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How to Use a Vacation Savings Account to Pay for a Vacation

Everyone loves a good vacation—even if you're playing tourist in your own town, taking time to see the sights, rest, and rejuvenate is important. Although a free vacation might not be possible, you can still have a great time on a budget. In addition to a bit of planning (see our tips below) utilizing a savings account to pay for your trip is a great way to pay for your vacation. The average cost of a one week vacation for a family of four is about $8,000, or around $2,000 per person. Of course, this number varies based on destination and flight prices, but it does give you a good idea of how much to save for.

Young couple of hikers enjoying the beautiful nature from high above.

Now that you have a ballpark figure, you can move on to opening your new vacation savings account. It's important to keep it separate not only so you don't accidentally spend from it and end up postponing your vacation, but also so you can see your savings increase. If you do have a family of four and you want to take a vacation in about a year and a half, you'll need to save about $450 a month. One of the best ways to do this is to set up automatic transfers on your payday—out of sight out of mind! For many of us, this is a lot to save every month. Take a look at your budget and save as much as you comfortably can. Even $20 a month adds up, and you can still have a great time for less! Read on to find out how to shave costs so you can plan for a great vacation on any budget.

Ready to open your vacation savings account? You can open an account online with WaFd Bank in just minutes, or visit your local branch today!

13 Tips to Save on Your Vacation or Staycation

Planning to take a vacation this year? Can you plan your getaways, save money on your trip, AND still have fun? It's not impossible, it just takes a bit of planning and research. Your time is valuable, but it's time well spent not only to save money but to help make sure you know what you're doing and where you're going to make the most of your trip.

  1. Plan ahead
    As with many things in life, a little preparation can go a long way. Meals, activities, and accommodations are usually more expensive when thrown together last minute. By coming up with a list of activities ahead of time, you'll be ready when boredom (or the rain) strikes. Planning ahead means you also have more time to hunt for a great deal! Sites such as Groupon or Ebates let you search for activities or items and will help you either save money or give you a rebate on part of your total purchase price for select companies. Be sure to read the fine print, as there are often time limits or other restrictions to keep in mind.

    If you work directly for a company, they might provide you some discounts or other benefits on travel. Many offer these discounts through ADP—it's always worth it to check, you might be surprised at what they offer! Additionally, check in with your bank. Though not all checking accounts come with benefits, WaFd Bank offers checking accounts that automatically come with rewards, including deals on rental on rental cars, getaways, and much more.
  2. Pay the smart way
    When you're traveling within the US, you don't need to worry about exchange rates. Once you leave the country, this is a big one to consider since traveling internationally often means paying foreign transaction fees, which is usually around 3% of the transaction, per transaction. Your credit card might already offer no foreign transaction fees, but always call or take a look at your credit card agreement to be sure. You might also consider exchanging some currency before you leave but try not to carry large amounts in case of loss or theft.
  3. Be flexible
    If you're open to new destinations and types of vacationing (versus restricting yourself to the same hotel at the same destination every year), then you're more likely to save some money on your bookings. If you want to travel to another county, find out where your home currency can take you further. This way, you can feel like you're splurging without going over budget. If you have a place in mind you really want to go but it's expensive to vacation there, maybe a place nearby could give you a similar experience.
  4. Pack light, but also pack snacks
    This way you can avoid checked bag fees, but you can also get around much easier. This way, you can take public transportation if needed rather than having to pay for a taxi or rideshare to get where you need to go. Plus, you won't be tempted to buy souvenirs since your space will be limited. If you really want to buy something, you always have the option to mail it to yourself and this way you can make sure it's something you really want since you'll have to pay a bit extra for it. Packing snacks also means you won't have to settle for food you don't really want, and you wont have to overpay for stale muffins when you're starving and just need a little something to tide you over.
  5. Think off-season
    If your schedule allows, aim to avoid peak seasons. This changes depending on where you want to go, but generally means summer, spring break, and holidays. If that's not an option, then try looking for mid-week flights, which can be significantly cheaper than flying on the weekends. For example, Europe still has beautiful weather in September, but with much cheaper flights and less crowded streets than June or July.
  6. Buy your flights strategically
    Not all flight searches are created equally. Be strategic about when you charge your card for big-ticket vacation purchases. When it comes to airfare, companies use a variety of methods and pricing structures to fill their seats, which means the same seat on an airplane could have price differences of hundreds of dollars.

    • To get the best possible deal on tickets: Follow the 6-week rule. While there are exceptions, generally the best time to buy airline tickets is 42 days before you plan to fly.
    • Buy mid-week. Surprisingly, tickets are cheapest to buy on Tuesdays. Even better? Buy first thing in the morning. Going somewhere for a week? While most people take Monday through Friday off, flying mid-week may be your best bet to saving money on both airfare AND hotels.
    • Take off early. It might go without saying, but the less convenient a flight time is, the cheaper it'll probably be. Red eyes are often the cheapest. If you fly often, stay loyal. Many airlines offer free checked bags, bonus miles or no-fee date changes if you sign up for their credit card or loyalty/rewards program.
  7. Book your rental car early
    We love a good deal, especially on something as unexciting to pay for as a rental car. Compare the discounts you might receive through your job, comparison sites like Kayak or Travelocity, and your bank or credit card accounts to the price you'd pay by going through the rental company directly. Sometimes you can get the best deal buying directly from the rental company if you're booking early enough. Keep in mind too that booking the smallest car isn't always the cheapest so always compare prices on different options.
  8. Stay local
    You don't need to go far to find fun. When's the last time you played tourist in your own city? Think of a nearby zoo, aquarium, museum, science center, paint or craft places, activities like indoor skydiving and historical landmarks to visit that you might not otherwise think about. If you drive by places and think, “that looks like fun I should go sometime” now is a great time to go in and experience it. If you are traveling, go to the grocery stores and other places the locals do—you'll often save money and will be able to experience life from a local perspective.
  9. Save money on accommodations
    • Book for off-season travel. If you can be flexible in your travel dates, do so. You'll save big if you can avoid summer, spring break and the holiday season.
    • Stay midweek. If you can't get away January through April, or September through November, then try to book your accommodations midweek.
    • Shop around. Like airline companies, many hotels or resorts offer tiered pricing, so a listing on Expedia could cost a different amount than booking that same reservation through another site or directly through the property itself.
    • Think beyond hotels. AirBnB, VRBO, or if you're traveling abroad, hostels, can offer more variety and some unique options. You won't get some hotel amenities—like daily cleaning or room service—but you could save money in return. As a bonus, renting a vacation home or apartment will likely come with a kitchen, so you'll be able to cook meals or keep food at home to save you even more.
    • Group your vacation package. If you're staying for a week or more in a vacation hot spot, then you may be able to get a package deal by bundling airfare and/or rental car fees all in one. Just be sure to price it out separately as well!
    • Sign up for a loyalty program. Hotel loyalty programs are usually free to enroll in and will allow you to accrue points and other perks by staying loyal to one brand.
    • Check for a club membership rate. Many accommodation sites offer discounts for certain membership groups, like AARP or AAA. If you're a member, then be sure to ask before you book. Even better, consider joining hotel memberships, as many offer some great perks for staying loyal to their brand.
  10. Get in-the-know about local events
    You might already know about big local events, but what about the smaller ones? Sometimes those are just as much fun, if not more. Plus, they're often free to attend and can be a good opportunity to educate your kids about a new culture or geography. Check with your local tourist information office or state tourism alliance group for happenings in your area.
  11. Put together a "must see" list
    Wherever you're spending your vacation time, it's worth it to know what there is to see ahead of time, especially if you've come a long way to get there. Once you have a list you can prioritize what you want to see most and will have backups just in case something doesn't work out. In addition, you can see what prices you might be charged and can avoid the so-called “tourist tax” and can negotiate prices with confidence if needed, or buy in advance.
  12. Go geocaching
    Over the years, geocaching has become a popular game for outdoor-loving, problem-solving enthusiasts. It's essentially a treasure hunt, with caches hidden all over the world by other geocachers. If you want to save some money on your trip this is a great way to do it. Sometimes you'll find trinkets, photos, or a logbook of past hunters who have found the cache. All you need is your preferred maps app (or a paper map), a set of coordinates, and sometimes a few clues. This is a family-friendly way to get all ages outdoors for some fresh air and exercise, regardless of your fitness level.

    Geocaching "maps" or cache coordinates are available online, usually at no cost. Choose from a variety of quests ranging in location and degree of difficulty—all you have to do is find the level you want, note the coordinates, and head outside to find the cache! Visit to find out more and get started.
  13. Utilize free museum days
    Taking a trip to the museum is a good (and non-weather dependent) method to teach your kids about local history, events, arts, and culture. But did you know that many major museums offer free entry to the public on specific days? For a list of museums that take part and to find applicable days and times, visit If you'd rather avoid crowds and are staying close to (or at) home, you can also check out your local public library. Many offer passes you can check out on specific days so you can visit museums for free and support your public libraries at the same time!
  14. Knock out the "top 10"
    Need a little inspiration for your bucket list? Search the city you want to explore to find activities with reviews and feedback to curate your schedule for the day. You might find places you didn't know existed nearby!

Ready to start saving?

WaFd Bank is here to help! From CDs, savings and money market accounts to checking accounts (some that come with rewards to help you save money, which may require activation/registration), WaFd has all the digital tools and services you need to fit your life and help you save. Open an account online today, or to learn more visit your local branch or give us a call at 800-324-9375.


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