Summer is the time of the year that many families venture off on vacation. Our family has taken road trips and done local staycations over the years. However, a couple of years ago, we were able to take our kids on their dream vacation: Walt Disney World.
For many families, the dream of a Disney vacation is far from reality. The cost is just out of reach for them (or so they think). We used to be one of those families. But, once we sat down and determined the cost, we knew we could make it work.
Click through to read more about the best vacation spots when you earn a median income.
We didn’t want to wipe out our savings for this trip, and going into credit card debt was certainly not an option. We decided that if we could find a way to pay for it in cash, then we could do it.
It took us nearly a year, but we achieved our goal and were able to take the five of us on a trip to Florida. With some mindset changes and simple money-saving strategies, we made our dream a reality. Keep reading to find out how we did it, and how you can, too.
Crunching the Numbers
The first thing we had to do was figure out how much the trip would cost. We made sure to include travel expenses, accommodations and tickets, as well as a few surprise expenses that would more than likely show up.
We created a budget so that we knew how much we had to save, and then we monitored our progress. Since our trip was a surprise for our kids, we had to keep everything a secret but we had regular meetings to discuss how far we’d come and what was left to do.
Setting — and Exceeding — Savings Goals
I’m big on challenging myself. I love to set goals and see if I can not only meet them but shatter them. That became one of the easiest ways I found to save money for our trip.
For instance, our normal budget has always included a set amount for groceries. I decided to see if I could spend even less than we normally budgeted, knowing any savings amounts would instantly be set aside for our trip. In the beginning, it was tough, but by changing where I shopped and some of the meals we planned, I was able to do it. Each week, I was able to save anywhere from $50–$100 from our food budget.
Selling Unwanted Items
Another way we found additional money was by selling things we no longer needed. We used free services such as Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. While this did not make us a ton of money, it did contribute a few hundred dollars to our vacation fund. It also helped us clean and declutter a bit, which turned out to be a bonus.
Cutting Back on Spending
One of the simplest ways we found to save money for our trip was to reduce our overall spending. We usually ate dinner out a couple of times a week, for example, but we scaled back and tried to eat more meals at home to save.
We also made sure items we needed were on sale before we purchased, and used coupon apps to make sure we got discounts on everything from apples to sneakers.
By analyzing our budget carefully, we were able to find several areas that we could cut back on without really changing our quality of life. Those simple changes made a big difference in saving for our vacation.
Making More Money
I work for myself and my husband has a traditional job. It was tough for him to pick up additional work, but that was not the case for me. I was able to track down additional freelance work, which made me more money. The extra hours I put in were not easy, but I knew it was not permanent. I was willing to make short-term sacrifices for our trip.
Getting Help Planning
When we sat down to plan the trip, we opted to have a travel expert help us. She did so at no cost to us, which saved us money and stress.
For example, a family of five requires lots of meals and snacks. She helped us realize that it was less expensive to purchase a meal plan that included daily meals and a snack versus paying to eat in the park. Had we not had her help us plan, we would have paid much more for eating, which would have quickly used up the cash we had saved.
Using Credit Card Perks
We have long been a cash-only family. However, using a cash-back credit card was more secure than, say, walking around with a ton of cash in our wallets in a busy park. So, we kept in mind the amount we had built up in our savings account allotted for the trip, and then we used our credit card for certain expenses during our vacation, knowing that they were effectively covered by that amount. We knew we would have no trouble paying the bill when we got home because we already had the funds allocated.
This had the added bonus of getting us cash back while we used the card, meaning we were essentially getting paid to go on vacation. That’s a pretty nice deal.
Planning our trip took a lot of work and dedication, but seeing the joy on our kids’ faces every day was worth every single penny we spent. Try following some — or all — of the financial planning steps we took for a cash-only adventure of your own. You won’t regret it.
Click through to read more about how to score these 20 free things at Disneyland.
More From Our Smart Money Squad: