You know those destinations that instantly steal a piece of your heart and you know right away you'll be back again and again? That is Hawaii for us.
We visited the islands of Oahu and Maui for the first time in August 2017 while on our honeymoon. After 10 days of living the island life we were head over heels in love and knew we would be back sooner rather than later. So we started saving and planning and in February 2019 we visited Kauai for the first time and returned to Maui (our personal favorite).
In the months that followed as I've been talking to people about our trips and love for the Aloha state I've heard a lot of comments such as "Isn't Hawaii so expensive?!" and "You're went twice in two years..how can you afford that?" It was those types of comments that sparked the idea for this post and I'm excited to share some of the tips and tricks we use to save extra money for traveling. Now, keep in mind, this is certainly not an all-encompassing list. My husband and I are both blessed with great careers and are currently living the DINK (dual income no kids) lifestyle so we automatically have a bit more disposable income than others in different situations might.
With that being said, YES Hawaii is a more expensive than most other vacation destinations in the U.S. and may not be feasible for everyone. But wherever you're planning to travel, whether it's the trip you've been dreaming about for years, or simply a weekend getaway in your home state, I hope you can take away at least one or two tips from this list to help you save for your next adventure and make it a reality.
Credit Unions: Start by looking into the tools your financial institution offers to help you save money and make your money work for you. We are credit union members and from my experience I have found they offer so many more options for financial success than your traditional bank (and no I'm not just saying that because my husband happens to work at one LOL).
Benefits Checking - Our credit union offers a benefits checking account which gives you 3% APY on balances up to $10,000 just by doing things you would anyway (12 debit card transactions, having online banking, etc.) This allows members to earn up to $25 a month simply by having money in their account.
It's Your Change - Our credit union also offers a change rollover program. This acts in the same way as an old fashioned spare change jar (except I never seem to use cash). At the end of each day, each of your debit card purchases is rounded up and the extra change is placed into a savings account. You'd be surprised how fast it starts to add up!
Credit Cards: Find a credit card you like and make it work for you. There are so many options out there that offer cash back on purchases or miles/points that can be used directly for travel. I've never been a fan of the miles cards and prefer cash back but I know people who have booked entire trips using their credit card miles. Just make sure you read all the fine print - I personally don't think it's ever worth an annual fee to have a credit card.
I can't say enough good things about Ally Bank. They are a completely online institution which may make some people wary but we've used them for two years and their customer service is some of the best. We primarily use their credit card which offers 2% on gas and groceries and 1% on everything else. Once we've gotten our 12 transactions on our debit card (see above) we put EVERYTHING - and I mean everything - on our credit cards. This allows us to receive cash back every month and if you have an Ally savings account (more on that below) you'll get an extra 10% when you transfer it to your savings. For example if you've earned $30 cash back that month, you'll get $33 deposited in your savings account. Keep in mind we also never keep a balance on our cards and pay them off in full every month to avoid interest charges. I realize this may not be feasible for everyone and if you don't think you can pay them off every month I wouldn't recommend using credit cards the way we do as the interest will end up hurting you in the long run.
Savings Account: This is a tried and true way to start putting money away little by little. But the important thing is to find the right savings account. Many savings accounts offered at big name financial institutions offer around 0.20% APY (you guys I'm not kidding - not even a full percent) so you're likely only gaining a few dollars each month - if that! Again, we use Ally Bank for a majority of our savings and their current savings rate is 1.7% APY. This is a significant difference in the amount of money you're earning each month compared to most other places.
The best way to start saving is by automatically putting a portion of your paycheck into a separate account designated specifically for travel. This way it's out of sight, out of mind and safely tucked away for your future adventure. Many times you can set this up directly through your employer to pull a certain amount from your paycheck, or apps such as Qapital help you set up goals and put a rule in place to ensure a specific amount of money is allotted to that goal on a regular basis.
Even if it's just $25 or $50 a month, commit to it and leave the money alone once it's in your savings account. This also helps with travel planning if you book certain aspects of your trip once you hit a certain savings milestone. Reached $250? Buy the plane ticket. Saved up another $100? Put your deposit on your hotel room. This way it doesn't feel so overwhelming to have to pay for the entire trip at one time.
Budgeting apps: The biggest reason people don't save as much as they would like is because they don't truly understand where their money is going each month. It's easy to swipe your card for smaller purchases and not think that it's making a big impact. But if you look at your total spending for certain categories at the end of the month you may be surprised. Start tracking your spending, and I mean every single penny for just one month. You can create a simple excel spreadsheet or find an app like Clarity Money which tracks your income and categorizes your expenses by specific stores or type of spending (groceries, eating out, etc.). By getting a detailed breakdown of your spending at the end of the month you can easily see which areas you may need to cut back on in order to reach your goals.
Rakuten: There are so many different apps out there that will help you save extra cash while shopping. My personal favorite is Rakuten (formerly Ebates) - a free cash rewards network that offers up to 25% in cash rebates when you shop online at over 1,000 brand-name stores and service providers. You get cash for buying things you normally would anyways - what could be better?! I've been using Rakuten for years and there really is no catch. You just need to start your shopping trip on the site and then you are redirected to the retailer to shop and complete your purchase as you normally would. The best part is there are a number of travel related sites on Rakuten such as Hotels.com and Priceline so you're earning money back on the trips you're already taking. You can earn your first $10 simply by signing up and making a $25 purchase within 90 days using my link!
Eliminate Unnecessary Spending: Enough with the financial tools, this is more of a lifestyle change. One of the biggest ways we consciously save money is by limiting our food and beverage spending. If you look back at your past few months of bank statements and add up all the purchases you made from eating out you'd likely be shocked! I try to pack my lunch for work almost every day and my husband only goes out for lunch a couple times a month. Think of it this way - if you're buying lunch three times a week at $10 a meal, that's around $120 you could be saving each month (or one night in a hotel)! Neither of us drink coffee but the same goes for that $5 Starbucks drink. It may not seem like much at the time but it all adds up. Consider putting the money you would spend on a lunch/drink into a travel fund for your next trip!
No Spend Month: I personally haven't tried this myself yet but I know people who have with great success. The concept of a no spend month is simple and focuses on only buying the necessities. That means no extras - clothes, coffee, home decor, eating out, etc. Sounds challenging, right? This obviously isn't possible long term as we all need to splurge every now and then. But by committing to it for just 30 days you'll be able to save a decent chunk of money which can be put directly toward your travel fund. This mindset can also help you become more intentional about how you're spending your time and money (looking at you Target runs) and may result in some long term changes you weren't expecting.
Travel Deals: Travel can be expensive no matter where you go but if you put in the time and effort you can also find some killer deals. Any time we start planning our next trip we spend a least a month or so researching. By using tools such as Google Flights, Hopper, and Scott's Cheap Flights you can search by your destination and dates for multiple airports to try and find the best deal. If you're really flexible with your travel dates, you can also set up email notifications to alert you when there is a new deal you may want to take advantage of. Never book the first flight you find. Search around for a couple weeks and see how the prices fluctuate. Another tip is to search in Incognito mode on Google which prevents them from hiking the price based on popular searches.
Same goes for hotels or Air BnBs. Do your research on various different booking sites to find the best deal. You can also still save money sometimes even after you've booked. Keep an eye on the rates and if you see a price drop, contact your hotel or booking site directly and many times they will honor the lower price for you. We are also Costco members and have used their travel program for our trips to Hawaii and Aruba and found their hotel/car packages offer significant savings as opposed to booking both separately. Costco deals also often come with cash back or a gift card by booking through them.
Prioritize Travel: This may seem like a no brainer but most people don't live in this mindset and then wonder why they never seem to go on vacation. For my husband and I travel, or experiences in general, is what we live for. We aren't big shoppers for materials "things" like clothes or shoes or whatever if may be. In fact, I would say about 80% of my closet is from thrift stores, clearance racks, or clothes swaps with my coworkers. Don't get me wrong, every now and then we'll splurge on something we really "need" and there's absolutely nothing wrong with new clothes, or getting your nails done, or a great new pair of boots, or the list goes on an on. We'd just much rather go on a trip or to a concert or a sporting event than have a bunch of material things.
I hope you can use one or two of these tips to help you save for your next adventure! What strategies do you use to save money? Share with me in the comments - I'm always looking for new ways to travel more!
I love creating detailed travel guides to ensure you get the most out of your time. On this blog I'll be sharing some of my past trips in hopes that it helps you plan your next adventure. Pack your suitcase you never know where I'll be heading next!
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