I always get the question, ” How can you afford to travel?” No, you do not have to be rich. No, you do not have to have credit cards. Just like anything in life, you just have to make the effort to focus on what’s important to you. Someone once told me, “People spend money on what they want, and what is important to them”. When anyone says, “I can’t afford to travel “, I think to myself no it’s not a priority for you. Here are 15 things you can do right now to afford that elusive vacation. Note you can use most of these tips in any context, whether it’s buying a car or house, home improvement project or my favorite, a vacation.

Set Goals  – I know a vacation is supposed to be fun right? Yes, it is but setting a budget, time to go and the destination is the first step to making your dream a reality. The fun doesn’t start until you hit the sand. Besides planning is half the fun.

Increase Your Income – Easier said than done. We are all overworked and our time is precious. However, consider a side job. It’s amazing how many people day trade or sell products like makeup, health products or jewelry.  An aquaintance, coaches football at the local middle school, another works at the outlet mall a few nights a week. Sign up for money-saving sites like Hip2Save. Ebates gives you cash back for your purchases. One thing I do every month without fail is look around the house anything that has not been used for 6 months or more goes up on Facebook or Ebay for sale.

Make Meals At Home  – My family follows this rule. We eat out once a week if that. What we don’t do that can save additional money is make lunches each day.

Curb Your Spending –  This is another tough one. I mean you gotta live right? I try to abide by the 80-20 rule. Hold back most of the time but don’t restrict myself to the point where I am miserable. I ask myself is this something you really need? Will you be using this item in a few months? If the answer is no I pass and give my self-permission to revisit the item later.

Buy Things That Are New To You – This is the most underused tip in my opinion. Everything you buy does not have to be brand new. When Bryan and I needed bikes we bought them from Facebook Marketplace. Other things to consider buying used are cars, patios sets, video games, and furniture.  Other options are to borrow items you will use once or twice or get a library card. My local Library offers free admission to Museums & other attractions in the Chicagoland Area.

Consider A Travel Credit Card – Proceed cautiously with this advice. If you decide to get a travel credit card make sure whatever you spend you pay off monthly. You don’t want to be paying interest on your vacation. Note also, that many cards require you to spend a certain amount of money within the first few months to claim points. We have only had a few cards over the years. The one we like the most so far is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. You earn triple points on travel and dining and we gained a whopping 100,000 miles in our first few months. To see what card is right for you to check out the Points Guy’s website.

Save Money Weekly/Randomly – This trick has been around for a long time. Each week set aside a certain amount for travel. We started with $20 a week, usually when I went grocery shopping. We also had a spare change jar. These days you can use saving apps that save money based on parameters you give or your spending habits. See my post about saving apps here.

Drive Don’t Fly – If you have a large family or you are traveling during peak travel times consider driving. You can check the cost of driving here. My family has done this once a year or so.  It helps us squeeze as many trips in as possible.  Another option is using a discount airline. Many have hidden fees but if the fare is low enough you can save big bucks.

Stay In A Hotel Or Rental With A Kitchen – This is another tip I groan at and roll my eyes when I hear it but….. To stretch, your dollar consider cooking breakfast and lunch at the hotel. Wherever we stay I always bring snacks goldfish, Oreos, granola bars, and our own refillable water bottles saves a lot of money and whining too.

Local Destination – The key to travel is to remember you don’t need an exotic long vacation to have a good time. Travel is really about making memories. So find a popular spot an hour away and plan a day trip or a weekend trip. Here in Chicagoland; Wisconsin or Indiana or Michigan lake vacations are popular.

Be Flexible – Consider all destinations. We recently learned this with using Google flights. We found several destinations we didn’t even think of for bargain prices. So don’t fixate on a specific destination. Another tip that helps save money is a last-minute trip. Be ready to go if something pops up. A final tip on flexibility is to know what you are getting for the price you pay. Do not pay pennies on the dollar for a hotel and expect the Taj Mahal!

Vacations With Others – Sometimes vacationing with a group can get you cheaper rates. Staying with family or friends can also save a chunk of cash, however, I caution against this in most cases. A few days with relatives is okay but really only use this as a last resort.

Plan Early – Start looking for where you’d like to go at the latest 6 months before you plan to go. Spend a few days reading blogs about your destination and gathering tips for maximizing your time there. I have many clients come to me 30-45 days before they want to travel and expect me to work miracles.

Try to Win a Trip – This is fun, pretty unlikely but you never know right? I follow Sweetie’s Sweeps and every few months or so enter sweepstakes. You can increase your odds of winning trips by trying to win with radio stations, entering often and entering little-known contests.

Travel In Lieu Of Gifts – So travel has become so important to us we don’t really celebrate birthdays and anniversaries with presents anymore. I have slowly phased out birthday parties for my older son and working on it for my 5-year-old.  Christmas is next on the list. In the past, we’ve had a room full of presents that never get played with. No more.

Remember set a budget, raise the money and make memories! Happy Travels!

Disney Port Orleans Resort 2012


Mera lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband Bryan and their two children. She’s always looking for experiences for her family and values any memory making opportunities.

She grew up in the Caribbean as a Methodist Missionary’s daughter and is active in her community and church as a Rotarian and church Mission Chair.

The family squeezes as many trips foreign and domestic into their year and lives a frugal lifestyle to make that happen. In 2011 Mera quit her administrative job in local government and has been raising money for family vacations ever since then.