Summer vacation season is almost here and most Americans will be taking advantage of the good weather to plan a trip or kick back.
Not all, though: Over one in four Americans have already decided to forgo a summer vacation this year, and another 22% remain undecided, according to a new survey by Bankrate of almost 2,600 adults.
"A month out from Memorial Day and it looks like lot of people are planning trips, but unfortunately not everyone," Ted Rossman, a credit card analyst for Bankrate, tells CNBC Make It.
The biggest reason some are opting to skip a trip this year? They can't afford it: A full 60% of respondents who say they're not taking a summer vacation point to that as the reason why.
Almost half, 44%, say day-to-day bills are the biggest hurdle. That's not too surprising given that over half of Americans in a recent survey said they wouldn't be able to cover a $1,000 emergency.
When broken down by generation, millennials (ages 23 to 38) and Gen-X (ages 39 to 54) are the most likely to take a vacation this summer, with over half of each, 57%, saying they already have plans.
If you're undecided or think you can't afford it, Rossman says it's not too late: "There is still time, whether it's through budgeting or through getting the right credit card, there is still time to take a great trip this year."
How to save up for a summer trip
First, it's worth noting that you don't have to spend a bundle to take a great summer vacation. Among those surveyed by Bankrate, the median amount of a planned vacation is about $1,000. And you could spend even less than that if you opt for a staycation.
"Be a tourist in your home city," Rossman says. "Vacationing doesn't have to be expensive."
If you do want to spend a bit more, you could start putting more money away now. Experts say automating your savings is a great way to go. That means setting up regular transfers from checking to savings accounts so that you don't have to make the decision on whether to spend that money or save it for your goal.
Tracking your spending can also help you save, so you know where you can cut back and perhaps even find a few bills or subscription services you can eliminate. There are a lot of great apps that can help here, including Mint, You Need a Budget or Personal Capital.
It can also help to add income streams. "Go out and just try to make a little extra money," Millennial Money founder Grant Sabatier tells CNBC Make It. "You don't have to go crazy, you don't have to go out and make an extra $10,000 or more per month, but every $1,000 you make and invest instead" can help you achieve your goals.
Over the years, Sabatier has come up with lots of creative ways to make more money, including flipping website domain names, reselling Volkswagen campers and even investing in a moving company.
How the right credit card could help
Another way to earn a vacation is to maximize your current spending. "Consider signing up for a travel or cash-back credit card," Rossman says. "There's still time to turn a sign-up bonus and ongoing spending rewards into a free or discounted trip."
Picking the right card is key, especially because it's already so close to the start of the summer travel season. Most people may be better off with a cash-back card, as opposed to an airline miles card, Rossman says. That's because it can take a few months for rewards to kick in: You may need to wait to be approved for the card, for example, or it could take time to spend the amount needed to earn an introductory bonus.
"To someone who's really on the fence about planning a trip, from a convenience and speed factor, I would nudge them toward a cash-back card," Rossman says. "Because then you're not going to have to deal with some of these other hoops."
To someone who's really on the fence about planning a trip, from a convenience and speed factor, I would nudge them toward a cash-back card.Ted Rossmanindustry expert for Bankrate
Remember that you shouldn't increase your spending just to snag a sign-up or other kind of bonus, though. And if you can't afford a vacation, don't use a credit card to pay for a trip and plan to pay it off later. Taking a vacation is not worth going into credit card debt, he adds, so "make sure you pay your bills in full to avoid interest," especially because the average credit card APR is at a record high.
The good news: "Most people are not getting into debt because of vacations," Rossman says. Americans generally get into debt from the cost of day-to-day expenses and emergencies.
While it's understandable that many people think they don't have enough money to take a big, fancy trip, Rossman says, that doesn't mean you need to avoid taking a break this summer. Research shows time off may be good for your health and can even boost your productivity at work in the long run.
"Take a staycation or spend some time with family and friends," Rossman says. "Just relax."
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