Why Our Vacation Fund Became Our No. 1 Priority

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When my husband and I went on our first date, we talked for hours, trading travel stories. While most people love the museums and monuments they visit, we shared details about the people, culture and food of our favorite places. I knew after the first date that he was the one for me and we made a pact that we would always prioritize saving for vacations in our monthly budget.

It may seem crazy coming from a certified financial planner, but after years of working with clients who were all longing for a way to travel and find happiness in their everyday lives, I decided I wanted to put travel first unapologetically. Interestingly, in a new CIT Bank Summer Savings Survey, almost half of Americans say that saving for vacations is a low priority (43 percent) and another quarter (25 percent) say that vacation savings are not a priority at all. However, the vast majority (77 percent) spend up to $5,000 annually on vacations each year. So, apparently, we all love to travel — no matter the cost.

If you’re like me and decide that travel is going to be a priority, there are ways to be smart with your financial goals and still explore the world.

Why We Travel

Aside from the exhaustive lines at the airport and what I am sure is a sneaky agenda to shrink the passenger cabin size on planes continually, we love to travel for so many reasons.

New Perspectives

Getting out to see how other people live, what their neighborhoods are like, how the food tastes and what the culture is like in a city all provide a bridge to a different way of life. Especially in these times, I think it’s important to get out of your city and beliefs and step into someone else’s shoes. When we traveled to Stockholm a few years ago, we experienced the local culture of stopping work mid-day to enjoy fika, which consists of a pastry or other amazing sweet treat with the locals. Although we don’t speak Swedish, we hung out at local restaurants and soaked in the culture — one pastry at a time.

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Read More: The Craziest Fines You Can Pay When Traveling Abroad

Entrepreneurial Growth

As an entrepreneur, traveling to a new location reminds me of not only how fortunate I am to be able to get up and go (and work remotely), but travel also sparks new ideas and unlocks creativity in a way that is infectious. I love visiting entrepreneurs in other cities and countries to find out how similar and yet, unique their journeys are. When I was in Kenya, I learned that most women work and many are entrepreneurs. It’s a thriving community filled with resources for women. I would’ve never guessed that to be true.

Strengthening Our Relationship

While some couples would probably hate the idea of traveling with their partner, we embrace it. Traveling with a spouse teaches you a lot about that person, how they handle stress, how they adapt, etc. — and to be honest, it shows you the same about yourself. We’ve celebrated anniversaries in different countries, challenging ourselves to go to places that were not so comfortable and enjoy life in a new way.

How We Save

I’ve been traveling nonstop for as long as I can remember, and as a married couple, we travel almost every month. Sometimes it’s for work, as we feature travel destinations on my podcast, “Millennial Money,” but we always find a way to fit in a few days of pure, unplanned travel bliss. Whether for work or pleasure though, as a CFP, I’m always trying to find smart ways to travel and save money.

Travel Savings Account

When we got married, we opened a separate, high-yield savings account where we put a percentage of every dollar we make aside just for travel. This account makes sure we don’t mix and mingle our travel savings with our emergency fund or other financial goal accounts. Hint: If you’re saving for a big goal, always save in a high-yield saving account, so you’re maximizing your savings.

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Travel Smart

Some of our favorite ways to save are relatively simple but add up big time:

  • Book airport parking online at least a week ahead for a discount
  • Pack sandwiches and other snacks for the plane
  • Use apps like Momondo and Google Flights to find the best airfare price
  • Always call the hotel front desk to ask for the best rate possible, as well as any upgrades (using this simple trick, we’ve received free breakfast, free parking, suite upgrades and huge discounts)
  • If we need to rent a car, we use our Costco membership that allows us two drivers for the price of one
  • For Airbnb rentals, we always negotiate the price, especially if we’re staying over a week

I honestly believe you can have your cake and eat it too. You can make travel a priority and still be smart financially saving for other money goals. The beauty is in the balancing of both priorities. So, my question to you is, where are you headed next?

Read More: Real People Share Their 28 Best Money-Saving Travel Tips

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