You've heard it time and time again to spend your money on experiences rather than material things, but let's be real, between groceries, rent, student loans, and car payments, it seems impossible to find the money to spend in the first place.
Have no fear, though. By taking the time to plan your summer vacation out in advance, it's totally possible to fund a once-in-a-lifetime trip without feeling like you're drowing. And we promise it doesn't include eating ramen noodles everyday and staying in sketchy hostels.
1. Start Saving RN
If you know that you want to plan a trip in the foreseeable future, it's never to early to start saving. Research where you want to go, and find out how much you need to save to get there and have a great time. It might be more than you had originally planned on, but if you map everything out far enough in advance, you'll barely feel it in your bank account.
Travel experts advise booking your plans over 45 days ahead (approximately seven weeks!) for the best deals, so grab a calendar and get to planning!
2. Use credit card bonus points
By being responsible with your credit card and paying them off each month, you could rack up points to go toward a vacation. Prepare by researching and signing up early for a trusted travel credit card. Use that card when you're grocery shopping or making bigger-sized purchases, and you can even get discounted airfare, loyalty points, hotel rooms, etc., taking some of the serious costs of a vacation out of the equation.
Some cards, like Frontier Airlines' Credit Card, can even earn you a couple of free round-trip domestic flights!
3. Take advantage of your people
We mean this in the nicest way possible. The only brightside to growing up and moving away from friends and family is that you have an excuse to travel around to see them. Don't feel bad asking if you can crash in your aunt and uncle's guest room for a few nights. It'll give you all a chance to spend a little extra time together, and you would do the same for them.
4. Work with a travel advisor
A lot of times it can feel like doing it on your on is the cheaper route, and with the internet, it seems travel agencies are out-dated. And while that might be true in some situations, getting yourself a travel advisor can save you anywhere from 15 to 30 percent according to In The Know Experiences, a NYC-based travel consultant agency. A travel advisor can also get up added perks, like upgrades, spa credits, cheaper airfare, and less expensive hotel bookings.
5. Check Groupon (or sites like it!)
Check Groupon regularly when you start to plan your vacation. New deals come up all of the time on airfare, hotels, and even some resorts, which can save you a ton of money on what could be bank-breaking costs. This especially works if you aren't particular on where exactly you're going or what hotel you're staying at.
Worried about booking too early and hotels dropping their prices later on? Sites like Tingo.com will even let you match rates if you book on their site and the hotel lowers their price before you get there!
6. Use payment plans
Paying for your vacation doesn't have to be all up front. Most hotels, cruise lines, and theme parks require your vacation to be paid in full approximately 45 to 60 days prior to your actual trip. Set up a monthly payment schedule to be automatically deducted from your account, so you don't have to worry about forgetting or having to take it out all at once.
7. Be flexible
Be as flexible as possible with the dates that you'll be traveling. This will make it possible to use sites like airefarewatchdog.com that will track flight prices and help you determine when the best (and cheapest!) times to travel are. Pro tip: Most airlines announce deals on Monday nights, meaning one of the best times to book your trip is on a Tuesday afternoon when other airlines are fighting to match those prices and rates are the cheapest.
In addition to dates, it helps to be flexible with where you'll be staying, too. If you're headed to a big tourist destination, you might want to consider staying in a city close by with access to public transportation. While it might not be quite as convenient as a hotel downtown, it could end up saving you a significant amount of money that can be used toward other fun activities.
8. Know when to go
Find out when the peak and low seasons are for wherever you're headed to. Traveling during a holiday or spring break can almost double the price you'd pay otherwise! If you do need to travel to popular places at popular times, make sure you book even earlier than normal before rates go up.