Going on vacation is awesome. You get to explore new places in the world, meet new people, and rack up new experiences you'll remember for the rest of your life.
At the same time, going on vacation isn't all roses; you have to figure out how to pay for your trip, after all.
According to one study, the average trip costs $1,145 per person. Since 40% of Americans struggle to come up with $400 to cover an emergency expense, saving that kind of cash can be tricky for many would-be travelers.
The good news is that there are a number of ways you can set aside the funds you need to enjoy an unforgettable vacation—with maybe even a little cash left over after the fact. With that in mind, we partnered with our friends at The Ascent by The Motley Fool to take a look at five low-key money savers that can help you finance your next trip.
1. Credit card rewards
If you aren't racking up credit card rewards points on your everyday purchases, you're potentially missing out on thousands of dollars in free flights, free hotel rooms, and free rental cars each year. It's that simple.
There are many travel-focused credit cards that allow you to accrue rewards for every dollar that you charge. If you make recurring monthly purchases on the highest rewards-yielding credit cards—such as groceries, gas, cellphone bills, and cable bills—the rewards points can add up faster than you might think.
According to one study, the average middle-class family in America spends around $7,000 each year on food. If you charged all of these purchases on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, for example, you'd earn at least 10,000 points in Chase Ultimate Rewards travel points, which is most likely enough to earn a free hotel stay.
The huge number and variety of cards on the market can overwhelm the average consumer (a.k.a. us), so we use websites like fool.com to point us in the right direction.
Bottom line? The right portfolio of credit cards, the discipline to use each of them where they make the biggest impact, and the determination to pay off your bill in full every month can go a long way toward helping you finance your next jaunt.
2. Public transportation, walking over driving
Ditching your car and its associated costs—such as gas, routine maintenance, car insurance, and loan payments—is one of the fastest ways to start saving hundreds per month toward your next trip. One recent study found that the average U.S. driver spends $653 each month just to own a car, for example.
If you can take public transportation to work—or, to save even more money, walk there—you're likely to save thousands per year that can be applied toward your next vacation.
As an added bonus, you'll also be getting more exercise—which means you'll be in better shape for that next beach vacation. It's a win-win!
3. Working from home
More and more Americans are working from home—so maybe you can, too.
One recent study found that upwards of 8 million American professionals telecommute each day. When you don't have to leave the house to earn money, you can avoid the high costs of car ownership while reclaiming a ton of time.
In fact, the average worker spends almost 51 minutes commuting each day. Since time is money, you might be able to monetize those extra four-plus hours each week (221 hours each year)—saving even more money for your trip.
4. Shopping at thrift stores
The next time you need something new for your home or wardrobe, drop by your local thrift store to see if you can find it there.
Secondhand items tend to cost pennies on the dollar compared to new ones. Beyond that, you're also reducing the impact on the environment by reusing something that's already been manufactured.
5. Buying certain items in bulk
Buying your necessary household items in bulk is another easy way to save money.
Essential items—like toilet paper, paper towels, and razor blades—cost much more when you buy them in small quantities. What's more, the United States Department of Agriculture reports that you can save 12% on meat, 11% on dairy and produce, and 6% on grains by shopping at a warehouse store.
Keep in mind that it's tempting to go overboard and spend hundreds more than you should at major wholesale retailers such as Costco and Sam's Club. To avoid that pitfall, make a shopping list and stick to it—no matter how tasty the free samples of pizza bagels might be at the time.
Without a doubt, figuring out how to pay for a trip is less fun than planning one, but it's still a critical part of the process. The good news is that by following these tips—and others like them—you'll have money set aside to explore the world in no time. Happy travels!