When to save and when to splurge on your next vacation
April 17, 2023
7 min read
What we'll cover
Tips to save money on vacation
Ideas for when to splurge
Tools to organize savings
Traveling can often be a balancing act. You want to blend rest and relaxation with adventure and activities. See beautiful historical sites but avoid the tourists. Try all the local cuisine but save room for dessert. And, of course, experience the things that matter to you without blasting through your vacation budget on day one.
While we can’t promise to help you find the perfect Instagram-worthy hiking trail or a hidden-gem local pub, we can give you a few ideas for how to prioritize saving versus splurging while traveling — so you can take the trip you’ve banked on without reeling at the receipts when you get home.
When to get away
Summer or winter, midweek or weekend? When you travel, timing can make a big difference in price (and crowds), but it also impacts what kind of activities might be available. It’s important to weigh whether saving money on your visit is worth sacrificing the full experience of a destination.
Save: Traveling during the off-peak season of your destination can be a great way to visit at a lower cost and with fewer tourists around. If you have a particular vacation spot in mind, do some research to find out when the high season is. Check out whether resorts or hotels in the area offer deals for visitors who come during the offseason or on weekdays.
Splurge: Sometimes, it makes sense to spend a little more to visit an area during peak season. For example, if you have limited vacation time or flexibility regarding when you can travel (like teachers in the summertime or college students during spring break). Or if you are going somewhere for a particular event, like a festival or concert, you may have to pay a premium.
If you have a place in mind you really want to visit and it simply doesn’t make sense to go during the offseason, it could be worth the splurge.
It’s no secret that air travel can be pricey, and even budget airlines have their fair share of positives and negatives. When it comes to flying, it’s all about choosing between cost, convenience and comfort.
Save: One of the best ways to save on air travel is by booking your ticket in advance. Do some research and use ticket price tracking tools to keep an eye on your potential ticket so you can buy it at the best price. If you’re able to, aim to fly on a weekday when ticket prices are lower. Be sure to compare different airlines and take note of any hidden or additional fees you may incur for baggage or seat selection.
Splurge: Getting there really can be half the fun. If you’ve always dreamed of flying first class, spending some extra money, miles or credit card points to upgrade to a comfier seat can make your flight a more pleasant and memorable extension of your overall trip. Similarly, if you have a long airport connection, you might decide it’s worth paying the money to hang out in an airport lounge for a few hours, rather than sit in a crowded terminal.
Where to stay
Depending on the type of trip you’re taking, accommodations can make or break your vacation. On a spa getaway? You’re probably hoping to fall into a luxurious bed at the end of the day. But if you plan to spend as little time as possible in your hotel or rental, this can be a great place to pull back spending, so you have more cash for other activities.
Save: Reduce spending on your stay by taking some extra time to compare hotels, home rentals, bed and breakfasts and other lodging options. If you’re traveling with a bigger group, consider going in together on one Airbnb or rental property instead of booking separate hotel rooms. Similarly, choosing accommodations with a kitchen means you can save money by cooking some of your own meals.
Also, be sure to check whether your credit card offers any hotel perks or credits and look into travel sites that let you bundle a hotel and airfare for extra savings.
Splurge: Staying in an amazing hotel or resort can be an incredible experience, so it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it. If you’re going on a multi-day trip, say three or more nights, you might choose to splurge on a fancy hotel or upgrade to a room with a view for one night and stay in more modest accommodations the other nights.
What to eat
Food is often one of the biggest spending categories while traveling, so it’s important to budget for all your meals. Whether you’re staying local or vacationing across the world, plan a mix of save and spend meals so you can enjoy craveable cuisine while keeping your dining bill in check.
Save: Save money on food by purchasing groceries and cooking your own meals, if possible. Stock up on snacks like granola or protein bars so you don’t find yourself hungry between meals. And if you’re staying at a hotel that offers complimentary breakfast, take advantage of it.
Another tip? Before you hit the road (or the skies), research where you’re going and the activities you’ll be doing or areas you plan to explore. Pick out restaurants near where you’ll be and make a note of the ones that interest you. That way, when you are out and about, you’ll already know what is nearby.
Splurge: If you’re a foodie, you might plan to spend the bulk of your vacation budget on dining. But if you’re simply traveling somewhere just to take it all in, consider planning on at least one or two splurge meals, depending on the length of your trip. Remember, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a fancy steak dinner or seafood tower.
A splurge meal might look like an afternoon trying a little bit of everything at a local market, a brewery tour and tasting, or room service breakfast in bed. Unique dining experiences can be a great, worthwhile way to make memories and learn more about a destination.
How to get around
It can be easy to forget about transportation when planning a trip, but getting from A to B can quickly add up if you haven’t given it forethought.
Save: Creating a rough itinerary before your trip can help you plan certain activities that are nearby, so you don’t have to go back and forth to the same area. Research public transportation options and get to know the system in case you need to buy a rail card or day pass. And, if possible, walk (or bike and scooter) as much as you can!
Splurge: If you’re traveling alone or are out late at night, your safety is more important than saving a few bucks. Keep room in your budget for taxis or rideshares for instances when walking or taking public transit isn’t feasible or safe.
Plan your splurges ahead of time
With an Ally Bank Savings Account, it’s easier than ever to save for what matters to you and organize your savings based on your goals. You can create, name and set dollar amount goals for up to 30 separate savings buckets. That means instead of simply saving for a vacation, you can create a bucket for all your different vacation splurges, from the must-have meal to tickets to a show to lodging and airfare.
By planning and saving for your splurges ahead of time, you can feel confident and comfortable about your spending, do the things that matter most to you and know they fit in your vacation budget.
Find your vacation balance
Low-cost traveling tips are not hard to find. But just because you can spend less doesn’t always mean you should. If all you think about before and during a trip is how to avoid spending money, you may end up depriving yourself of experiences and memories. By prioritizing the aspects of a vacation that matter to you ahead of time, you can decide what’s worth splurging on and what’s not. And with savings buckets, you can see your traveling dreams start to become a reality — just in time for takeoff.