How To Plan a Vacation Without Going Broke

Have you ever tried to plan a vacation without going broke? Going on vacation is one of my favorite things to do, but I don’t get to go on vacation nearly as much as I would like! That all changes this year. I am a firm believer in the power of vacation, whether it is a mini vacation, staycation or long vacation.

I have 4 mini vacations planned this year and couldn’t be happier. My first mini vacation of the year has even been paid in full.

Because of my work schedule, I generally prefer mini vacations so I don’t have to take much time off. This is plenty of time for me to relax and re-energize.

On the down side, vacations can be expensive, including mini vacations. Costs can add up quickly! There are plane tickets, lodging, food expenses – not to mention daily spending.

My mom and I are currently in the middle of planning our vacation to Nashville. We are going in April, but have been planning our trip since November. We have been researching, reading Yelp and Tripadvisor reviews and scouring the internet for deals.

Here’s a few tips on how to plan a vacation without going broke

What’s your budget?

How much do you want to spend on vacation? Once you have figured out this amount, determine how much time you have until you go on vacation. Once you do the math and divide your budget by your time, you have a realistic idea on how long it will take you to save enough money.

Create a separate bank account or use the envelope method

Since I plan on paying for my vacation with cash or my debit card, I like the envelope method when determining my daily spending limit. I’ll put cash away each pay period, as well as toss in smaller bills here and there. By being able to see how much money I am putting away is incentive to keep saving!

If you prefer to do everything online, create a separate fund account for your vacation expenses. If you don’t want to open another bank account with traditional banks, you can create goals and accounts through online sources like Smarty Pig.

Receive email alerts on plane tickets

Start monitoring plane tickets early. I signed up to get email alert anytime flights dropped in price. An email alert was my preferred option versus remembering to log in daily or weekly to check out prices. Prefer certain airlines? Sign up for their email list – the airline I prefer to fly with has sales and usually has discounts monthly.

Order an Entertainment Book

An Entertainment Book is great if you plan on eating out, sightseeing and visiting tourist spots. This book is full of local coupons as well as national chains. You can find BOGO and discounted coupons for museums, retail shops, grocery stores and restaurants. There are also coupons for national companies so you can use this book when your vacation is over.

My mom and I ordered the book for Nashville – it was on sale for $10 and offered free shipping! We plan on reviewing the book to see what deals we want to use ahead of time!

Don’t forget to start at Rakuten, so you can get cashback with your purchases. 

Also, try Ibotta, which is another free cell phone app. You use it after you go grocery shopping and use your receipt. It’s basically a rebate app, so you can earn anywhere from 50 cents to $5 off everything you buy.

My favorite part about this app is that it’s not always brand specific, like a lot of coupons are. So you’ll be able to scan “any brand of bread” for 50 cents off, etc. If you do coupon – you can STILL use Ibotta and get a rebate. For the diehard couponers out there, this will often result in getting an item for FREE. Crazy, right?

If you want to grab the Ibotta app and start making money off your grocery receipts, click here to get started. You will receive a cash bonus of $10 when you scan your first item!

Look for deals on Groupon, Living Social and Amazon Local

All three of these websites are great sources to look for local deals. My mom and I snapped up Buy One Get One Free tickets to a museum in Nashville and saved $20. While the savings aren’t substantial, it all adds up!

Cash out rewards points

I earn rewards points with various online survey companies. I have been accumulating points for the past several months from MyPoints and Ipsos. I decided this vacation was the perfect time to cash these in.

Here is what I ordered:

  • $50 BP Gas Card
  • $50 Visa Pre-Paid Card

I still have a ton of points left to cash in with My Points, but am still trying to decide if I want to order another gas gift card. With gas prices going down, I am hoping this will be enough or almost enough to fill the gas tank in the rental car.

You can also try survey apps like My Soap Box and Survey Junkie. Both are super easy to work with and can pay out quite a bit if you take them seriously. There are so many other ways to earn some extra cash to have on hand, but these survey apps are great places to start!

Don’t rent a car at the airport

While this might not be an option, consider expanding your car rental search a few miles outside the airport. Many car rental companies have shuttle busses that take customers to and from the airport. I did this at LAX and saved about 20%.

Review hotel rewards & frequent flier miles

I always double check my points status with these companies and check current promotions. Many airlines allow you to earn points when staying at certain hotels and vice versa. If you are close to redeeming your free night stay or free plane ticket, this is a great option to get you closer to goal.

Last year I earned 1 free night stay after spending 2 nights at a certain hotel chain. The great thing was none of these nights were used consecutively! This was a fantastic promotion that I am hoping they bring back this year!

Consider Airbnb as an alternative to hotels

I enjoyed 2 nights at the beach last year using Airbnb. For less than the price of local hotels, my friend and I booked an amazing large cottage with a hot tub just blocks from the beach. The place was perfect (I’m pretty picky) and we are thinking about going back this year. The best part? There was a fenced-in yard and my dogs were allowed to come!

If you are interested in using Airbnb, use this $25 credit to get you started and I’ll get one too!

Related reading:

How have you saved money on vacation?

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    1. I wish I could go to FinCon this year, but hopefully next year!

  1. Nice work! These are really good tips. I’d add: have a no-fee credit card that you use to pay vacation expenses so that you can really segregate the costs from those of your daily living. If you have both a separate savings account and a separate card, it’s really easy to keep track of your spending on that specifically. (I also recommend a separate card for expenses your company will reimburse, for the same reason.)

    1. That’s a great tip, thanks! I like the idea of using a credit card to keep everything separate. Now that I am more responsible with my credit cards, this seems totally feasible!

  2. I love Mypoints! I’ve been using it for years and have gotten so many gift cards. I like to cash out for restaurant cards, which come in handy on road trips.

    1. Aren’t they great?! I have been using them for years as well and usually cash in for the Macy’s GC. They have so many cards to choose from it can be hard to decide!

  3. Excellent tips! I really need to focus in on some of these because while I love vacations, I don’t like feeling broke afterward. I’ll probably just do a staycation this year. But in the past I took a shuttle bus to and from the airport for a cruise in the Bahamas and I’ve also stalked flight prices to get the best deal on a trip to Europe a while back. Right now I’m racking up points on my American Express card. I currently have enough to take a free roundtrip flight to somewhere in North America, but I just have no idea where. Since my points don’t expire (I don’t think they do at least) I think I’ll just wait it out until the right opportunity comes along.

    1. I love staycations! A few years ago I booked a local hotel that had an amazing pool and it felt like I was on vacation! That’s awesome you have enough points to fly roundtrip for free! I hate spending money on plane tickets!

  4. We mostly rely on credit card rewards to travel. It is truly amazing what a little planning and creativity can do if you have a ton of airline and hotel points to burn. I supplement our travel spending with cash-back and just budget appropriately for the rest.

    1. I would LOVE to use credit card rewards, I’m just not in that position 🙂 I think it would be awesome though! I know a number of people do this and it seems to work out for everyone!

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