It took me almost 3 years to save for a trip to Italy, but now that I know better I’ll do 3 things to save faster next time

  • When I began saving for a trip for two to Italy, I didn’t have much experience with big expenses.
  • I spoke with two financial planners about how to save efficiently for trips.
  • Next time, I plan to research savings accounts, use a travel rewards credit card, and budget ahead.

When I first started saving for a trip for two to Italy, I was a novice in personal finance.  

With little experience in saving for a big discretionary expense, it took almost three years to save over $5,000 for the trip. I’m proud that I followed through and accomplished my goal, but there are also some things I wish I could have done to save more quickly and efficiently.  

After speaking to two financial planners about how to save for a trip, here are a few things I’ll do differently for future trips.

1. Research different types of savings accounts first 

If you’re looking to save money for a short-term savings goal like travel, Jerel Butler, a financial planner and founder of Millennial Financial Solutions, says an online bank can be a good option.

“I would suggest an online savings account without any debit card available for it. That way, this money is truly dedicated to this purpose. You’re not going to be withdrawing from it,” advises Butler.

While saving for my trip to Italy, I started by depositing money into a traditional savings account that paid 0.05% APY. Once I learned more about the different types of savings accounts available at financial institutions, I switched to a CD. Then, I withdrew money from my CD and put it into a high-yield savings account to have easier access to my money.

In retrospect, it would have been better to compare different savings accounts at the very beginning. Then, I could have figured out if my current savings account had a competitive interest rate, or if I wanted to deposit my money somewhere else.

2. Incorporate travel savings into my regular budget

When I talked to Rachael Burns, financial planner and founder of True Worth Financial Planning, about saving for travel, she said, “If trips are something that are important to you, that should be a part of your annual budget. You know each year that you’re going to spend around a certain amount.”

This resonated with me because the first few months of saving for my trip felt like a huge hurdle I’d never get over. I didn’t have any savings for travel, so I needed a lengthy deadline to be able to achieve my goal. 

Now, I plan on readjusting my budget so that I’ll contribute some money each month for travel — it’s something I love, and that’s all the justification I need. When I plan for my next trip, I’ll already have some money in my account  for the expense, which will make the overall savings process quicker.

3. Take advantage of a travel rewards credit card 

“If you’re doing some traveling and you have a travel card or type of credit card that allows points, flights, types of rewards for using it, that should probably be the first go-to for your major purchases,” recommends Butler.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a travel rewards credit card when I paid for my major hotel and flight expenses. And even if I did, I don’t think I would have been confident or knowledgeable enough to use it efficiently.

Travel rewards credit cards take time to understand and research. To find the right credit card, you have to understand how different rewards and points work and be aware of your own money habits.

Burns also points out that you’ll want to be mindful of how you use your travel rewards credit card.

“I totally appreciate how important travel is to a lot of people because it’s important to me, but it needs to fit within your overall budget,” says Burns. 

Now that I have a better understanding of personal finance, I know I can use a rewards credit card wisely and thoughtfully. It won’t be intimidating, and I’ll have control over managing and monitoring it.