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Leaving all of your cares behind to go on vacation is something that most of us love to do. But if you’re not careful, that relaxing trip can create of lot of stress in your life once it’s over. If you go into debt to finance your vacation plans, your budget and credit scores could suffer the consequences of that decision.

On a positive note, it is possible to enjoy all of the fun a vacation has to offer without a post-travel debt hangover. Keep reading for five expert tips you can use to plan for a debt-free vacation.

1. Save a little every month.

The best way to avoid going into debt when you go on vacation is to save money in advance for your trip. Start by taking a look at your monthly budget, and determine how much extra cash you are comfortable putting back for a future trip. A personal finance app can help you navigate this process if you don’t already have a preferred budgeting system in place.

It’s okay to start small if you need to when it comes to saving for your budget. Just $20 per week adds up to $1,040 over the course of a year. We’ll cover other ways you can add to your vacation savings fund below.

2. Create a dedicated savings account.

When you’re saving money with a specific purpose in mind, it’s helpful to stash your cash in a separate savings account. Removing your vacation fund from your general checking account makes it less tempting to spend the money on something else.

You can even store your money in a high-yield savings account. These savings accounts may earn a higher annual percentage yield (APY), and could give your money the opportunity to grow at a faster rate.

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3. Supercharge your savings efforts.

In addition to saving a little cash each month, you may be able to find other ways to supplement your vacation budget. Here are a few examples.

  • Tax refunds, bonuses and gifts could all represent opportunities to add more money to your vacation fund.
  • Consider selling unused items or picking up a side hustle to earn extra cash if your schedule allows.
  • Search for ways to reduce your monthly expenses.

Of course, you may opt to accomplish other financial goals with the savings or extra earnings you receive—like paying down debt or establishing an emergency savings account. But, depending on your financial situation, you might be able to divert some of that cash toward your vacation fund too.

4. Earn free travel and cash rewards.

Credit card companies and banks frequently compete with each other to win your business. And they may be willing to offer valuable rewards to entice you to choose their brand over a competitor. With the right strategy in place, you can earn free travel in several different ways.

  • Qualify for new credit card sign-up bonuses.
  • Use rewards credit cards to earn points, miles or cash back on everyday purchases.
  • Open a new bank account and take advantage of new customer bank bonuses.
  • Sign up for loyalty programs.

Some sign-up bonuses and rewards rates can be very generous. New cardholder bonuses from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, Marriott Bonvoy BoldTM Credit Card  and Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card can help you get to your travel destination for free or at the very least, on a discount.

Just remember to proceed caution where credit card rewards are concerned. If you don’t pay your full balance each month, you could incur some expensive interest charges. Interest fees can negate the value of any rewards you earn. And a high credit card utilization rate could damage your credit score too. Manage your accounts wisely, however, and it’s possible to have many credit cards and still maintain a great credit score.

5. Create a travel budget.

Before your vacation arrives, it’s important to plan how you’ll spend the money you’ve set aside for your trip. Depending on the type of trip you’re planning, you may need to prepare for a number of travel-related expenses like:

  • Airfare
  • Lodging
  • Gas
  • Rental Car
  • Ride Share or Taxi Fares
  • Meals
  • Entertainment
  • Shopping

It’s a good idea to incorporate some extra miscellaneous funds into your travel budget too. Doing so gives you freedom to make a few spontaneous purchases. If you want to remove some of the uncertainty from your vacation budget, you could also consider all-inclusive resorts or travel packages.

Bottom Line

Planning ahead for a debt-free vacation doesn’t have to be a restrictive process. In fact, it can be fun to figure out ways to enhance your vacation budget with free airline miles, credit card rewards and other travel freebies. And if you know that you won’t have to face a pile of vacation debt when you return home, your temporary break from reality can be that much more enjoyable.

ML

Michelle Lambright Black

Michelle Black is founder of CreditWriter.com and HerCreditMatters.com. Michelle is a leading credit card journalist with over a decade and a half of experience in the financial industry. She’s an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring, identity theft, budgeting, small business, and debt eradication. Michelle is also a certified credit expert witness and personal finance writer.