A financial expert shares how to save (and budget) for a vacation

We got a chance to speak with millennial finance expert Stefanie O’Connell, who shared tips to keep at the top of our minds for a cost-effective and enjoyable vacation. 

Millennials are a little different from our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. We want to see the world, and we favor companies that afford us the opportunity to do so. Forbes reported that millennials spend nearly $600 billion a year, and more and more of that money spent is going toward traveling. With companies like Travel Noire or Remote Work, we are able to cultivate experiences through travel and open up our minds to something much bigger than our neighborhood or our comfort zones. We got a chance to speak with millennial finance expert Stefanie O’Connell, who shared tips to keep at the top of our minds for a cost-effective and enjoyable vacation.

Be flexible with your destination and do some research

In the beginning stages of your leisure travel planning, you’re more than likely going to think of destinations you would like to visit. Several things can help to make a destination look enjoyable, like the weather, the activities associated with the location, and if you’re like me, the price point. When considering where I’d like to go, I begin by asking myself if this trip will deplete my savings, if I can truly afford it or if I will have to eat Top Ramen when I come home.

A great place to begin answering those questions? Websites like Skyscanner, where you can see ideal travel dates for certain locations, or which places are cost effective in the months you want to travel. Other websites/apps like Hopper, Airfare Watchdog, or Google Flights can help you further identify the best timing and the costs associated with those travels. There are tons of ways to save, but you just have to do some research.

Millennial finance expert Stefanie O’Connell echoes that point by saying, “I’m a big fan of finding insider deals by scouring reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor. I also love a good Airbnb find — both homes and experiences.” Additionally, being flexible with when and how you travel can be a great asset during the early stages of planning. “Plan trips around friends or family visits for example, using public transit, traveling in the offseason, or using deal sites on local attractions,” says O’Connell.

You CAN save for your future and for fun at the same time

According to a new survey from Citi AA MileUp, 38% of consumers say that budgeting for a trip is the most stressful and least enjoyable part of vacation planning. There’s also a misconception that if you are saving for a trip, you can’t save for your future. To ease that anxiety, there are a few things to consider.

“The best strategy for a vacation is to set money aside all year long. I recommend opening up a dedicated savings account for your vacation and travel goals and contributing a small percentage of each paycheck to it,” says O’Connell. “Setting aside 5% or even as little as 2% each paycheck can go a long way over time. By saving for your vacations in a separate savings account, you’ll get a clear picture of what trips you can and can’t afford to take just by checking the balance of your accounts.”

Going back to your personal savings, O’Connell says the same way in which you are hoping to make traveling a priority, you need to do the same with your personal savings goals. “In the same way you prioritize setting aside the savings for your vacation, I recommend setting aside savings for your future — as a percentage of each paycheck. Better yet, automate the savings process so that as soon as your paycheck lands in your checking account, a portion of it gets automatically rerouted to your various savings goals. When you don’t see the money in your checking account, you’re less likely to think of it as money you have available to spend at that moment.”

Find a Side Hustle

If you want to be like Aladdin and Jasmine and see the whole world, but your budget is saying ‘girl, no,’ consider taking on a side hustle. The beauty in side hustles is that it’s something you’re doing on the side and it doesn’t have to take on a major time commitment like your full-time position. A great way to make your side hustle work for you is to center it around something that you actually enjoy.

For instance, if you’re a shopper — look into being a mystery shopper, stylist, or even selling clothes you want to get rid of on Poshmark or ThredUp. You can tutor, or write, or drive Uber/Lyft, be a book reviewer, or anything that you want to bring in extra funds. If traveling is a priority for you, you will find what works best for your situation and time. “If you take on a few weekends of babysitting now, maybe you can afford that bachelorette party weekend in cash come fall — without dipping into your long-term savings to afford it,” says O’Connell.

The silver lining at the end is that spending those extra hours per week can afford you the opportunity to go places you want like Bali, Italy, or Greece.

This article was originally posted on TheEverygirl.com.