It was a long, cold winter day in January. Though we were fortunate not to have snow on the ground, we hadn’t seen the sun in more than a week. We craved the warmth of the sunshine and fresh air. Unfortunately Spring was still almost 3 months away.
Alan and I decided a vacation was in order – and spring break was just 8 weeks away. We didn’t have any solid vacation plans for the year and went into the year knowing we might not have any big trips. But we were getting the itch to travel.
We brainstormed ways to take a trip south to warmer temps and water. With spring break just around the corner, we had visions of sunshine and white sandy beaches. But without travel rewards it would cost us a thousand dollars (or more) to fly somewhere.
An easy way to save for vacation
Then it occurred to me – we had some savings set aside that I don’t touch, but don’t have earmarked for anything in particular. Digit* to the rescue.
In January, my Digit balance was over $1800 (I signed up in June 2016). I figured we would need a little over $2000 to take a week-long road trip to Orange Beach, Alabama (a long, but doable drive for us). And since I had a no spend month in January, I had extra money in my checking account. I decided to just leave the extra money there and let Digit do its magic. By the end of February, we had $2400 in our Digit account – enough to cover the trip.
Although I know it’s still our money (mostly – I do get $5 per referral), it felt like an effortless, painless way to pay for the trip. Digit is now my designated vacation savings account.
Other ways we saved money on the trip
Even though the temperatures were chilly (50 – 60 degrees), it was better than the snow and cold in Iowa that week. But since it was so cold, we did more indoor activities than we would otherwise.
The Naval Air Museum in nearby Pensacola, Florida was FREE and it was amazing! The kids wanted to try out the flight simulator, which was $20 for two people, but someone gifted us their tickets, so we only had to pay for two of us. We had a great museum tour and flight simulator for $20 plus the cost of gas.
In addition, the USS Alabama Battleship is in nearby Mobile, Alabama. I found coupons for $2 off each adult ticket, so the total cost for the tour of the battleship, the submarine, and the indoor pavilion (with a great fighter jet display) was $52.
Of course the beach and the Alabama state park provided several hours of free entertainment. Alan and Cait actually went for a swim in the ocean, but Jake and I chose to watch from afar (the water was COLD!).
For the road trip, I packed lunches and tons of snacks, along with plenty of water (both on the way there and back). And our 1 liter thermos for coffee more than gets us through a long day of driving.
We rented a 3 bedroom condo in Orange Beach close enough to Gulf Shores but far enough away to avoid Spring Break crowds. (We used VRBO.) It had an ocean view, a full kitchen and everyone had a comfortable, private bedroom ($1200 for 6 nights). The kitchen saved us on two meals a day since we ate breakfast and lunch in the condo.
I never know what grocery prices will be like when we travel, so when we take the car I pack a few groceries from home. We purchased a few items from Walmart while we were there and spent a total of $60 on groceries (I probably took an additional $50 worth of groceries from home, but ended up bringing some back home).
We did not skimp or save on going out to dinner. When we have the opportunity to have good, fresh seafood, we take it. And I found my favorite seafood – Royal Red shrimp (if you’ve never tried them, you need to!).
Though we had two nights of extra hotel costs, driving saved us money. Our car averaged 36 mpg and we spent around $200 on gas. If you add in the $300 for those two extra hotel nights, the cost was still less than flying since we don’t have travel rewards.
Total spent: $2200
My only goal with the spending was to keep it under our Digit savings, so this is a success!
How do you save on travel? Do you have a designated travel savings account?
*If you’re unfamiliar with Digit, it’s a amazing savings app. Digit connects to your checking account and uses algorithms to analyze your income and spending. It then moves small amounts from your checking account to your Digit savings account (with a no overdraft guarantee).
Though I do notice when Digit takes money out of my checking account, it’s never an amount that will keep me from paying the bills or otherwise interfere with my finances. It’s truly painless. (If you want more info, check out my review here.)
Update: Digit now has goalmojis! Just set up your savings goal and Digit does the rest.
Update (04/11/2017): Digit is now charging $2.99/month for this service. I admit, I was disappointed to learn this. That said, I think Digit is a great way to save, especially if you have trouble setting aside extra money each month.
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