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How do I… plan for a vacation?

Sun, sand and savings await on your next dream vacation

Make the most out of your vacation budget with these holiday savings tips

Whether it's a simple local road trip or something a bit bigger, managing expenses for flights, hotels and family members is a lot to consider.

You deserve to get out, get away and enjoy your hard-earned time off. Fortunately, there are a few easy ways to save money for vacation without sacrificing the good stuff.

Set up a vacation fund

It's easy to daydream about a vacation plan. Who doesn't enjoy imagining exploring a new city or relaxing on a beach? But the only way to make your dream vacation come true is by having enough money to cover the cost.

The best way to save money for a vacation is by setting up a separate savings account specifically for your getaway. If you use the same chequing or savings account you have for regular expenses, allocating funds to your vacation can become complicated.

Your best bet is to start a separate savings account for your vacation plans. This will help you keep track of how much you have to spend, and how much you still need to save.

When opening a new account, look for high-interest rates and low fees that will help maximize the return on your investment over time. Also, make sure the financial institution allows you to access your funds easily with a debit card or cheque.

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Budget your trip wisely

It might feel like once you get to the beach, you’ve won the vacation-planning lottery. But saving for your trip is only half the battle. The real challenge is making a budget and sticking to it, even when you’re having fun. Setting a realistic vacation budget will relieve the stress of overspending. You can budget for the entire trip or even set a daily spending limit.

When creating a vacation budget, keep these things in mind:

  • Research your destination and find out how close it is to the attractions you want to see. Factor in things like transportation and excursion costs like tickets or entry fees

  • Plan out your meals. Does your accommodation have a kitchen? Will you need to eat out often? Where are the closest grocery stores if you want to make your own meals? 

  • Make a budget for shopping, souvenirs and gifts before you go. Stick to your budget and try to resist the novelty t-shirts and fridge magnets if they aren’t factored in

  • Keep communication in mind. Will your phone work at your destination? If not, will you need to SIM card or data plan while you’re there?

  • Research local exchange rates before you go, and be sure to take out a safe amount of money at home to ensure you get the best rate possible

As well, keep a small budget for unexpected costs. This can include missed flights, a lost suitcase or an unexpected taxi fare. 

These costs may seem insignificant at first, but they can add up quickly during an extended stay. Rather than overspend each day, create a budget that will allow you to enjoy your destination without breaking the bank.

Need a budget calculator for your next vacation? Our savings calculator can help you get there

Get travel insurance*

If you’re leaving the province or the country, you’ll need to get travel insurance before you go. Your Medical Services Plan (MSP) does not cover medical expenses out-of-province, and any personal insurance won’t be valid if you lose your luggage or get hurt while abroad.

Your credit card may have travel insurance included, though it’s a good idea to review the policy before you travel. Some credit cards offer trip interruption and cancellation insurance, alongside medical coverage. Others may not offer any insurance at all.

Medical expenses can be high when travelling, especially if you need urgent care. Be sure to purchase extra insurance if your current plan doesn’t cover you while travelling. Your vacation will be more relaxing if you know you’re protected.

Five things you can do to make vacation planning make sense for your goals:

  1. Set a budget before you go, including daily spending limits and an emergency fund in case something goes wrong

  2. Review your insurance and be sure to get extra protection for trip interruptions, cancellations and medical emergencies

  3. Keep an eye out for deals and promotions from airlines and hotels. You can often find deep discounts and special offers during promotional periods

  4. If you know you'll be traveling more than once during the year, book multiple trips at once to take advantage of any discounts or promotions that may apply

  5. Take a couple of mini trips throughout the year instead of one big vacation. This could help you stay within your budget while still giving you something to look forward to

Track your savings and expenses

Tracking the progress of your savings will tell you when the time is right to buy your plane tickets, book a hotel or just pack your car. When monitoring your spending, try to focus on ways you can save instead of what's already been spent.

Compare different airlines and look for deals that work best for your budget. If possible, book at least two months in advance since airfare tends to be cheaper when purchased ahead of time. You can also check for discounts at the hotel you're considering to save money on lodging costs.

Traveling outside of peak seasons, as well as being flexible on your dates, can help you save money on airfare and accommodation costs.

If you have travel points or rewards from credit card reward programs or loyalty programs, track these too. You may find you have to spend less cash on your vacation than you thought. Or you might choose your destination based on the best available deal.

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Use credit cards for extra rewards

Using a credit card to pay for vacation expenses can be an effective way to earn points or cash back while on your trip. Certain cards offer cash back when used on lodging, airfare and other travel-related purchases. 

To get the most out of your credit cards, look for ones that offer bonus points and rewards. In some cases, you may be able to redeem those points later on for more travel or other items. Be sure to read the terms and conditions of each card carefully before applying so that you understand all associated fees and interest rates.

If you're worried about higher exchange rates when using your credit card on vacation, don't be! Credit cards often have lower fees and better exchange rates than foreign ATMs or financial institutions. Just remember to pay off what you owe quickly to avoid extra fees. 

As well, be sure to read the fine print and note any foreign exchange rates your credit card carries. Even with an added charge, your card could still be cheaper than taking out cash—especially if you’re earning rewards points. Talk to your financial institution before you travel to find the most cost-effective payment plan.

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Live within your means

Not everyone can afford to go on vacation multiple times a year—and that's okay. Don't feel pressured to overspend to make sure you get the perfect vacation. Instead, focus on planning a trip that fits within your budget. 

Think about ways you can save money without sacrificing any of the fun experiences you have in mind. Can you take public transportation instead of renting a car? Are there discounts available for certain attractions or activities?

Maybe your perfect vacation is not about where you go, but who you're spending time with. You might find just as much joy driving to a nearby lake for a weekend camping trip as you would flying to an exotic locale. 

Above all, be realistic when planning your trip. Make sure you save enough money and time off work before committing to any specific plans. By doing so, you can make sure that your budget and expectations are in sync, so you can truly enjoy your time off.

Ready to start planning your next vacation?

Your dream vacation starts at your financial institution. Whether you’re planning a short weekend getaway or a month-long adventure, take time to prepare your savings now so you can enjoy the beach later.

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* Disclaimer: Insurance products are available through Gulf & Fraser Insurance Services Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Gulf & Fraser. This website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific insurance, financial, investment, tax, or other advice to you, and should not be acted or relied upon in that regard. Insurance products are underwritten by certain licensed insurance companies and are only available throughout British Columbia, Canada