Saving up for a bucket list trip takes time – in some cases, lots of time. In the meanwhile, you still need to be able to take a break occasionally. Fortunately, it’s possible to spend a few days at Walt Disney World or a weekend at a nearby bed-and-breakfast while putting money aside for that African safari you have always dreamed about. Doing so involves is establishing a budget, setting priorities and taking advantage of a few creative strategies to help you save enough to do it all.

Decide Where to Go

First things first. Where do you want to go for your bucket list trip? Is it French Polynesia, Paris, Hawaii or somewhere else? Ask yourself the same question about those weekend getaways or short vacations. Make a list of bucket list destinations and short vacations using search engines like Expedia, Kayak or Travelocity to help you determine the basic cost of travel, lodging, activities and food for each option.

Set Savings Goals

Decide how much you can comfortably save each month. This amount will be distributed between two savings accounts – one for your bucket list trip and the other for short vacations. How you distribute the funds will depend on the cost of your bucket list trip and how soon you want to take it.

For example, if your desired bucket list trip is 14 days in Hawaii at a cost of $4,800 for two people and your monthly travel savings budget is $300, you would need to dedicate $200 of your monthly savings to Hawaii in order to have the total saved in two years. In the meantime, putting the remaining $100 in your short-trip fund would give you $1,200 per year for weekend getaways or one or two short trips per year.

Get Real About Saving

Saving for vacation involves setting realistic goals. If the bucket list trip you want to take is too expensive for your vacation savings budget, you may need to pick another bucket list trip or tweak the one you can’t live without. This could involve shortening the stay, forgoing some entertainment options or going at a less expensive time of the year. Once all the kinks are ironed out, set up a separate savings account for your bucket list trip and another for annual travel. Now it’s up to you to stick to your savings plan no matter what.

Plan the Trip

Look for cost-saving opportunities as part of the planning process for your trips. This includes finding deals on travel websites such as Groupon, Airfarewatchdog, and Expedia. Sign up for email alerts from these and others including travel companies and airlines, especially those that have flash sales. Note when offseason rates apply and what they are in case that time of year is appealing to you. In most cases, booking well in advance gives you the best rate although sometimes last-minute deals can also be found. Don’t forget to book hotel rooms that include free breakfast for a hot meal in the morning and fresh fruit and coffee to take with you if you are driving.

Start Saving

The following ideas and tips can help you maximize the amount you save and ensure your savings plan will be successful.

  • Check out micro-investing platforms such as Stash or Acorns to use as vacation savings accounts and to provide you with a better return than regular passbook savings. 
  • Automate the saving the process by having the money taken out of your checking account on a regular basis.
  • Create a vacation change bucket to use for spare change at the end of the day. Every week or so add what’s in the bucket to your vacation savings or investment accounts.
  • Save “found funds” such as tax refunds, rebates and other unexpected sources of money.
  • Sell stuff you no longer want or need in a garage sale, at consignment shops or online on Facebook or on eBay.
  • Cut spending where possible by streaming instead of cable, eliminating (or downsizing) your gym membership, using coupons, packing your lunch and eating out less, and using the library for free books and movies.
  • Get a part time job driving for Uber or Lyft or sign up for seasonal or part time employment at a local store.
  • Get a travel rewards credit card that accumulates airline miles or hotel credits to give you an immediate discount when you travel.

Keep Saving on Vacation

The savings don’t have to stop once you leave for vacation. Here are some ways to save that can help you cut costs on the road without sacrificing fun.

  • Use an app like GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas in unfamiliar locations.
  • Window shop several stores at your destination before buying to get the best deal.
  • Get to know your hotel concierge and ask about discounts for dinners, tours and day trips.
  • Check out dining deals on local convention and visitor’s bureau websites or sites like Dining Advantage using the free internet provided by your hotel.
  • Check out local food carts, trucks and markets for less expensive (and more interesting) dining options.
  • Buy an inexpensive airline lounge pass online (eBay) for access to free snacks and drinks at the airport.
  • Use public transportation when possible.
  • Look for free tourist destinations including museums, beaches, local parks or hiking trails. Some European locations have city cards that provide free transportation and dining discounts.

The Bottom Line

You don’t have to choose between a bucket list trip and a regular annual vacation or a couple of weekend getaways. With careful planning and some easy to follow saving strategies, you can do both (or all three). Take advantage of discount opportunities, make a commitment to save and stick to it and be willing to adjust your plans if the numbers don’t add up. Most of all, have fun and enjoy your vacations both large and small.