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Keep your vacation budget under control

Be realistic about how much you can spend and stick to a plan.

Updated

It’s not uncommon to wake up at the end of a vacation and discover a massive credit card bill. There are ways to avoid this, however. Just be sure to travel on a strict budget.

In order to control overspending, take a look at our guide on how to keep your holiday money under control.

How to manage your vacation expenses

You need to be aware of your financial situation and make you’re sticking to your spending limits. Here are a few things you can do to ensure you won’t spend like a rockstar:

  1. Set a realistic budget.
    There’s no point in setting a budget you can’t keep. Set a budget that seems manageable once you take a look at your finances and think about how much you spent the last vacation.
  2. Remember your numbers.
    People tend to forget about their financial situation while on vacation and have an “I’ll deal with it later” attitude — this is how debt happens. Organize your budget and check it regularly to see how your credit cards and bank accounts are holding up.
  3. Make plans and stick to them.
    If you’re planning a day out with family or friends, organize how much you’re going to spend beforehand. Check your bank accounts online so your financial situation is fresh in your mind and you’ll be less likely to overspend.
  4. Travel on airline miles.
    An airline credit card lets you earn miles on your purchases, which you can redeem for flights and seat upgrades. Depending on your spending habits, you can earn enough miles for a round trip within the US.
  5. Use points at hotels.
    An alternative or an addition to an airline card would be a hotel credit card. This type of card rewards your spending with points you can use for hotel stays. Plus with some cards, you can get an additional night when you redeem four or more reward nights at particular hotel brands.
  6. Travel off-peak.
    Avoiding the high season when traveling on a budget could be a solid way to save some money. This also applies to airline mile redemption. However, check the seasonality of your destination as it varies from one location to another.
  7. Travel light.
    Unlike checked baggage, it’s usually free to bring a carry-on bag on the plane. If you do multiple flights, the cost of checked bags will add up. Avoid this by traveling light or by getting an airline credit card that comes with a free-checked-bag perk.
  8. Avoid taxis if possible.
    Instead, opt-in for public transportation. If the location you visit offers ridesharing services, it may also be cheaper than taxis. And if you have a credit card with top rewards on Uber, you can earn points and then redeem them for travel rewards.
  9. Travel insurance.
    If purchasing an individual travel insurance policy seems expensive, consider a credit card with travel insurance. Depending on the card, you can get travel accident insurance, trip cancelation reimbursement, lost luggage insurance, delayed baggage reimbursement and more.
  10. Consider a credit card with a purchase rate offer.
    Credit cards with a 0% intro APR period are a great option for vacation as they can let you make purchases during a promotional period without accumulating interest. The key thing to remember with these cards is to pay back all of the money you owe before the promotional period ends. Vacation cards can also help you stretch your funds.
  11. Consider a balance transfer.
    Another option worth considering is balance transfer credit cards. A balance transfer involves moving the debt from one credit card to another one without interest for a promotional period that can last up to 21 months.

Spending habits to avoid on vacation

There are some things that make sticking to a budget difficult. Here are some things to avoid when trying to save over the holidays.

  • Shopping in a mood.
    Never go grocery shopping when you are hungry, right? If you know that a mood will make you forget about your budget, do yourself a favor and avoid frivolous spending.
  • Shopping with someone who doesn’t care about your budget.
    Only you’re aware of your financial situation and budget. Don’t let someone who doesn’t care about your budget be a bad influence on your spending habits.
  • Getting carried away at a sale.
    Sales can be a great place to save money, but it also poses the threat of overspending. If you’re planning on going to a sale, avoid impulse purchases and stick to your budget.

Compare travel money options

When traveling on a budget, it’s important to compare your travel money options to find the best solution for your needs.

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Foreign transaction fee Welcome offer Rewards Filter values
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
None
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
This popular travel card's signup bonus is worth up to $750. Get even more value out of your travel, dining, and Lyft rewards by transferring them to miles.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
None
50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
None
N/A
4% at gas stations on up to $7,000 annually (then 1%), 3% at restaurants and on travel, 2% at Costco and 1% on all other purchases
Earn valuable cash back on everyday purchases at gas stations, restaurants and Costco as well as eligible travel with no foreign fees.
Luxury Card Mastercard® Titanium Card™
None
N/A
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1% for cash back
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
The World of Hyatt Credit Card
None
25,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. 25,000 points after spending another $6,000 in the first 6 months
9x total points at Hyatt hotels as a World of Hyatt member, 2x on gyms, commuting, dining and airlines and 1x on all other purchases
Earn 25,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. 25,000 points after spending another $6,000 in the first 6 months.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Monthly fee ATMs ATM transaction fee Out-of-network ATM fee ATM fee rebates Foreign transaction fee
TransferWise Borderless
$0
Free at any ATM in the world
$0
$0
You can withdraw $250 every 30 days with no fees
0%
Send and receive 40+ currencies right from your phone, but with a better exchange rate and low fees.
Aspiration Spend & Save Account
$0
Fee-free ATM withdrawals at Allpoint ATMs
$0
$0
1%
A spend and save combo account with no monthly service fees, free access to every ATM in the world, unlimited cash back rewards and deposits insured by the FDIC. The Aspiration Spend & Save Account is a cash management account offering of Aspiration Financial, LLC, an SEC-registered broker-dealer. Aspiration is not a chartered bank.
Chime Spending account
$0
38,000 fee-free ATMs nationwide
$0
$2.50
0%
Linked checking and savings accounts from a mobile-first bank that’s light on fees.
TD Beyond Checking
$25 per month
1,900 ATMs across the country and Canada
$0
$0
Unlimited fee rebates when you maintain a daily balance of at least $2,500
0%
A checking account that offers interest plus three ways to waive the monthly fee, two overdraft paybacks a year and no ATM fees with a $2,500 balance.
Zero Checking
$0
Zerocard is usable anywhere Mastercard is accepted.
$0
$0
At the Carbon level, all ATM fees, including what the ATM owner may charge, are refunded.
0%
A mobile banking experience consisting of an app, a credit card called Zerocard, and a checking account called Zero Checking.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Our pick for a prepaid travel card
Travelex Money Card

Bottom line

Traveling on a budget is possible. But you have to take several aspects into consideration, including choosing the right travel money option. This factor can be the most important one. Check out our travel money pro tips for more help managing your money during your next vacation.

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