If 2020 made you fantasize about a trip as soon as travel restrictions were lifted—and you’re still waiting—you aren’t alone. Although 2021 was poised to be a comeback year, it is shaping up to be another summer of staycations or socially distanced road trips, with many Americans passing on air travel.
While sacrifices are being made and large trips may not be possible for many, that doesn’t mean you can’t plan other kinds of vacations—and it just might save you money in the process. Additionally, planning ahead for your next big trip is guaranteed to help you save.
Start implementing these tips (which are ordered from easiest to most involved) now to make your travel dreams come true.
Start a savings jar
It might sound simple (and old-fashioned), but a savings jar is a great way to slowly build up cash to treat yourself and your family to your ideal vacation. Granted, with travel limited for over a year now, you may have already been saving. But if you haven’t, it’s not too late to start. Anytime you have spare change left over from a cash purchase, put it in the jar. At the end of the month, take the money out, count it, store it in a safe place, and record the amount in a spreadsheet or a notebook. This is also a great way to get children involved in the process, as you’ll be teaching them savings skills in a way that is tangible and easy to understand.
If you are comfortable traveling by car and your state’s regulations allow it, consider planning a series of day trips or weekend excursions. If you live within driving distance of a major city, do some research on the best activities, restaurants, museums, and other attractions, and plan an itinerary around your favorites. And, if you think you’ve already seen all there is to see, try patronizing a small business and ask the owner or employees to share their favorite spots. You might discover a hidden gem!
Are you more of the outdoorsy type? Every state has a number of state or national parks you can visit while safely social distancing and getting some much-needed time in nature. Find the park or parks closest to you on the National Park Service website, which lists (in great detail) some of the most popular activities in each park. Whether you enjoy hiking, biking, camping, or simply sightseeing, visiting state and national parks is an amazing and inexpensive—and in some cases, free—way to do these activities and more!
If you know people who travel often and you’ve wondered how they can possibly afford it, the answer might be that they’ve chosen their credit cards strategically. According to the popular personal finance company NerdWallet, here are some of the most popular travel cards for 2021.
- CAPITAL ONE VENTURE CARD: This card is rated one of the best for travelers for a reason. It offers a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles after you spend $3,000 (within the first three months) and double flight miles on every purchase. Also, your miles will never expire.
- WELLS FARGO PROPEL AMERICAN EXPRESS CARD: If you’d prefer a card with no annual fee, this might be the one for you. There is an intro APR period of zero percent for the first twelve months of purchases and balance transfers, and you can earn triple points on restaurant purchases, streaming service subscriptions, and rideshares, among other categories.
- CHASE SAPPHIRE PREFERRED CARD: Although recommended for those with good or excellent credit, this card delivers great perks for travelers. You’ll earn 60,000 points after your first $4,000 spent (within three months), get unlimited deliveries for the first year—plus a $0 delivery fee—on eligible orders through DoorDash, and earn 25 percent more on travel points when they are redeemed through its rewards program.
Do your research before booking a flight or hotel reservation. Websites like Expedia and Trivago offer great deals, but they aren’t always the best deal out there, so consider booking directly through the airline or hotel website. Compare and contrast your options, and be sure to call the hotels to ask about any deals or promotions they have going on. Hotels often prefer customers to book through them, so they may be more inclined to give you a discount or even upgrade you to a nicer room. You may also be able to avoid some of the added fees associated with booking if you opt to decline them.
You could also end up saving by renting a house or an apartment through Airbnb or Vrbo. Although the price per night is often higher than what you would pay at a chain or boutique hotel, you’ll typically get more for your money. Consider this: if you stay in a hotel, you will likely need to purchase every meal out. However, with a rental, you can plan to prepare some of your meals at home, helping you save money in the long run.
The road trip has made a comeback in a major way in the last year, as it’s the perfect way to see the sights while keeping socially distanced. Websites like Roadtrippers can help you plan the exact route to take based on criteria like starting and ending locations or specific monuments and attractions you want to see. It also offers trip guides with preplanned routes that are popular with other travelers, including a guide to the best stops on Route 66, a one-week journey on the Pacific Coast Highway, and an Atlantic Coast trip from Boston all the way to Miami. If you have a smaller vehicle or aren’t keen on putting that many miles on your car, consider a rental instead. The average cost* for a midsize rental car through a company like Enterprise, for example, is about $44 per day or $361 per week. *Keep in mind this price will vary based on location, time of year, and the type of car you rent.
No matter how or when you choose to travel next, there are plenty of ways you can have the trip you’ve been hoping for without breaking the bank. Happy trails!