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Racking up credit card debt on your summer vacation can be as easy as dipping your toes in the sand with a refreshing piña colada in hand. Who wants to worry about finances when you're enjoying a much-deserved vacation and your credit card can cover the expenses?
While there's nothing wrong with spending your hard-earned money on rest, relaxation and adventure, it may be surprising to see the total tab for your vacation on your next credit card statement. Fortunately, with a little planning, you can pay off your summer vacation debt before the snow starts to fall.
To pay off your summer vacation, you can cut your expenses, take advantage of financial tools, utilize a debt repayment strategy and take steps to plan for next year.
Cut Back Expenses
Start tackling your debt by cutting your discretionary expenses for a few months and funneling that money to the credit card carrying your vacation debt. Consider the following strategies to begin your cost slashing:
- Review your subscriptions and memberships. Audit your recurring monthly expenses, including your gym membership, software licenses and streaming services, and cancel any service you can do without for a few months.
- Prepare your meals ahead of time. Create a weekly meal plan using items you already have in your kitchen. You can also save on grocery spending by using a slow cooker or Instant Pot to create meals with plenty of leftovers.
- Look for insurance discounts. A quick call to your insurance provider may provide immediate savings. You may be eligible for insurance discounts, but if that's not the case, consider getting multiple quotes from other carriers to find a better rate.
- Stack coupons at popular retailers. Retailers like Target, CVS and Walgreens allow you to stack manufacturer coupons with store coupons to maximize your savings. You can also get digital coupons for online shopping inside a store's app or website.
- Look for better internet service rates. Chances are you're overpaying for internet service. Call your current provider and try to negotiate a better rate, or switch to a provider with a less expensive rate.
Reviewing your bank statement is a great way to spot expenses you can cut back on. Once you start looking for ways to save money, you'll be surprised by how many ideas you come up with.
Earn Additional Income
A little extra money can go a long way toward eliminating your debt. If you want to accelerate your timetable for paying off your summer vacation debt, look for opportunities to earn extra money, such as:
- Requesting a raise at work if the market rate for your job exceeds your current pay
- Volunteering for overtime or asking for extra hours
- Signing up to drive with Uber or Lyft
- Offering a freelance service through Fiverr or Upwork
- Finding side jobs or advertising your own service on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace
- Selling old clothes or accessories to your local thrift store or on online marketplaces like Poshmark and ThredUp
- Selling items in your house like an exercise bike, tools or unused furniture
Taking on a side job or working extra hours doesn't have to be permanent. But earning more money in the short term can help you pay off your summer debt much faster.
Apply for a Balance Transfer Card
You may be able to save on interest by transferring your balance to a card with an introductory 0% annual percentage rate (APR) on transfers. Typical 0% APR introductory periods range from six to 21 months, giving you plenty of time to pay down your debt interest-free. But remember: Once the introductory period ends, the APR returns to its regular rate, which may be higher than your current card's rate.
Generally, you'll need good or excellent credit scores to qualify for a balance transfer credit card. And bear in mind, you'll likely have to pay a balance transfer fee of 3% or 5% of the transfer amount, which could diminish your total savings.
Use the Debt Avalanche or Snowball Method
If your vacation charges are spread over multiple credit cards, and you're having difficulty paying them off, try one of these methods.
Debt Avalanche Method
The debt avalanche method tackles debt by prioritizing payments on your credit cards with the highest interest rates. You make the minimum monthly payments on all your cards except the one with the highest rate, and put as much money as possible toward that card's balance. Once you repay the highest-interest card in full, move on to the credit card with the second-highest interest rate and repeat the process until all your credit cards are repaid.
As a rule, the debt avalanche method may save you the most money as it minimizes the amount you pay in interest charges.
Debt Snowball Method
Like the debt avalanche method, you'll make minimum payments on all your credit card balances except for one. But instead of prioritizing your highest-interest credit card, you'll aim to pay off the one with the lowest balance. Once that happens, you'll focus on paying off the credit card with the second-lowest balance and repeat the process until your revolving debt is gone.
The key advantage of the debt snowball method is that it builds motivation to stick with it through fast results as you pay off smaller debt balances.
How to Prepare for Next Year's Trip
The average American plans to spend $2,644 for summer vacations in 2022, according to Allianz Partners' Vacation Confidence Index. While that number represents a sizable price, you can fund next year's vacation for that amount—or even more— without going into debt. Here's how:
1. Create a Vacation Fund
Start saving for your annual summer vacation by setting aside money each month for your next trip. Calculate your rough costs for your vacation, such as your airfare, lodging, food, entertainment and recreation. Then, determine the amount you need to save each month by dividing your total costs by the number of months you have to save before your departure.
Don't worry if you can't save the whole amount you'll need. Any amount you can put away each month will be less money you'll have to worry about paying back next summer.
2. Strategize Your Big Expenses
You may be able to save money by paying early for your most significant travel expenses, like airfare and lodging. The best time to save money on airfare is by booking three weeks to four months in advance, according to CheapAir.com's 2022 Airfare Study. Incidentally, August is the least expensive summer month to fly, and Wednesday is the cheapest day of the week to fly.
3. Consider Going on Staycation
A staycation can give you the feeling of getting away without spending thousands of dollars on airfare, accommodations and activities.
For example, you could choose to rent a vacation home at a nearby hotspot through Airbnb or Vrbo and enjoy a day hike, bike ride or popular activities in the area. Along the same lines, luxury hotels sometimes offer day passes for their pools, spas and other amenities.
4. Use Credit Card Rewards Wisely
Check your card's rewards program to see if you can access free or discounted travel, or consider adding a premiere travel card to your wallet. Using your card for groceries, gas and other expenses you already incur could deliver substantial rewards, but make sure to pay your balance in full each month to avoid interest charges.
The best travel credit cards may help you save on flights, hotel stays and rental cars with perks to make traveling more enjoyable, like airport lounge access and priority seating.
The Bottom Line
Taking a vacation and recharging your internal batteries is essential for your physical and mental well-being. Similarly, paying off your summer vacation debt quickly and taking steps to avoid debt on your next getaway is important for your financial health.
As you work toward paying off your debt, try to stay on top of your credit so you can make improvements as necessary and dispute any inaccuracies. Get your credit report and FICO® Score☉ for free through Experian to discover where your credit stands and take appropriate steps to improve your credit.