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MARTINA ANDERSON FACED A vacation scenario that’s common to many Canadians: she had the time to travel but, at that very moment, not the finances.

“I had just completed a consultancy project two months ahead of schedule in Australia, which meant I was free to join friends on a group trip to Fiji,” she says.

“The only catch: I wasn’t going to be paid for another two months. I was ready and free to travel – but the money wouldn’t be in my bank account for another 10 weeks. I didn’t want to miss the Fiji trip.” Anderson found her solution at the local Flight Centre in Melbourne which offered interest-free financing on holiday packages and flights.

“I had the option to repay weekly, fortnightly or monthly with a modest card fee,” she explains.

And so, she enjoyed the two-week adventure and simply paid for it a couple months later when she had the funds to do so.

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Avoiding a high balance on her credit cards – and interest rate charges – is hugely important to Anderson, but she's also not interested in missing travel opportunities for finance's sake. She doesn’t mind incurring a modest fee for such vacation-financing because she values the convenience – and is diligent about repayment.

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Travel now, pay later

The concept of travelling now and paying later is gaining traction among Canadian travellers, though it’s important to read the fine print and repay on time. A new North American company called UPLIFT, for instance, enables clients to enjoy one of their partner trips (with such operators as Southwest Airlines, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Universal Orlando Resorts, among others) and pay in fixed monthly payments – without late fees. Many airline companies, such as British Airways (through its Book Now, Pay Later option) and American Airlines (through its Farelock program) enable travelers to lock in flights (sometimes with a small deposit) months in advance of their trip, when fares are at a lower cost.

“I’ll pay for the flight before I actually travel,” Anderson says, “but the main benefit is that such payment options actually lower the overall cost of my trip – and thus shorten the period of time required to save for it. The lower the cost, the sooner I get to travel.”

  

Consider setting up a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA)

Janet Blakely’s family in Vancouver opened a tax-free-savings account (TFSA) the year before their two-week dream trip to the south of France – which included a stay at an 18th-century chateau, which they had all to themselves.

“Our financial planner refers to the TFSA as a ‘terrifically flexible savings account’ because it’s good to save for all kinds of things,” Blakely says.

Not only did she and her husband (and three adult children) find creative ways to save for the trip (“We cut back on restaurant dining for about 10 months”) they also wanted to put monies earmarked for France into a special account. “We didn’t want it sitting in our chequing accounts where we could dip into it,” says Blakely, who credits their TFSA for enabling her family to save smarter – and faster – for their vacation.
  

Modify your vacation plans to reduce the amount you need to save

Needless to say, the pricier the vacation, the longer it will take to save. Ergo, finance your 2019 vacation sooner by lowering the overall costs. That’s what the Blakely family did.

“About eight months before our dream trip to the south of France, we realized we still needed to save a chunk more. Rather than postpone our trip, we simply modified our plans. Instead of spending two full weeks in the chateau, we opted for a budget-friendly home rental for the first week and then moved into our beautiful private chateau for the second week. This satisfied all of our travel goals – and we didn’t have to delay our vacation.”
  

Get your boss to chip in

Well, perhaps it’s not your boss who will pay for your 2019 vacation – but here’s how your employer can contribute. The Toronto-based Vacation Fund is an employer-matched travel savings program that encourages employees to put money aside for vacation (through a regular deduction from their pay). The amount is deposited directly into a Vacation Fund Account which is matched by their employer. Says Erica Pearson, co-founder and CEO of Vacation Fund:

“Not only does this help employees save for vacations – and in less time – but the benefits include employee satisfaction, productivity and retention. It enables employers to send a healthy message about the importance of taking a vacation.”

  

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