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7 Easy-to-Follow Steps to Making Your Dream Vacation a Reality

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Do you have a New Year’s resolution to travel more often? I certainly do. It seems like I always have an excuse not to travel…not enough money, not enough time off from work or school, too complicated to coordinate everything, etc. But the older I get, the more I desire to see the world! After years of never going anywhere, my husband and I finally decided to make travel a priority, since we are certainly not getting any younger! In the last couple years I have crossed two big destinations off my travel bucket list: Italy and Alaska. It took some sacrifice to get there, but the experiences and memories are so worth it. Saving money for travel is simply a matter of prioritizing. If traveling more is on your list of goals, here are a few tips for how to make travel a priority in the new year.

1. Analyze budget and expenses

Obviously money is a main factor when traveling. The first step is to look at your finances and determine how much money you can set aside for traveling. Can you sacrifice a restaurant dinner once a week and save that money for travel? Maybe bring a packed lunch to work instead of buying lunch every day? Or can you re-examine expenses such as your cell phone plan, your cable bill, or your gym membership to see where you can gain some extra money? If you look hard enough and make some small sacrifices, you can find a little pocket change for those travel dreams.

2. Make a list of places you want to go and prioritize

Maybe you dream of going somewhere halfway around the globe, or maybe you want to see some local sights. Write down everywhere you want to go and everything you want to see. Then pick your top five and focus on those first. For example, my current top five are: Paris, Hawaii, Napa Valley, Tokyo, and the Grand Canyon. By looking at this narrow list, I can determine that it is fairly easy for me to get to Napa Valley and the Grand Canyon (since I live in California), so perhaps I should focus on those in the short term. Hawaii, Paris, and Tokyo involve some bigger expenses and more complicated plans, so those are trips I can try to put on the calendar in the next five years or so.

3. Research travel costs

It’s not enough to just set money aside. You have to match up your budget with the cost of your dream trip. Airfare, hotels, food, transportation, tours, souvenirs…it all adds up! Having a rough estimate of the costs involved with that trip to Bali will help you determine whether you should plan it for this year, or next year, or in a few years.

4. Consider working with a travel agent

Some people like to be in complete control of their reservations (I’m totally one of those people!), but if you don’t mind, or actually prefer, putting your trip in someone else’s hands, I recommend at least discussing your plans with a travel agent. Generally their services are free, and they have insider tips to pass along. Some agents may even offer incentives to work with them, such as gift cards. The best way to find a good, reliable agent is word of mouth, so check with family and friends for recommendations.

5. Know where to save and where to splurge

Only you can determine where your priorities lie. Is a four-star hotel important to you? Or would you rather stay at a motel and splurge on good food? Or are you okay with a motel and eating fast food every meal so you can spend money on guided tours? Factor all these things into your budget and be realistic. Don’t have your dream trip be ruined because you picked out a budget hotel room that’s so gross you’re scared to close your eyes to go to sleep! It’s okay to save for an extra year so you can splurge in all the areas that will make you happy.

6. Be flexible

A couple years ago, our honeymoon cruise was actually CANCELED three weeks before sailing. CANCELED! We were in a panic and considered just postponing everything. But we already had the time off from work, so we found another cruise with a similar itinerary that was a little more expensive. We decided to book that cruise even though it wasn’t exactly what we wanted and we had to dip into our “regular” savings account. And it ended up being an amazing trip! Life can get in the way of the best laid plans, and you simply have to go with the flow. Sometimes that means canceling vacations because you need the money for something else, or shortening a trip due to bad weather, or postponing a trip because you fell and sprained your ankle (yep, happened to me—and another reminder to always buy trip insurance).

7. Make a realistic plan to save

My husband and I have a separate bank account set up for our vacation fun. It’s a shared account, so we both add to it when we can. You can also look into making automatic deposits directly in your travel savings accounts so you don’t really have to think about it. Anywhere from $10 to $100 a month can really add up! You can also combine savings with breaking a bad habit and set up a “Swear Jar” where you throw in a dollar every time you catch yourself doing something you shouldn’t.

What dream travel destination is on your list for the new year? 

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