5 Ways to Save for a Vacation Without Making it Feel Like You’re Saving

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One of the biggest complaints I hear about travel is how expensive it can be. Sure, some people may end up spending five digits a year on their travels, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good trip for $1,500.

I honestly believe that travelling doesn’t have to be expensive, but admittedly, coming up with a travel budget to begin with can be tricky when you’re spending your money on other things such as toilet paper, food, daycare, and rent/mortgage payments.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are tips on how to save money for a vacation. Without it hurting your heart (or your bank account) too much. Because in the end, we all deserve to spoil ourselves occasionally.

5 Ways to Save for a Vacation Without Making it Feel Like You’re Saving

Set up an auto-deposit for your vacation fund

Be consistent with saving. Every time you get paid, set aside a fixed amount goes right into an account that’s dedicated to your travels. This way you’re paying yourself first and you won’t have to think about how much you want to save that month. Since these ‘payments’ are automatic, you won’t be tempted to spend it on other wants or needs.

Sure, your monthly budget may become smaller. But you’ll be happier in the long run, and you’ll feel far more responsible. Eventually, you won’t even miss that money anymore. If you put aside $150 every month, you would have $1,800 after a year of saving.

And on that note …

Open an account where your money is working for you

It’s time to put your money somewhere that gives you interest–  this means you’ll be making money on your money (which is probably the easiest way to make money if you think about it). Yes, interest rates right now are a bit low, but there are a few High Interest Savings Accounts (HISA) that may be the perfect place to park your money.

  • EQ Bank – 2.3%
  • Tangerine – 2.5% (for 6 months, 1.1% after promotion ends)
  • Alterna Bank – 2.05%
  • Simplii Financial – 1.1%

You won’t exactly be swimming in money with these rates, but getting something is better than nothing which is what most standard chequing accounts offer.

And don’t forget tip number one – set up an auto-deposit so a portion of your pay cheque gets deposited right into this account.

Investing your vacation money to make it grow quicker may be tempting, but keep in mind that when investing, you have an equal chance of your money going down as it does up. It’s likely a better (and safer) idea to stick to a HISA so you know exactly how much you have available for travel at any given time.

Put $20 – $30 in a jar every week

If putting aside $150 automatically every month is too much or too complicated, how about starting small? If you can set aside just $20 every Friday in a jar, you would have $1,040 at the end of the year. Up that amount to $30 every week and you’d have $1,560!

Trust me, that a good amount of money to travel with. My wife and I travelled to Portugal for less $2,000 and that was for two people!

If you need help stretching your budget, take a look at Merit Travel where they curate trips based on your budget and exactly what you’d like to experience. So once the year is done and you’ve got your total, you’ll be able to speak to someone to create the trip of your dreams.

Cancel cable – or at least adjust it

Yes. Either cancel your cable or reconsider your options. It can save you almost $500.00 a year (seriously, cable is expensive). This doesn’t mean you can’t watch your favourite shows, it just means you can do it in a far cheaper way. Netflix, for instance, is about $11.00 a month.

Doesn’t have what you want? There’s far more where that came from … do some due diligence and research the smartest option. And if you’re not completely sold on this, how about cutting some other expenses? The point is, every dollar you save can be used towards other things such as vacations (or retirement savings).

If you were able to find a way to cut $500 a year from your expenses and immediately put it towards your travels, well then, all of sudden your vacation budget is likely looking pretty sweet.

Make lists before you shop

Seems simple enough – but this will save you a ton of money. It just takes great willpower to follow and proves most difficult for some. You know … When you go to the grocery store for apples and then you decide everything looks appealing, so you come home with 2 tubs of ice cream, 4 bags of chips, salsa, pickles, cookie dough (and more). But then you get home and you realize you forgot to buy the apples and you spent $30.00 more than you wanted. Stop the habit. That’s $30.00 you could have put toward your trip.

Honestly, this applies to anything. Make a list of the things you need before shopping, that way when you’re browsing those aisles, you’ll slap yourself on the hand – if it’s not on the list, it’s not being purchased.

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi


  1. Sd on May 23, 2018 at 4:25 AM

    Hi Barry! I’m a new reader of your blog. Great post! I’m in the market for a new credit card and I’m reluctant to get a travel rewards credit card, even though they usually give better returns than cashback cards. I feel that when you have redeem points for flights, you’d be restricted to certain date/times/airlines. Is this true? If I’m traveling with someone, I’d want to be able to book the same flight as them.

    • Barry Choi on May 23, 2018 at 6:05 AM

      Hi Sd,

      With the exception of Aeroplan branded credit cards, most travel credit cards have no blackout dates since they act like cash-back cards which you use to redeem for travel. Aeroplan still offers good value, but the best deals are when you’re redeeming business class flights or have full flexibility.

      There are plenty of great travel credit cards available that I could recommend. The best cards IMO have big signup bonuses, but that requires a minimum spend in the first 3 months to get them.

      • Sd on May 25, 2018 at 4:28 AM

        Thanks for the reply! Is redeeming points for flights best for solo travel? I usually travel with friends or family (who don’t collect these points), so I’m thinking that it may be difficult to get the same flight as them if they’re paying with cash and I’m paying with points.

        • Barry Choi on May 25, 2018 at 9:42 AM


          It’s really a personal preference. Aeroplan is the only program that makes things difficult. Most of the other credit card travel programs allow you to book any travel you want, and then you redeem your points after so it’s easy to get flights with friends and family.

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