Man and women vacationing in Spain check finances on their smartphone to stick to their travel budget.

How to Stick to a Budget on Vacation


Saving for your next vacation early on can help save money and avoid overspending during your trip.

The purpose of a vacation is to unwind and relax, so you don’t want to be stressed about money the whole time you’re traveling. Creating a budget and finding creative ways to save helps you make the most from your travel dollars and ensures your focus remains on the fun.

The first step is understanding how much you should spend on vacation. A general rule of thumb recommends spending no more than 10% of your annual income on vacations yearly. However, the exact amount depends on your personal finances and the type of vacation you have planned. For instance, a week-long camping trip will cost less than a luxury resort in Cabo.

The key is establishing an amount within your means that doesn’t require you to take on debt. Consider using an automated savings program like the Fifth Third Momentum® Savings account to set aside money for your trip. An optimal way to pay for your vacation is to use goal-based savings, where you set a specific goal such as a vacation, and then use Smart Savings to move a specific amount automatically each week or month from your checking account to your savings account.

You can ensure you stay on budget while traveling by doing the following:

1. Research Activities in Advance

If you know you’ll be visiting some popular attractions, go online to find discounts on tickets, package deals, or other ways to save on tourist activities. For example, in New York City, you can buy a city pass that provides reduced admission to multiple tourist destinations, such as the Empire State Building and the Museum of Natural History. Also, familiarize yourself with some of the “tourist traps” to avoid, such as overpriced restaurants and souvenir shops close to big attractions.

2. Consider Eating In

Several days of eating in restaurants can become costly. You can make your vacation dollars go further by bringing snacks, booking hotels offering complimentary breakfast, or staying in places with kitchens so you can cook. For instance, food in Hawaii is notoriously expensive. However, by booking an Airbnb and making a quick trip to the grocery store, you can save on food and put that money toward other vacation experiences.

3. Travel During the Off-Season

Visiting places during the off-season is a great way to avoid crowds and higher prices. Traveling to popular destinations during off-seasons or the adjoining periods, known as shoulder seasons, can save money on flights, lodging, and more. Resorts and hotels in ski towns, for example, often reduce their rates in the fall and spring. You can experience the resorts, do some hiking, and enjoy the small-town vibe for much less than if you visit during the height of ski season.

4. Take Public Transportation

Renting a car for a week costs an average of $500 at the cheapest rental car company, according to consumer website For many travelers, that’s a big chunk of their vacation budget. If you’re visiting a city with public transportation, consider taking the bus or subway instead of paying for a car (and the inevitable expensive parking). Public transportation not only costs significantly less than renting a car, but it allows you to experience a city in a different way and reduce your carbon footprint.

5. Live Like a Local

You can also stay on budget—and have more authentic experiences—by avoiding tourist areas altogether and seeking out local attractions. This might mean staying in a neighborhood instead of in the city center, seeking out lesser-known beaches or parks, or visiting favorite local food carts. You can find local blogs for inspiration or be brave and ask the locals you meet on the street for recommendations.

6. Skip the Souvenir Shopping

There’s nothing like a vacation to spur classic impulse purchases. But do you really need another sweatshirt or knick-knack? Before you leave for vacation, think about buying one or two small things that truly remind you of your trip and make finding those things part of the fun. In most cases, the best souvenirs of a great vacation are the memories and the photos, both of which are free.

7. Take Advantage of Travel Rewards

Last but not least, you can save a lot on vacation flights and lodging by leveraging travel rewards programs. If you use a credit card that provides airline miles or hotel rewards throughout the year, you can cash in those perks for free flights or upgraded hotel rooms. Explore which programs make the most sense with your financial plan, and then put your everyday spending to work.

Vacations should provide you with the opportunity for rest and fun without breaking the bank. Use these tips to stay on budget while you travel, and you’ll come back refreshed and ready to plan another.

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