Planning advice for a stress-free summer vacation

After being sheltered inside for months on end, the idea of going on a summer vacation (even a modified one) is more exciting than ever. Avoid the usual headache of planning — and funding — your getaway with the following tips.

1. Explore options with your credit card rewards

Depending on the credit card you have, you may be able to cash in the rewards you’ve accumulated for discounts on things like flights, hotels, car rentals and experiences. Some credit card companies also offer rental car insurance, lost luggage insurance and other travel benefits. Be sure you’re aware of the benefits available to you so you don’t pay for something that’s included with the card you already own.

While you’re looking at your credit card reward program, be sure to let the financial institution know when and where you’ll be traveling.

2. Shop around

If credit card rewards won’t be funding the entire cost of your trip, compare prices with websites like Expedia or Trivago. Also consider bundling your travel needs for extra discounts. After a big hit to the travel industry, certain groups may be putting out bargains to attract visitors.

Depending on the length of your trip and the size of your group, booking a vacation rental through sites like Airbnb or VRBO could cost you less than a hotel. Try to book sooner rather than later so you have time to research all of your options.

3. Use a high-yield savings account and set up automatic transfers

Instead of storing the money you’ve set aside for your vacation in a regular savings account, consider using a high-yield savings account instead. High-yield savings accounts typically pay 20 to 25 times the national average of standard savings accounts, and you can open one up in just a few minutes online through banks like Ally or Discover. Then you can connect it to your checking account, even if it is at another bank, and set up a recurring automatic transfer to save for your trip. Consider setting up a transfer after each paycheck so you save money before you even really see it.

4. Create a plan for food and drinks while you’re traveling

The word “budget” can be an instant buzz kill, so instead of thinking of food and drinks in terms of only dollars, also think of it as time you’re spending on your vacation. If dining isn’t an experience draw for you, instead of wasting valuable hours of your trip waiting to be served at a restaurant multiple times a day, you can make your own meals and take them with you when you’re on the go. Consider booking a room with a kitchen and going to a grocery store after you arrive at your destination to stock up for the duration of your stay. Also take advantage of the free breakfast if it’s provided by your hotel.

5. Try free or discounted experiences

If you want to avoid paying for expensive activities, check the visitor center website for the location(s) you’ll be traveling to and see what’s on the local events calendar with little or no cost. If you booked a place to stay through a site like Airbnb or VRBO, your host may also be a good resource for things to do.

Lastly, consider avoiding paying for pricey guided tours by researching free ones online that you could do yourself. Many cities also offer free or pay-as-you-like guided walking tours that allow you to not only see different parts of the city but also learn about its history, hotspots and experiences.

If your trip is going to be overseas, check out more tips in our article Follow these smart money tips before traveling abroad.

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Planning advice for a stress-free summer vacation

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