By Susan Friedland, Communications and Marketing, SFSG
Congratulations on a really good decision. As explored in our article, “Should I Take a Vacation?”, time away from work and everyday life is necessary for good health, improved family bonding, and better performance at work. Vacations are good for your employers’ bottom line as well as the economy over all.[i]  Some suggestions for making it happen:
1. Set a Realistic Budget
Okay, so you really want to visit San Francisco. You have a week and it is a great family friendly destination. Go online and decide what you would like to do when you get there - Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, riding the trolleys?  Be sure to account for the costs of:
  • Airfares including the fees for bags, food, etc. A good reference for finding up-to-date information and travel suggestions:
  • Hotels
  • Dining options and snacks.
  • Rental car fees.
  • Entrance fees to attractions and the additional costs within the attraction.
  • Transportation fees for travel to and from the airport, cabs and public transportation.
  • Boarding or sitting fees for pets who will be staying home.
  • Incidentals, tips and souvenirs.
Once you have these numbers, add them up and plug the total number into your household budget as a separate line item. Is it doable now or do you need to save up? Do you have flexibility in your schedule that could allow you to travel off-season to save money or should you adjust your vacation to stay closer to home?  Let’s say it’s doable, but you need to save in order to have the experiences you desire.
2. Ideas for Saving for your Trip
  • Open a dedicated travel savings account that comes with an ATM card and online access to the account. Be sure the account does not have minimum balance penalties. By having an ATM card, you can withdraw money as needed during the trip thus avoiding the need to carry large amounts of cash. Having online access will also allow you to monitor the account balance as it builds and while you are traveling.
  • Factor saving for travel into your budget. Consider setting up automated transfers from your regular checking account into your vacation savings account each payday.
  • Put out a change and small bills jar. This is a great option for those who prefer not to use credit cards or as an adjunct to the travel savings account. It’s also a good way to get the kids involved in the process of saving. Ask them to contribute part of their allowances or a percentage of the money made babysitting, cutting lawns, etc.
  • Take the “52 Week Challenge”.  As described by Lance Cothurn for his blog on, the idea is to save $1 in week one, $2 dollars in week 2, etc. for the 52 weeks of the year leading to savings of $1,378. Doubling or tripling the amount will get you there even faster.
  • Have a yard sale and put the proceeds toward your trip. You could also do your sale online on EBay or another like site.
  • Consider cutting back on some budget items for a while and deposit the saved money into your vacation account. Some ideas: Bring your lunch to work, make your morning coffee at home and use your library card to get free passes to local museums or other programs if they have such an agreement. These small amounts can really add up.
3.  Ideas that can Save you Money
  • Check to see if your credit card has a travel rewards program that can save you money on airfare, dining and hotels.
  • Travel + Leisure suggests always booking online. Calling the airline directly can now cost up to $35.
  • If you can stand more emails in your box for a while, consider signing up with a few travel sites and airlines to receive their travel deals and limited time promotions for your desired destination.
  • Bring your own snacks, travel blankets and pillows in your carry-on luggage if your airline charges for them. If you do buy headphones, keep the adapter to use on your next flight with the same carrier.
  • Pack lightly to decrease baggage fees.
  • Consider an all-inclusive trip, but factor in tips, souvenirs and off-site excursions as extras.
  • Consider staying a short distance outside of the main city or theme park. Often costs are less and public transit may make the commute very easy and inexpensive.
  • If your schedules allow, travel off season. Lower airfares, hotel rates and smaller crowds can make a good vacation even better.
What if there is no way to afford that big destination travel adventure now?
It is about getting away from the usual routine so you can recharge. While longer is better, even a shorter vacation is beneficial. For some folks, the long weekend approach is preferred as work issues will not be as much of a consideration upon return to the office.  If so:
  • Consider a vacation close to home to cut down on travel costs and travel time. Determine your costs in the same way you would if you were traveling further or longer to ensure that your costs are covered.
  • Have a ‘stay-cation’.  It is a great opportunity to explore places you and the family have talked about but not yet explored. Be sure to disconnect from the everyday stressors of work – emails, phone calls, etc. – to give the best chance to let your batteries recharge.
  • Consider a combination of the above strategies while still saving for the big trip. Just be sure to keep your eye on the prize and plan your savings and budget strategies accordingly.
Above all, it is the process of taking time away from the everyday that is beneficial to our quality of life. Improved health, stronger family bonds, time with friends, and a refreshed outlook are the byproducts of vacation time. We all need it. Enjoy!

[i] “Should I Take a Vacation?, Shapiro Financial Security Group, Inc.. May 2016.
Nine Creative Ways to Save for a Vacation;
15 Ways to Save for Vacation; US News and World Report;
Guide to Hidden Airline Fees: Travel and Leisure;
4 Saving Tips to Help You Afford Your Next Vacation; Jill Schlesinger,;
How to Save Up for a Vacation, Lance Cothern;