9 ways to afford your dream trip ASAP, according to experts

No matter where you go, traveling can take a toll on your bank account — which is why planning and saving up is a must. While that may seem like a challenge, it can be easier than you think.

According to the experts we spoke to, there are plenty of simple things you can do to get to where you need to be financially for your trip — all it’s going to take is some time and commitment. From making the most of budgeting tools to picking up a side hustle, ahead are some life-changing tips that will get you to that dream destination.

Look for coupons before you purchase.

Whether it’s in-store or online, there’s almost always a coupon available for your purchase, and taking the time to find one is totally worth it if it means more money in your pocket. Regardless of how big or small, these savings add up. “Do your research,” RetailMeNot shopping and trends expert Sara Skirboll told Travel + Leisure. “Take a couple of minutes to search for deals before checking out. In doing so, you can end up saving $20 in 20 minutes.”

Open a separate savings account.

The more you put away, the sooner your vacation will become a reality. “Every time you add to the account, give yourself permission to fantasize about the trip,” Dr. Elizabeth Dunn, scientific advisor for the money-saving app Joy, said. “My husband and I are planning a big ski getaway to Japan next winter and even if it’s about a year away, I get a little ripple of anticipatory pleasure from thinking about it. This is what the French call se réjouir, and it’s an underrated form of happiness. Think of it like emotional interest on the deposits you put into the savings account.”

Additionally, make things easier by setting up automatic deposits. “Automate the process as much as you can so you avoid the temptation to spend,” investing site WealthSimple’s chief investment officer, Dave Nugent, said. “It’s best to have some money deposited automatically each week or month from your checking to savings account.”


Pick up a side hustle.

“Every little bit counts, so pick up a side job if you have the time,” group travel company EF Ultimate Break’s product development manager, Lexie Carter, suggested. Having an extra income on top of a steady paycheck will allow you to get to your goal amount much quicker. Just make sure you don’t take on too much and overwork yourself.

Use your tax return and cash back deals wisely.

Spring is here, which means you’ll be cashing in on that tax return check in no time if you haven’t already. But you don’t have to wait until then to start receiving major cash back; check to see if your credit cards offer these services or sign up for sites that automatically give you a percentage back on purchases. “At RetailMeNot, we have offers for more than 50,000 retailers, brands, and restaurants,” Skirboll said. “These cash back deals are just another way we can save people money on the things they shop for every day.”

Make realistic goals.

Create a budget plan that’s comfortable for you and don’t feel pressured to completely deprive yourself of things you enjoy. Breaking habits doesn’t happen instantly and there are healthier ways to approach avoiding those daily Starbucks runs. “Saving for long-term goals is tricky,” Carter said. “It’s easier to slowly chip away at parts of your routine. For instance, opt to stay in one weekend, instead of going out.”

Surround yourself with like-minded people.

Cutting back on eating out, going to the movies, or spending money in general is more doable when you’re not alone. Get a gang together and start saving as a group. Plus, once you make it on the trip, costs tend to go down when you’re traveling with more people.


Start investing.

When dealing with long-term plans, investing should be at the top of your list, but don’t get overwhelmed by the idea of it. “A lot of firms have a minimum account size, but WealthSimple doesn’t require a minimum investment so anyone can get started — and since it’s digital, you’ll have the option to speak to an advisor anytime,” Nugent said. “Even if you don’t have a lot of money right now, you’ll get into the habit of investing and the earlier you start, the more time you’ll have to benefit from compound interest.”

Plan your trip smarter.

If all else fails and you can’t come up with the money, perhaps it’s time to reassess your getaway. “My general advice is to look for destinations that are seasonable, but that still have amenities during the off-season,” HotelTonight CEO Sam Shank said.

He also noted that hotel prices work in the opposite way flights do. “The longer you wait, the lower the rates,” he emphasized. “I think travelers should try waiting until the same day and they’ll often find some exceptional deals along with an unexpectedly great hotel.”

Remember why you’re doing all this.

“Decades of research have proven that people derive more intense happiness from buying trips over material things,” Dunn said. “When people are asked to look back on their past spending decisions, they’re less likely to regret going on a vacation.”

Happiness is reason enough to follow through with trip saving, so remember that when you want to blow it all on a new bag or pair of shoes. “In fact, recent studies show you’ll also be liked better if you talk about your experiential purchases rather than what you own,” she added.