How to plan a debt-free holiday

With many counting the cost of expensive trips this summer, here's how to get it right next time

TRIVANDRUM, INDIA - DECEMBER 08:  A woman is working with a notebook and makes a telephone call, paid by credit card on board of a Emirates Airline passenger jet on December 08, 2009 in Trivandrum, India. Since some month its new that travelers can use the ICE System, internet by LAN, write emails or doing office work or internet shopping with a computer and a screen integrated in the seats.As well its possible to make telephone calls (Photo by EyesWideOpen/Getty Images)
Powered by automated translation

Whether you're planning a trip to a country across the globe or packing the car for a weekend road trip to a local destination, you can have a debt-free holiday with some careful planning.

It's easy to see how a break can blow up even the most carefully planned budget: In NerdWallet's 2018 Summer Spending Report, parents surveyed by Harris Poll planned to charge an average of $1,019 to credit cards for summer holidays.

To ease the stress of your trip on your budget, start with a clear idea of your its scope — identifying expenses from the time you leave your home to the moment you return — and create a realistic spending limit. Then get creative to trim costs along the way.

With many UAE residents likely to have built up large credit card bills on their getaways this summer, here's some tips to ensure you stay on track the next time you jet off:

Save over time

Play the long game when planning and saving for a holiday. Put a portion of every paycheque aside to build up a reserve of cash for your trip.

Even saving $100 or $300 a month will help make your trip more affordable. Make sure the amount you're setting aside will provide you with enough holiday cash, too.

Consider opening a separate savings account and automating regular transfers to help you save without thinking about it.

If you're more of an impulsive traveller, work to contribute to this travel fund regularly so you can have that weekend getaway without having to pull out your credit card.

Make a friendly budget

Think of your budget as another companion on your trip.

Just as with any travel buddy, make sure you and your budget set good expectations for each other. Make a spending plan. Account for everything from flights and accommodation to entertainment and shopping. Your budget might not take you to every museum or restaurant you want; work to find a compromise that makes both of you happy.

If you run the numbers and find you can't swing that adventure without overspending, think about shelving the trip for a few months and saving more money in the meantime.

Make the most of your credit cards

Have a travel credit card or a cash-back card sitting in your wallet? You can take advantage of it before and during your trip. If you don't have one yet and your trip is six months or more away, consider looking into cards with a sign-up bonus that could cover flights or accommodation.

Card in hand, spend smart. Say you have a card that gives you cash back on groceries; determine what you spend on groceries annually and earmark those rewards points for your holiday budget.

The key is having a plan to pay off your charges every month, advises Joe Cheung, a travel hacker and blogger at As the Joe Flies.

"Everything starts out with a commitment to not having any credit card debt," says Mr Cheung. "With that principle in place, that opens up the possibility to earn credit card rewards without going into debt or paying interest."

You can also use a rewards card to cut your travel costs . Your card may get you free rental car insurance, or baggage fees or foreign transaction fees waived.

Watch hotels like a hawk

Where you stay is one of the most costly parts of a holiday. Shop strategically to lower your hotel costs, including monitoring prices and booking rooms during off-peak periods.

Mr Cheung recommends booking your reservation, but waiting to pay. That way you can continue to monitor hotel prices and change your booking accordingly. However, make sure there is no cancellation fee if you switch to another provider.

"Sometimes prices will drop by just $10 or $20, but sometimes it's pretty drastic," Mr Cheung says. "I once had a hotel for $250 a night, then it dropped to $160 a night."

You also can check prices at the hotel where you've made your initial reservation and price-compare with hotel price aggregator sites to see if you're getting the best deal.

Use apps to find cheap flights

Price-tracking apps and websites can do the work of price hunting for you.

With the smartphone app Hopper, for example, you can enter the general parameters of your itinerary, and it will track prices over time and alert you when the cheapest flight is available. The more flexible your travel dates, the easier it will be for you to find a low price. Google Flights provides a similar service.

One drawback to these services: they don't include prices for every airline. So monitor a few sources to get the best price.

* Associated Press