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How to Save for a Dream Vacation

May 1, 2024
Family of three standing on beach, laughing together

Making Your Dream Come True: How to Save for a Vacation

Have you been spending a bunch of time thumbing through vacation rental apps? Are you researching flights to a special location? Playing a tropical music playlist while sunning yourself on your patio? Sounds like you have a case of the travel bug.

Good news. The cure for a travel bug can be yours with a simple saving strategy. Below are a few ways to plan an affordable yet dreamy vacation, budget your trip and save the money to pay for it.

Crafting Clear Goals for Your Trip

No matter where you’re headed, arriving somewhere new can offer a breath of fresh air. When you’re planning a dream vacation, remember that it's your dream vacation. Cut out the things you may feel obligated to do, but you aren’t truly excited about.

If you think The Louvre in Paris is a must-see, but are dreading the lines and the crowds, let it go. Don’t spend the money or the time on what other people think you should do. Be honest with yourself about what you want out of your vacation.

Your goal might be to find the best dumplings in New York. You might want to go to Paris and lounge in the parks all day, listening to street performers and polishing up your conversational French. Sure, some traveler’s goals might include taking in timeless works of art and theater. Some people might be focused on dining and nightlife. Others just try to relax as much as humanly possible and that’s totally acceptable. Know what you want out of your vacation before you book anything.

You get to decide your itinerary, not guidebooks, online listicles, or friends who’ve been before. The more you’re true to yourself, the less you’ll have to save for things that don’t interest you. Once you have clear goals, you’ll soon know how much to save for a vacation that will suit your desires.

The Travel Budget

Now that we’ve covered your vacation goals, we can get to the budget. Setting a budget will let you know how much you will need to save, so that you can figure out when you can leave. Luckily, we live in a time that makes it easier than ever to understand exactly what a dream vacation will cost. Everyone already knows to plan out the cost of airfare and lodging but what about all the other stuff? Here is a list of costs that are often overlooked when budgeting out a vacation.

  • Everyday transportation: You’ve got the airfare covered, but how are you getting around once you arrive at your destination? Are you renting a car, getting a metrocard, or using a shuttle service?
  • Food: Eating out every day can add up. Have a daily food budget set aside. Then, when you splurge on a nice dinner out, you can feel comfortable because you’ve planned for that expense.
  • Shopping: If you’re going to want a keepsake or two, work it into your budget.
  • Activities: Tours, theme parks, or shows can be pre-planned, so that you’ll know exactly what they’ll cost.

Budgeting something fun like a vacation isn’t about denying yourself life’s little delights because they aren’t in the budget. It’s about giving yourself the peace of mind that comes with financial preparation. That way, when you’re out on the water, bouncing on a banana boat, you’re not worrying about the credit card bills you’re going to have to pay when you get home.

We’re all about planning for life’s fun moments at DCU —that’s why we are passionate about offering financial education and guidance to all of our members. Become a member to get the support of the DCU as you plan for all of life’s twists and turns.

Effective Dream Vacation Budgeting Tips

The last thing you consider when you’re thinking about a dream vacation is the limits of your budget. But you’re making a dream come true, here, so putting limits on what you’re going to spend will be worth it in the end. Limits might mean choosing a cheaper flight with a layover or ditching the rental car in favor of public transportation and taxis.

There are a lot of opportunities on the internet to find the best deals and discounts. Pushing your trip back or forward a couple of days can save you hundreds of dollars in airfare or accommodation. You can also apply for credit cards and receive rewards for travel expenses such as hotels, rentals and flights. Here are a few other ways that travelers make a dent in their trip budgets:

  • Travel during the off-season. This can save on everything from airfare to accommodations to tours. Before you book, do your research. Certain locations may only be open seasonally.
  • Get breakfast and lunch at farmer’s markets and grocery stores. Grocery store eating isn’t a sacrifice when you’re eating local fruits or freshly baked bread. This can be a great way to connect with the local scene, eat great food, and save money all at the same time.
  • For international travel, understand the rate of money exchange to know how much you’re spending on a daily basis.
  • Tread off the beaten path. Restaurants and bars are more authentic and can often cost a lot less when you leave the most popular areas. Taking a food tour when you arrive can introduce you to these places so that you know where to save money and eat well.

Figure out how much money you need to save to cover the trip budget and how much you can set aside every month without straining your daily finances. Sweating over every penny puts too much pressure on your dream vacation for the trip to be worth it. If the budget for the trip is adding too much strain, look for places where you can trim it down or push out the trip for a later date so that you have more time to save.

Doing your research and finding the best deals can be a fun preview of what your trip is going to be like. Once you know how much you’re going to spend, you can start saving. Put your trip savings in a special account such as DCU’s Advantage Savings Account. A separate account will allow you to clearly track how much money you have set aside for your trip.

Starting a vacation savings account

You have a lot of choices when it comes to savings accounts. DCU even offers member-described savings accounts that can be named by the account owner so that you can click on “The Vacation of The Century” when you’re checking your savings balance rather than a boring old savings account number.

Since most of DCU’s savings accounts don’t have minimum balances to open1, when you cash out the savings account for your big adventure, you can keep the account open and save for your next vacation. After all, we all know that answering the call of the road simply creates more traveling dreams. Wondering how to save for a vacation in 3 months? We get it, sometimes particular opportunities arise and you need to save a lot of money fast. Here are a few tips on how to save for a vacation effectively and quickly.

  • Amplify your savings by starting up a side hustle. You could start babysitting, dog sitting or even house sitting. You could tutor online or do food delivery driving. Play your cards right and side hustles could allow you to save hundreds of dollars each week.
  • If you’re making room in your home and selling items you don’t need, save that cash in your vacation savings account.
  • Keep tabs on your savings account to know if you’re on track for your trip. Then you’ll know if you need to be saving more or if you need to push your trip out.
  • Check under the proverbial couch cushions: Check apps like Venmo and Paypal to see if you have money to transfer to your travel savings account. While you’re at it, bring that big jar of pennies on your dresser to the bank too. That change could pay for another round of margaritas on the beach!
  • Use any forgotten gift cards in your junk drawer for daily expenses.
  • Cut down on one thing specifically and put all of the saved money in your savings account. This could be your coffee shop money or the money from your streaming subscription services.

DCU Makes Dreams Work

Managing money to make all your dreams happen can be tricky. But, you don’t need to save your money alone. Joining a non-profit financial institution like DCU can ensure you have the support you need in all your fiscal decision-making. With soft guidance and financial education, DCU is always there to help make the dreams of DCU members into reality. Learn more about becoming a member today!

1DCU’s Primary Savings account requires $5 to open and maintain account.

Please note, membership is required to open a DCU savings account. Visit our membership eligibility page for more information.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to serve as legal, financial, investment or tax advice or indicate that a specific DCU product or service is right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a financial professional.

*The national average annual percentage yield ("APY") for savings accounts is updated monthly, please refer to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.