Saturday, June 12, 2010

Vacation savings, and how not to spend it on something else.

I wrote this in response to The Disney College Blog's post about ways to save money at Disney. Saving money on your trip can be vital, but for folks who have trouble keeping money in their pocket to begin with, sometimes you need a couple of mind tricks to not spend your savings before you even leave.

I will be honest with you. I’m not great with money and I don’t do frugal vacations, that can be a problem. Our room would now be paid for through our DVC points, but I still needed to develop strategy to be sure that the vacations happened. Everyone approaches how to save and pay for a vacation differently. I want my vacations paid for in advance. In theory, I’ll be vacationing once a year so I need to budget what will come out of paychecks in that time frame.

I feel that paying for everything in advance lends it’s self to an “all inclusive resort” feeling and a freedom to enjoy myself without worrying over what the damages will be on my credit card once I’m home. To get a better grasp on how to pay for vacations, first I looked at our spending habits, where our money comes from, and when do we usually have a little more.

Problem #1 - If the vacation money is in my bank account, times will arise that I will occasionally dip into it. This puts me back with Carl and Ellie never getting to go on vacation and wasting, renting, or giving away my DVC points. That would never do.

Answer #1 - Disney Gift Cards. By putting all of the money into a form that can’t be spent anywhere but Disney I’m ensuring myself that I won’t spend it on something else. Disney’s gift cards can hold up to $1500 and currently are good for use at the parks and resorts within the United States.

I use the gift cards to help me budget as well, I’ll get one to pay for dinning, one for park tickets, and third for spending. Once the amount of money needed is on the card, I can check that portion of the trip off my list as “paid” and move onto another.

I’ve found that this also give my kids spending limits that they can understand and limits the “can I have this” to what they had budgeted for. In a plastic world using gift cards that they can add on money to helps teach them money management skills for the future.

Problem #2 - Where will the money to travel come from? Is there any time that we have more money?

Answer#2 - For us, the time of year when we have the most money available is late February through March. This is the time that we know we’ll have out tax returns by and when we’re lucky my husband gets a small bonus. This is our season to gift card larger amounts of money or purchase airline tickets.

Spring is also probably our best travel season because it doesn’t give me much of a chance to spend the vacation money on other things. I make sure that I buy big purchase items like, airline or park tickets, as soon as the tax return is in the bank. With that out of the way, I can check another thing off of my list. This strategy even works for traveling later in the year when it’s combined with Answer #1.

Answer #2a - With the big things budgeted for, and money coming directly out of pay checks, I usually take care of tips and spending money with spare change. Every day when I come home I empty all of the change out of my purse into a piggy bank, then I take the bill that is the lowest denomination from my wallet and stick that in the bank as well. Sometimes it’s just a $1, but sometimes it’s a $20 and it rarely gets missed once I’ve moved it from my wallet. Once a month I turn in the change for dollars at the bank and then head off to put it on a gift card for the trip. Out of site, out of mind, and then in a form I can’t spend elsewhere.

A couple of months before my trip the piggy bank money is destined for another purpose, tip envelopes. Let’s face it, I can’t put it all on gift cards. I write a list of what services we will use that need to be tipped; ground transport, bell staff, housekeeping, waiters, concierge. I estimate (on the high side) what I’ll need to tip them, stick the cash in a small envelope and seal it. On the outside I usually write a thank you message to the cast member and notate in the corner what the tip is for. Every morning on vacation I put the tip envelopes that I’ll need for the day in my purse and know that it’s all taken care of.

#2b It’s true, I’m a Starbucks addict. I found that if I give up just one cup of coffee a week, I can save up to $260 for vacation. That $5 that would get me a latte, goes into the piggy bank.

#2c As a stay at home mom I have one more little trick to earn a little money for vacation. I work as an election judge. In the 2010/11 election season I’ll work on three days, which will give me about $350 in money to put towards vacation. Payment varies by county, but it’s easy work and often will pay for someone's airfare or a park ticket.

These strategies work for me and I wanted to share them. Knowing what your budget is, is fair and good, but knowing how you’re going to make it happen is important too. In addition, there are some great websites out there to help you figure out ways to spend less on your vacation like MouseSavers.com and CouponingToDisney.com.

What money strategies to you use for going on vacation? Do you discount your travel or do you have special tricks for saving the money? Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!


  1. you could also consider a separate bank account just for vacation savings. make monthly deposits in...some banks will even give you a $100 incentive to open a new account, but watch for all the fine print.

    now following from mbc! hope you'll follow back!


    bwy...nice background...

  2. Ok I have to say you and I sound like clones...haha. I am a Coffee snob....Disney lover and have a hard time keeping my money saved for my trip. We even have the same financials...husband getting a bonus in March. I am going to try the Disney gift card idea. Thank you so much for sharing.