It really is possible to pay for your entire vacation before you ever leave your house! I’ve done it many times, and the older I get the more I do it! No matter what my destination is or how long I'll be gone, I want to really enjoy my time away from home. I don't have to worry about paying for airfare, gas, food or anything else while I'm gone. It's all been paid for ahead of time!

Here are the most popular things that I do in advance:

1. Plan at least six months in advance

If you plan on flying, it’s likely the more in advance you purchase your tickets, the cheaper the price will be. However, if you plan to drive to your destination you can still pay for that too! Every time you get paid, whether it’s weekly, bi-monthly or monthly, buy a pre-paid gas card for $25 (or whatever you can afford at the time). Put the gas card away and use it only for your trip. You can get discount gas and restaurant cards at Groupon or Card Cash.

2. Contact your destination’s chamber of commerce

Write, call or email the area's chamber of commerce or welcome center. They will gladly send you information about their area and will almost always send coupons for area restaurants, hotels, and activities. Remember–the people who work there are locals; ask for the names of any places they would recommend you eat, stay or play.

3. Request coupons

Using the chamber of commerce information, find out what restaurants you would like to visit, then write, call or email them and ask about gift certificates or any special deals they have regularly. You can purchase gift cards before your trip and know that once you get there, you will have several meals already paid for! Even the "mom & pop" places will send you a gift certificate (and sometimes coupons) if you request them. Always let the owners/manager know that you received their name from the chamber of commerce information packet so they will know advertising with them is working.

Related: Buy Gift Cards at Your Favorite Drugstore and Save!


Again, using the information you received from the chamber, pick which activities you would like to do while on vacation. Write, call or email the various places and see what kind of discounts they offer for getting tickets early, paying online, or any coupons they may have. A lot of sites have coupons you can print online.

4. Book your hotel early

While Orbitz, Priceline, Travelocity, etc. are good websites for some discounts, I have found that it is better to contact the hotel directly (not the 800 number if it is a chain). They will often give you an oceanfront room for the price of non-oceanfront room and will sometimes offer you an extra night if you stay for a certain number of nights. Try to be flexible! It might actually get you an extra night of vacation!

5. Travel during the off-season

This last tip is one that is tried and true: travel during the off-season if possible. Most kids get out of school these days around the end of May. If you can’t travel in the off-season, try to plan for the week after the kids are out of school since that is when you and they probably would like a much-needed break.

This is a guest post by Jan R. from Johnson City, TN.

Related: Stretch Your Travel Dollars with City Passes!