Dreaming of a getaway? Just because you don’t have the largest savings account shouldn’t mean you never get to leave home or go on a vacation. We talked to a seasoned traveler for some top travel hacks, and we hit up the experts at Regions Bank to get savings suggestions that make travel not only a possibility, but more affordable as well, ensuring you have a memorable time but don’t break the bank.
1. Set goals.
First things first: Regions experts suggest a dedicated travel savings account, or a designated amount for travel that can come from an existing general savings account. “The first thing I suggest to anyone who is trying to get into ‘savings mode’ is set goals,” says Cecilia Bailey, Financial Education Manager at Regions Bank. “Without them, it is hard to maintain the consistency necessary for saving.” Sounds simple enough, and making sure there is an account to work from can be as easy as setting up regular transfers from checking or payroll deposits to a savings account. Through online banking, contribute to your vacation fund in the same way you pay routine expenses automatically. Before long, you’ll have a sum from which to plan. “Starting small can lead to big savings,” adds Cecilia. “Find one or two spending behaviors you can modify. Once it becomes a new habit, you can implement another small change.”
2. Establish cost.
Next, pick your possible destination(s), and consider all the expenses involved. You’ll want to factor in such costs as airfare, lodging, food, transportation, entertainment and incidentals; be thorough so there are no budget-breaking surprises later on. Think about your preferences: If the best accommodations possible are more important than what you spend on food, that’s a launching point for more specific financial considerations.
“I started researching before I had money to go,” says travel expert Chau Mui. “I found out how much all of it was going to cost. Once I did that, I had a tangible trip in my head, which motivated me to save the money I needed.”
Asking friends who have been to your destination of choice (or similar places) to get their feedback on do’s and don’ts is a smart way to establish costs. That friend who visits temperate cities and countries in warmer months or the beaches and islands down south in winter probably is your best travel advisor. Leverage social media for recommendations, too.
3. Stop wasting money.
While you’re honing your spending goals: “It’s easy to forget how little we need to survive,” Chau says. “When you stop spending your money on items you don’t need, you can start spending it on experiences you’ve always wanted.”
Cecilia agrees. “Small changes can have a big impact. From brewing your morning coffee at home instead of buying it, to replacing conventional incandescent light bulbs with LED ones, there are so many little ways to save big.” As you plan, allow yourself flexibility for splurging — Chau suggests avoiding the rigidity of a per diem so you don’t miss out on those “once-in-a-lifetime” activities.
As you plan, there are also a few ways to budget for a more economical trip to your desired destination. Where you stay is a key factor. For instance, HomeAway.com and VRBO.com can open up possibilities. If you choose a villa with a full kitchen, you’ll save yourself the expense of eating every meal out — and you still can enjoy regional flavors.
4. Let the providers do the work for you.
E-mail alerts about flights, hotels and ground transportation directly from the airlines and travel packages from such third-party sites as Orbitz and Travelocity could save you hundreds. Take advantage of rewards programs from bank cards and financial institutions as well.
“Many of our customers often find it helpful to use Regions My GreenInsights, an online financial tool for smart money management,” says Cecilia. “It allows you to track your financial habits by viewing charts that categorize your total monthly spending. Understanding your financial behavior plays a large role in maximizing on your savings.”
5. Consider transportation costs.
Finally, think about your most financially sensible method of transportation. If you are traveling no more than 300 miles, driving and carpooling make the best sense. For longer trips, consider a train ride; hop on Amtrak and enjoy the views along the way. Greyhound and Megabus offer inexpensive trips to many American cities, so check their websites for destinations and travel specials. Sometimes, combining flights with ground transportation (car rental, cab/Uber/Lyft, or bus/subway) makes for the most affordable travel. Booking cruises early or closer to departure also saves money.
“Review your expenses and think of where you can eliminate or reduce your spending, create a budget, and stick to your plan,” Cecilia reiterates. “As you achieve smaller goals, you’ll be motivated by your success, and you’ll be exploring your dream destination before you know it!”
Learn more about how you can utilize the Regions portfolio of savings options to save for your next big adventure! Visit regions.com.
This article is sponsored by Regions.