Coming up with the money for a last-minute family vacation can be difficult. But with a little planning, saving for some time off that you expect to take anyway — such as during the summer — can make it a lot easier.
Here are five ways to pay and save for a vacation ahead of time:
Start a Vacation Fund
Automate your vacation savings by contributing regularly to a vacation fund each month. Set up an automatic transfer from your paycheck or checking account to a savings account that’s only used for vacations.
You don’t have to save a lot of money to have a good vacation. In 2016, Americans who took a summer vacation spent an average of $941 per person, according to American Express.
Plan and Pay Ahead of Time
Along with saving throughout the year, planning a vacation months in advance and paying for part of it can save you money—along with increasing your happiness during the planning phase and not having to worry about how you’ll pay for the vacation when you’re supposed to be enjoying the time off.
While last-minute deals can be a bargain, you can also save by booking early for the busy summer travel season.
Get the Right Credit Card
Getting a credit card with a sign-up bonus that offers airline miles is a smart way to get at least one free flight for a vacation. Before signing up for a credit card, however, check the website of the airline you want to fly to find out how many points it requires for your flight. Some airlines require fewer miles than others.
Look for an airline credit card with no annual fee, no foreign transaction fee and one that lets you earn miles or points on purchases and redeem them for travel on airplanes and at hotels, among other perks.
Find ways as a family to cut household expenses together, then automatically put that savings into your vacation fund.
Can you cut out one meal out each week and eat at home instead? Automatically move that $20 per person from your checking account to a savings account.
Get a Side Gig
Uber, Lyft, Etsy, TaskRabbit and Vayable are some of the many side jobs people do in their spare time to make extra money. Some do them full-time. A side gig can become your vacation fund, with all of that money dedicated to paying for vacations only.