Skip to main content
TRAVEL

How to afford your dream vacation 

What we'll cover

  • Factors that influence vacation cost

  • Strategies for lowering the cost of travel

  • How to make your dream trip more affordable 

Everyone has that one bucket list travel destination — the place they’d go if money wasn’t a factor. The cost of your ideal trip may make it seem unattainable, but with some savvy saving strategies, you can make your travel aspirations a reality. Here’s how to afford your dream vacation.

Book your trip early

The early bird gets the worm, and that goes for travel too. Give yourself plenty of time to comparison shop and find the best deals. Not sure how far in advance you should book your flights? That will depend on where you’re going. For domestic travel within the U.S., you’ll likely find the lowest fares around 76 days before your departure date. If you’re headed out of the country, a longer timeline is needed. Booking up to 10 months ahead of your trip is recommended for international travel. 

Travel during the off-season

When it comes to saving on your dream vacation, supply and demand definitely come into play. For instance, family-friendly go-tos like Disney World are swamped — and more expensive — during the summer and school breaks.

But every destination is different, so research your dream locale to see when peak season is. If a European vacation is your pick, the high season is from approximately mid-June through August. If a Caribbean getaway is your goal, December through mid-April is the most popular time to visit.

Traveling during the offseason can make your trip much more affordable as plane tickets and hotel rates will be lower. As an added bonus, you can expect much lighter crowds during these slower times of the year, which could potentially make scoring that hot restaurant reservation just a little bit easier.

Research the best places to stay

Your accommodations have a huge impact on the price of your trip, so if you’re working with a tight budget, it’s important to consider all of your options. If you can’t afford a five-star hotel in your destination of choice, you have plenty of other choices. Depending on where you’re going, a hostel, vacation rental or bed and breakfast could be the perfect — and most economical — place to stay.

And don’t discount even more creative accommodations like a home exchange, homestay or camping. These unconventional places to stay can be interesting and fun as well as low-cost (or even completely free). 

Consider public transportation

Plane tickets are another big part of a typical vacation budget, but flying is not the only way to get where you’re going. Depending on where you’re headed, cheaper alternatives can include trains, buses and even boats.

You might also consider a good, old-fashioned road trip. Not only can it save you money, but it’s a fun way to sightsee along the way. Once you reach your vacation destination, utilizing public transportation to get around can also help you cut spending. The savings from taking the subway, city bus or walking can really add up when you’re not spending that money on cabs, ride shares or a rental car.

Use points and miles

Paying cash is not always the best way to get the most for your money. When booking transportation or hotel, using points, rewards or a combination of the two may get you the most bang for your buck. Factor in cents per mile when booking flights, and remember rewards may have different values based on things like the time of year, where you book and where you redeem them. Do a little research to see which strategy will get you the best deal.

Budget and save

A dream vacation is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Like any big goal, you’ll have to put in some work to achieve it. Start saving toward your trip as soon as you can. Consider setting up a vacation bucket in your Ally Bank Savings Account. Watching the balance add up can keep you motivated and help make your dream seem that much more within reach. To supercharge your savings even further, consider boosters.

And don’t forget to plan for how much you’ll spend in total and how to pay for it all. To get started, follow some vacation budgeting best practices, including making an itinerary, preparing for unplanned expenses and pausing expenses at home.

From dream to reality

Whether you want to do absolutely nothing but lie on the beach or long for an action-packed adventure, a dream vacation is always a worthy financial goal. If cost is keeping you from setting off on your ultimate getaway, breaking it down into achievable steps like these can help make it more affordable. Start saving today, and make your travel hopes come true.

Explore more

Save Spend Security

Read next

A happy couple sitting on the couch in their living room drinking coffee 5 visualization tips to help you save more

Sept. 5, 2023  •  4 min read

A couple sitting on the edge of a scenic overlook Quiz: Find your next travel destination

March 23, 2022  •  2 min read

Inspiring stories, the latest financial discussions and helpful information to build your best possible future.