In an ideal world, we would all have a “vacation fund” to dip into whenever the need arises. Realistically, however, the money we’d like to sock away into our vacation fund has probably already been spent somewhere else – on unforeseen car repairs, say, or the all-inclusive trip we took a lifetime ago (back in January).

That doesn’t mean you can’t go on vacation – but, if you want to be financially responsible, it also doesn’t mean you can rack up your credit card like it’s nobody’s business. Sticking to a budget will definitely minimize the damage – and so will these tips:

1. Find a less-expensive place to visit.

Depending on the time of year, different destinations come with different price tags. Keep an eye out for seat sales and other promotional deals to help you narrow down your vacation options.

2. Acquire a travel credit card…and then use the points.
Travel credit cards – such as the RBC Avion Card – can really cut costs when it comes to vacation time. The key is to do your research to find the card that makes the most sense for you and your travel needs. It’s also important to actually use it to rack up those points. Automate a few of your bigger monthly bills and you’re all set (just remember to pay off the balance).

3. Visit TripAdvisor.
TripAdvisor is an amazing resource for finding inexpensive travel options. Experienced travellers can tell you a lot of insider information – such as where the best (cheap) restaurants are, as well as affordable sights worth seeing.

4. Do your own research.
Learn everything there is to know about your chosen destination – particularly what free/inexpensive activities are available. A little digging may be required here, but the legwork is worth it. (Additional tip: If your destination has a local Groupon site, check it out. There are often great dining, entertainment and spa deals, depending on the city you’re visiting).

5. Choose one special outing/event.
You are on vacation, after all! If you budget for one special event or evening, you’ll not only keep your costs in check but you’ll also have something special to look forward to!

What tips do you have for keeping vacation costs down?