How to Save for a Vacation?

People may choose not to travel for a variety of reasons, but one of the most common reasons is money.  I recently posted what I figured to be what the average vacation costs a family of four for one week…$4000.  That’s pretty big chunk of money for most people.  So, I wanted to post some thoughts on how to save for a vacation. Use my travel budget vacation cost worksheet to estimate what your trip will cost.

12 ideas for How to Save for a Vacation - travel tip budget trip


One of the easiest steps for how to save for a vacation is to lower the cost of your trip.  If you need less money for the vacation, you’ll need to save up less.  Obvious I know.

  • Driving typically costs less than flying, check out my post on how to decide to fly or drive.  Remember, driving long distances means an increase in car wear, more stops (i.e. more places to spend money), and possible hotel stopovers.
  • Vacation rentals are a great option for many families.  They often cost less than a hotel and provide more space.  You can also save by preparing your own food, and you won’t have extra charges for things like parking, high speed internet, tipping, or resort fees.
  • Food is one area that we like to save money.  During travels, consider packing your own snacks & food so you’re not tempted to buy in route.  We like to find hotels that offer complimentary breakfast so we remove that expense for each day of our trip.  We’ve also packed in our own water and snacks to most attractions (be mindful of attraction policies).
  • Look for free or low cost activities.  Don’t go to an attraction every day, and find ways to experience the city/destination for free.  We love driving to a local park or beach on our trips.  We also typically spend a day at the hotel enjoying the pool or walking around.
  • Shorten the trip length.  If you stay less than a week, you can reduce the accommodation and food costs for your trip.


What about lowering what you spend regularly as an option for how to save for a vacation?

  • Have you heard how many people are getting rid of cable and or phone lines to save on their monthly bills?  It’s not that much of a stretch anymore because of things like cell phones, Netflix, Hulu, and live streaming.  You could save around $80 a month, which adds up to $960 after a year.
  • Shop smarter.  We recently had our insurance policies reviewed and it saved us about $200.  We also like to check eBay and Amazon for purchasing our household products.  Things like light bulbs, water filters, batteries, cat litter, even toilet paper, are typically cheaper online.  Also, consider the DIY approach to maintenance. William recently fixed our washing machine thanks to a YouTube video instead of calling Sears for service.
  • Eating out can cost a family a lot.  We rarely leave a restaurant without paying $40+.  Even fast food can cost our family $20+.  If you’re a family who likes to eat out, just taking out one of these a week can save about $120 a month.  That’s a cool $1440!
  • Buy fewer non-essentials.  Do you like to pick up things while you’re shopping that weren’t on your list and aren’t really needed?  For example, that cute purse or that great toy that’s half off?  Even spending $50 a month on non-essentials adds up to $600 in a year.  Remember, no matter what percentage off the item is you can always choose to save 100%!  Also, if you’re saving for a special trip, consider putting a photo in your wallet or with your credit card/cash so you remember when you pull out the money, it could be going towards that vacation.


The final tip for how to save for a vacation is to just save more!

  • Have you guys heard of the 52 week money savings challenge?  The idea is that you save up $1378 after one year of putting away money each week.  They recommend starting with Week 1 at $1; Week 2 is $2…  I actually like the idea of doing it in reverse because Christmas is always an expensive time of the year for us.  So, save $52 week 1, $51 week 2…
  • Sell, sell, sell!  We’ve had some great luck adding to our income by selling stuff we would have donated or no longer use.  Just this month we sold a winter coat and a box of girls clothing for $60.  Have you upgraded any electronics and the old ones are just sitting there?  Sell them!  We love using ebay and craigslist to get things out of our home and money into our pockets!
  • Do you have a talent that you can “offer” friends or family?  This could be a way to have a second job but on your own terms.  Offer up your talents and see if anyone needs some helping hands.  You can even explain that you’re saving for a vacation.  Just make sure you don’t spend money to make money unless it’s guaranteed.

So, that’s a long list!  Hope these tips can help you figure out how to save for a vacation.  Do you have any ideas I didn’t mention?  I’d love to hear them!

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    • Kim says

      Thanks for pinning Carrie! That’s one of the tips we use the most. Especially if we stay at a “suite” hotel with a kitchenette and free breakfast.

  1. Dionne says

    One thing I do is save $5 bills and my change. I put them in my bank account on December 31st. I usually save $600-$1000.

    • Kim says

      Glad you liked the tips. Baby expenses have a way of sucking up all excess cash! It kind of continues as they get older, just in different forms! Best wishes for happy and healthy pregnancy and baby!

    • Kim says

      Absolutely Nicola. I mentioned using vacation rentals and airbnb is one of the main ones. It really can save some money, especially if you can make your own meals!

    • Kim says

      Thanks Angela! Those little extras do add up! I also find that if I want something I like to walk around the store a bit before going right to purchase it. Many times I decide I don’t need it. Also, I’ve found using the hand basket at Target really helps keep me from buying extra stuff!

  2. says

    You have some very good points here. I used many of these when I was younger with children. Something I have done since before children, even when I was making a salary that was lower than you would even believe (it was that long ago). I put 10 dollars a week, later 25 dollars a week, in a savings account. I did it before anything else was spent. I felt I would probably spend it somewhere else and probably on something I really didn’t need. I continued that practice all my life, upping the amount as the years went on and my income increased. That money meant we were able to travel often once we had children. It works!

    • Kim says

      Jodee, that is such a great tip. It’s a great practice to pay into your savings right away. We have a set amount that gets auto-deposited from paychecks directly into savings. That way we don’t even see the money.

  3. says

    This is such a great list. I am actually planning our first family vacation in a many many years. I’m going to try the 52 week money challenge, but I agree it would be easier in reverse for sure.

    • Kim says

      Great Stephanie! Glad it gave you some ideas! Best wishes in your planning. Feel free to contact me if you have a question!

    • Kimberly says

      The 52 week challenge became really popular last year on Pinterest, but I don’t know who originally wrote/sourced it. A SITS member posted a free printable (I linked to it in one of these comment threads) so you could use that to stay on track. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Kimberly says

      Thank you Julie! I heard of the idea last year on Pinterest, but couldn’t figure out who the original source was. It’s a great idea, and one I think many people could do!

  4. says

    These are some great tips Kimberly – I’m especially interested in the 52 weeks of saving :D Looking forward to putting these tips to good use as I’m in the mood for some California! -Iva

  5. says

    Great tips! We save tons of money by using vacation rentals, cooking at the rental, and bring our own, well, everything! I’ve never heard of the 52 week savings challenge, but what a great idea.

  6. Kim says

    Another way to lower your cost: groupon. We took advantage of one to Vermont (we live near). I complimented the manager on how excellent our stay was, mentioned the groupon, and he said they would give us the groupon rate during the off season if we called directly.

    • Kimberly says

      That’s a great tip Kim! Also nice that they were willing to give you the rate directly for a future visit. Good management on their part, as getting return customers is a challenge for companies on deal sites! :)

  7. says

    Stopping by from the Comment Love Tribe! I just recently started the 52 Week Savings Challenge! It makes it so much easier to save over time so that you don’t feel that constant need to put a lot of money in every time to get to a large result. I love this post though because one of the things I want to do is save up for a trip this coming summer, so thanks for the great trips!


    • Kimberly says

      Glad the tips were helpful Lauren! Hope your planning and savings goes smoothly. Feel free to comment or contact me if you have any travel planning questions!

  8. says

    This is such a great post!! Our family is 5 total, so it’s not cheap by any means to do a nice vacay. We try to take advantage of a lot of the local attractions, but I’d really love to take my family on an actual vacation. Once we move, we are going to start saving and planning, and your post really helps a lot. #sitsblogging

    • Kimberly says

      Traveling with families of five can be tricky, but totally doable! Let me know if you have any questions, I’m happy to help!

  9. says

    I just love all of the tips you have on your blog!! We started doing the Dave Ramsey- Total Money Makeover last year, so our vacation fund is EXTREMELY limited so we can pay off some debt. Which is particularly hard for us because all of our family lives out of town. I will definitely use these tips. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Kimberly says

      Thanks for stopping by Ali! Hope the post can give you some ideas — and good luck! I recently quit my job so I could focus on making this blog my career so our finances took a hit. As a result we skipped taking a trip last fall when we had been planning to. It’s worth it though to stay out of debt, and I know your vacation will feel even better when you’re not stressing about all the bills waiting at home.

  10. Gena says

    I feel like such a doofus for not thinking of doing the 52 week challenge backwards! So simple, yet brilliant! Thank you!

  11. says

    Great post! I have always dreamed of staying at a luxury bermuda hotel for a week or two, but never knew how to save enough to be able to afford it without breaking the bank. Love these tips!

    • Kimberly says

      I hear you Cynthia! It’s easy to say, but do we really need one more task on our agenda?! :) Sometimes I feel like it’s a balance game between time value and monetary value!

    • Kimberly says

      Hi Annette, I have no idea about the taxes stuff with work trips. I think you’d have to research it or pay for an accountant to take care of it for you. :)

  12. says

    Since my family is in Texas all of our vacation savings has been going to our trip at Thanksgiving this year. These are great tips for getting a real vacation!

  13. Sherry K says

    Lots of good ideas. I am going to try to sell some things that we have – such a SCUBA gear that was never used and a pottery kiln.

  14. Carol Oddy says

    Lots of really great idea’s on how to save money for a trip. Got rid of my TV and phone bill (land-line) over two years ago, just found other things replaced them.

    • says

      Thanks so much Carol. Good for you making the leap so long ago! :) We’re still hooked on cable but I keep thinking we need to say goodbye, hubby wants to keep his sports and news though.