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Taking Your First Vacation as an Adult? Here's How to Cut the Cost

Key Takeaways

  • There are budget-friendly trips you can take, both abroad and in the U.S.
  • The day of the week you fly can drastically affect the cost of your airfare.
  • Traveling with a group helps to lower the lodging cost, whether it's a hotel or home-sharing service like Airbnb.

As a young professional, there’s a lot to be excited about. You’ve traded in the books and exams for a real-world job with a real-adult paycheck. Now you can go out and travel the great big world, right?

If only it were that easy. There are lots of hands tugging at your paycheck — student loans, rent, car payment, insurance, and so on and so forth. Suddenly that paycheck feels a little smaller than it did before.

But don’t let that get you down. You’re not destined for a life stuck on the couch. You can still fulfill your sense of adventure; you’ll just need to be smarter about planning and saving for your first vacation as (kind of) an adult.

So, how can you fit this trip into your budget?

What are some budget-friendly vacations?


Albufeira, Portugal

Not every trip comes with a hefty price tag. There are plenty of beautiful and exciting places to visit that could fit into your limited budget.

If you’re looking to travel abroad, Forbes recommends a huge list of options, including destinations like these:

  • Albufeira, Portugal
  • Zanzibar
  • Saint Martin
  • Naples, Italy
  • Cook Islands

Or if you prefer to stay in the country, Money suggests the following budget-friendly destinations:

  • Orlando, Florida (others: Fort Myers and Tampa)
  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Denver
  • Salt Lake City
  • Minneapolis
  • Baltimore

How can you estimate the cost of your vacation?

There are five main expenses to account for when assessing the cost of your trip:

  1. Travel (airline tickets or gas)
  2. Lodging
  3. Food
  4. Activities
  5. Rental car (if applicable)

Add together the estimated cost of these expenses and you’ll get a ballpark estimate of your vacation’s total cost. Then you’ll have to decide if it fits into your budget and, if so, how you can save to make it happen (more on that later).

How can you cut the cost of your trip?

Once you decide where you want to go, find the best deal by comparing multiple options — especially with airline tickets and lodging.

When it comes to flying, the day of the week you travel can make all the difference. Generally speaking, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the most affordable days to fly, while Fridays and Sundays are pricier. So if you want to spend a week in Denver, look into flying out on a Wednesday and returning on a Tuesday.

As for lodging, you can save money by comparing the prices of hotels with those of home-sharing services like Airbnb. In some instances, you could get more space for less by renting a house instead of a hotel room. Also, the more people on the trip, the more you can split up the bill. Just make sure the size of your group doesn’t exceed any maximums set by the hotel or the person you’re renting from.

Going with a bigger group of people helps manage the cost of lodging.

But if you really want to cut costs, consider traveling during your destination’s “offseason.” Seasonality can make a big difference with flight and lodging prices. Just be careful when booking during this time. The money you save might not be worth a compromised experience, such as poor weather or unavailable activities.

Tip: Use services like Expedia or Kayak to compare airline, hotel, and rental car costs. Then save even more by bundling these expenses together.

Food costs can be easily controlled by going grocery shopping when you arrive at your destination. That way you’re not constantly burning through money dining out for every meal or splurging on every craving. Instead, use the money you saved for special occasions, like buying a nice dinner at that renowned restaurant downtown.

As for transportation, do you really need a rental car? If you plan on driving quite a bit, it makes sense. But if you don’t expect to be in the car a lot and are only traveling short distances, use ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft, or take public transportation.

OK, now how do I pay for this trip?

Even the most affordable vacation will require some level of saving. Fortunately, there are some best practices to make saving easier.

First, compare the estimated cost of your trip to when you plan on going. That’ll help you come up with an effective saving plan. For example, if you estimate your trip to Raleigh will cost $1,000 and you want to go in five months, a simple calculation will tell you to save $200 per month for the next five months. Remember, airfare and lodging reservations will have to be made in advance, so make sure you have enough saved early on to cover these upfront costs.

Second, open a separate savings account that’s for trip savings only. That way you’ll easily see how much you’ve saved and how far you have to go to reach your goal. You can either deposit money into this account manually or set up automatic transfers to take the thought out of saving. The separate account not only lets you monitor savings progress; it also ensures you won’t spend those dedicated savings on other things.

Third, when it’s time to use your vacation savings, transfer the funds into your checking account to access with your debit card or as cash. Or, you could charge the majority of your vacation expenses to your credit card and then transfer the vacation funds over when you make your credit card payment.

After your trip, you can reuse that separate savings account to start saving for your next vacation.

What to remember

Your young professional years are a great time to explore the world around you. You might be making an entry-level salary, but you have two big things going for you: time and flexibility. That might not be the case later in life, especially if kids enter the picture.

Go now when you and your friends have nothing to hold you back. Then research the best deals, set up your savings plan, and go for it!

More information

Need help saving for your next trip? Click here to learn more about opening a separate savings account for your vacation fund. Or, you can call 1-877-360-2472 or stop by your nearest Citizens Bank branch to learn more.

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