According to Priceline’s Work-Life Balance Report , more than half of American employees have unused vacation days. In fact, in 2019, nearly 44 million working Americans have 7+ vacation days that remain unused.
The big question here is—why? Why aren’t we all taking more vacations?
According to a joint survey by Project: Time Off and GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications, one of the biggest reasons is money. Or rather, a lack thereof. As the survey results showed, 33% of respondents said their “inability to afford taking time off” hindered their plans.
But, money doesn’t have to stop you from heading off on the journey of a lifetime—so long as you’re up for a little bit of planning. Here are a few tried and true tips and tricks people use when saving up for a vacation, so you can get away without feeling the pinch.
The Importance of Emergency Savings
While we’d love to say everyone should just pick up and go on the vacation of their dreams right now, that simply isn’t a reality for everyone. Before you think about saving for a vacation you should consider saving for life’s emergencies first. And a prime way to do that is by establishing a healthy emergency fund.
To build an emergency fund, a general rule of thumb is to have at least three to six months of expenses put away. It’s totally okay to start off with a small fund and build your way up over time. This account may be for a true emergency, such as a car breaking down, an unexpected move, paying rent after being laid off, or a visit to the emergency room.
Beyond emergency funds, it may be a good idea to ensure you’ve paid off any high-interest debt before allocating your money toward a vacation.
Starting a Separate Account for Travel
Once your emergency reserves are on good footing, you can take the first step in saving for a vacation by opening a separate account earmarked for travel. Keeping it in the same bank as the rest of your money could allow you to easily keep track of how much you’ve saved, and make it a bit simpler to transfer extra cash into your vacation account.
Pro tip: Many financial institutions will let you name the account, which is seriously worth doing. It might be harder to be motivated to contribute to account XXX924 than your “Valentine’s Day in Paris” Fund. Go ahead and give it a good name so you know what you’re working towards.
If you want to level up, you could also set up automatic deposits into this account each week or month, depending on your pay cycle and what you’re comfortable with. You could even allocate a specific amount to be auto deposited right from your paycheck. That way, it’s like you never even had the money for anything else, and won’t see it until you’re ready to go on vacation.
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Doing Some Research on Your Dream Vacation
Now, it’s time to do the fun part—start researching your trip. Decide what kind of vacation you want to have—be it a surf, snow, hiking, adventure, leisure, city, or country escape — then start looking into destinations that suit your desires. (Need a little help picking a spot? Here are a few budget-friendly spring break destinations that may work for you.)
Once you pick a spot, you can look at things like average hotel pricing, average food cost, transportation costs (including the flight, drive, boat, or train there as well as a car rental, taxi, or ridesharing service for when you’re there), average excursion cost, and add in a bit extra for entertainment expenses.
This way you have at least a rough idea of how much you’ll need to save to have a great time. Just don’t forget to budget for hidden fees, such as resort fees, rental fees, and taxes. You may want to call the hotel’s concierge to get those numbers if they aren’t displayed, as they can add up rather quickly. Also, you may want to ensure your number crunching includes an “extra” slush fund for those “just in case” moments.
If hotels look to be a bit too pricey in your intended destination, you could always look for cost-cutting accommodations. There are always hostels, but there are also places around the world that will let you stay for free in exchange for services.
You could try signing up on websites like Rover to offer free dog sitting services in exchange for free place to stay. Websites like Mind My House also bring together people looking for house sitters and those looking for accommodations. Check out the listings and see if any fit your vacation needs.
If you have an estimate of how much it will cost, now you just have to save. You could make sure you’re saving toward your travel goals by scheduling automatic transfers concurrent with your paychecks. It might also help to determine how much you need to save each month to hit your magic vacation number.
Using Windfalls to Your Advantage
While working toward your vacation, you could use any financial windfalls to your advantage. Say, for example, you get a hefty tax return, receive a bonus from work, are given a raise, or otherwise come across some extra income—instead of blowing the money immediately, you could put it toward your vacation fund and reach your goal sooner.
Adding a Side Hustle to Your Routine
You could always create a windfall for yourself by taking on a side hustle as you save for your vacation.
Working a side job or taking on freelance work you have the skillset for could help you save money faster to get the vacation show on the road. And the best part is, if you save using your side gig money, you won’t even need to touch your savings or primary paycheck.
Not sure which freelance job may be right for you? You might want to start by thinking about what you’re after—something that will help your career in the long-term, or perhaps something that will simply earn you a bit of quick cash.
If you’re hoping it could help your career growth, you could try tackling a side job that’s connected to your goals. For example, if you’re hoping to be a writer, scout article writing or copywriting gigs. Want to be a photographer? Build a website and offer your services.
Next, think about exactly how much time you have to devote to your side job and just how quickly you need to make extra money for your vacation. If you’re hoping to save a little cash in just a few weeks, try something with a bit of consistency like charging those portable scooters, or doing odd-jobs through various appson TaskRabbit. If you have a bit more time, you may be able to build a viable side business with your skills.
Finally, you may want to decide how much you’re willing to put into a side hustle. Often, side gigs require you to work before or after your regular nine-to-five, which could mean giving up your nights and weekends. But, again, all that extra work could pay off for either your career or your short-term goals.
Making a Little Extra Cash While on Vacation
You could always try putting your assets to work for you while you’re away to help pay for your vacation. If you own your home or apartment, or your landlord is fine with it, try renting your space on websites like Airbnb , VRBO , or HomeAway . You may be able to earn a hefty sum. Have a car? That can be rented out on websites like Turo, too.
Bringing SoFi Checking and Savings on Your Trip to Save Along the Way
Looking for an account to house your travel fund in? Try a SoFi Checking and Savings® account. With SoFi Checking and Savings you can easily create vaults within your account, each for its own purpose. For example you can create a vault for your upcoming vacation.
You’ll be able to easily keep track of progress on each of your vaults and money can be moved in and out of these vaults on a regular basis. It is an easy way to separate your money for different purposes and goals (like a travel fund!
And when you are ready to go on your trip, opening a SoFi Checking and Savings account means your cash goes where you go. SoFi Checking and Savings allows you to save, spend, and earn all in one checking and savings account.
And no matter where you go, use any ATM within the Allpoint® Network and you won’t get charged a fee (subject to change).
This way you can save money and make day-to-day withdrawals from your checking and savings account—even while abroad. Now, all you need to do is go enjoy that vacation you’ve worked so hard for.
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