Buying one airplane ticket to a faraway destination can be pricey.  Now multiply that cost by each member of your family.  It’s not cheap to take the whole gang on vacation.  According to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, spending on travel adds up to $3,718 each year on average for high-earning households, or those earning more than $75,600 in annual income.

Intelligent saving ahead of time can make a family vacation doable.  The key is that it’s not just what you save but how you save.  Here are five ways to optimize your vacation saving habits.

1. Strategize: Think ahead to when your kids will get the most out of a big trip — over the holidays or during summer vacation — and when you are most likely to start saving toward that goal.  It may be after receiving a bonus, holiday cash, or during tax-refund season.  Plan your timeline accordingly.

2. Embrace Risk: There’s such a thing as considered risk.  If your travel date is more than two years away, consider depositing your funds into an investment account over a savings account.  With the right allocation — which Betterment will customize for you based on your exact timeline — you will have the opportunity to boost your balance with the returns of the market.

3. Be Specific: Traditional budgets don’t work because they focus on self denial.  Rather than setting restrictive limits on yourself like “spend less on restaurants,” try to visualize that thing you’re actually saving for.  Behavior research shows that people are more likely to achieve an outcome when they specify what they are working towards.

4. Make Saving Automatic: Automating deposits into your savings or investment fund keeps you on track.  It’s easy to make good decisions, like vowing to save up for family time in Paris, when you’re rational.  It’s harder to achieve these things when it comes to resisting short-term temptations or juggling expenses.  Automating your deposits helps you stick to the plan no matter what happens.

5. Think Buckets: It’s a good idea to keep your vacation account separate from other savings or investments.  By creating a goal, you can help avoid poor mental accounting.  Separating your vacation “bucket” enumerates what you’re working towards, instead of having a slushfund which may be raided for other expenses that come up along the way.

Don’t waste your time trying to will yourself into good savings habits – let us do that.  You’ve got a vacation to plan!

New to Betterment? As the most trusted online financial advisor, Betterment offers a fully diversified investment portfolio of 12 global asset classes, optimized to provide you the best possible returns for both retirement planning and wealth building. Betterment costs 0.15% of assets under management annually for a portfolio of $100,000 or more. Learn more here.

This article was published on June 14, 2013

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