual savings goal is a good way to stay motivated, and you’ll be more likely to stay on track. You could open a special savings account, for example, or simply label an envelope – something like “Aloha!” or “For Paris” – to stash your cash. For some people, having the cash readily accessible makes it too easy to use it for something else, so consider whether an envelope of money earmarked for your summer holiday will be motivating, or just too tempting. In that case, a savings account is likely a better option, assuming you can avoid bank fees.

Now, Here’s How to Start Stuffing That Envelope or Bank Account:

  • Keep your eyes on the prize, even if that means cutting back now. If you have subscriptions or memberships to plans and services your rarely use, cancel them and put the extra money straight into your vacation fund. Think about other non-essentials (family movie night, a day at the spa, your daily coffee run, etc.) that you can forego, just for a few months. There’s no need to spend money when you can host a movie night or a DIY spa day from the comfort of your own home.
  • Skip the grocery store for one week every month. This so-called “Pantry Week” is a fast way to throw at least $100, and probably more, into your vacation fund. For one week, make do with whatever you have in your pantry and fridge. You’ll have to get creative, but it’s definitely a doable challenge (and it can even be kind of fun). When you do grocery shop, go prepared. Plan meals beforehand, so that you can buy exactly what you need – and nothing more.
  • Skip eating out. If you just need a break from cooking, ready-made meals from the deli will likely still run you less than a visit to a restaurant. Packing lunches for the week will save you quite a bit as well – all money that will quickly pad your vacation fund.
  • Sell something. If garage sales are out because of the weather, hit up online sites like Craigslist or check Facebook for local rummage sale groups. You can de-clutter and make some extra cash all at the same time.
  • Plan now to divert any tax refund into your savings fund.

Pro Tips:

  • Consider taking advantage of credit card offers and perks. The Alaska Airlines Signature Visa card offers a $99 companion fare, which is a pretty sweet deal. Using a credit card to book your vacation so far ahead of time can also be a good way to lock in lower prices. In that case, your goal will be to have the balance paid off completely and your spending money put aside before vacation day arrives.
  • Sign up for email alerts from airlines and travel companies – you may be pleasantly surprised with flash sales and limited-time offers.

The Most Affordable Places to Travel in 2017:

According to Forbes, these destinations will get you the most bang for your buck this year (and the list might surprise you, too!):

  • Mazatlan, Mexico
  • South Africa
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Chile
  • Crete
  • Morocco
  • Belize
  • Vietnam
  • Costa Rica
  • Portugal