Planning a winter vacation? The time to start saving is now — in fact, you may even want to start stowing away funds for next summer’s big getaway.

So what are the smartest, most effective ways to build your travel finance arsenal? Budget Travel deputy editor, Robert Firpo-Cappiello, gives us these tips:

1. Figure out your travel frequency

Some people can afford to take off every few months. Others, not so much. If you need to cap your vacation budget, you should decide what kind of vacation makes you happiest. “Some people take one vacation a year that’s quite lavish — they have a kind of bucket list that includes going to Machu Picchu or The Great Wall of China,” says Firpo-Cappiello. “Others would rather take three trips a year, but spend less.”

2. Set up a vacation savings account

In the spirit of the Christmas Club accounts of yesterday, you can set up savings accounts designated specifically for vacations. “You can have money from your paycheck set to automatically go into your vacation account,” explains Firpo-Cappiello. “And you’re not going to touch it till you go on vacation.” (Ally Bank offers a number of savings accounts that can do the trick. Our High Yield Certificate of Deposit, for instance, offers terms ranging from three, six and nine months, all the way up to five years.)

3. Visualize

As you save for travel, you’ll probably be tempted to squander money on non-vacation-related temptations. When this happens, you may want to soul-search. “Use visualization,” suggests Firpo-Cappiello. “Ask yourself, ‘Would I rather spend this this money on pizza, or on the Mardi Gras I want to go to 20 months from now?'”

4. Don’t overload your credit card

If you’re booking a vacation with your credit card, don’t let it turn into a running balance. “You can end up spending, potentially, 30, 50, maybe even 100 percent more on your trip, depending on how long it takes you to pay it off,” says Firpo-Cappiello. On the other hand, Firpo-Cappiello says, plastic is fine “if you pay your bill on time and are enrolled in a rewards program where you earn points.”

How do you financially prepare for vacations? What methods do you use to fund your trips?