Traveling to other parts of the world and experiencing new cultures is a dream for most Americans, but many put off vacation plans for financial reasons. Real life—like a roof that needs repairs or unexpected medical bills—can often get in the way of exploring the big world out there. But by tweaking your spending and saving habits, anyone can save up for a dream vacation without breaking your budget or jeopardizing other priorities.
Just follow in Chris Pellegrino’s footsteps. The U.S. Navy veteran based in Richmond, Virginia had already traveled to three continents, but still had one destination on his wish list: China. He says he has always been fascinated with the country’s history and culture but never committed to a trip because he worried it would be too expensive.
That all changed when Pellegrino, 50, was introduced to the onUp Movement, which was launched in February by his employer, SunTrust Bank. The movement’s saving and budgeting tools are designed to help individuals reach financial goals by demonstrating how to reevaluate monthly expenses and identifying areas to cut back on spending.
“The tools are easy to navigate and make you take a second look at your spending and saving habits,” Pellegrino explains. “I had to make some small sacrifices, such as putting more money in my vacation account than in my Christmas account, but it was worth it.”
Pellegrino’s hard work and patience paid off. He saved up enough money and traveled to China this past May to visit his 21-year-old son, who is studying abroad. They explored the country together for two weeks and developed a stronger father-son bond during that time.
“When you visit such historical places and become immersed in a different culture together, you are bound to grow closer,” Pellegrino says. “We walked up to 20 miles a day and saw some remarkable landmarks along the way.”
Out of all the landmarks he saw, Pellegrino was most impressed with the Great Wall of China. He and his son went to a part of the Wall that’s less frequented by tourists and were both in awe of its enormity and beauty.
“When I was standing on the wall, I stopped for a moment to think about how many hundreds of thousands of workers it took to build it,” he says.
Another fascinating cultural experience Pellegrino witnessed was the sight of hundreds of Chinese residents practicing tai chi in the streets. “Tai chi is a big social event over there,” he says. “Seeing the people do this exercise together made me realize how united they are as a country.”
Pellegrino is already saving up for his next trip (destination: Peru) and plans to keep using tools from the onUp Movement to help him reach his goal. He encourages others to do the same.
“Many people have trouble saving up for travel because they don’t pay attention to how much money they’re actually spending on a daily basis,” Pellegrino says. “If they make fewer insignificant purchases and focus on their long-term financial goals, traveling isn’t out of reach.”
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