What to Spend Your Tax Refund on if you Want to Travel

It’s tax season again! While I know the thought of organizing your finances may be stressful or overwhelming, I am here to remind you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel...tax refunds!!

For many of us, the actual amount we get every year on our tax refund changes. For me personally, my professional and academic status has evolved every year, meaning that my tax refund amount has also changed drastically from year to year. Every tax season is like a game for me to see what my final tax refund amount will be. Will it be $10,000? 2,000? 200? Because this money is something I can’t usually project in my finances, I don’t factor it in, so whenever I get a tax refund I always see it as spare money!

No matter how big or small your tax refund ends up being this year, I want to share some great ways that you can spend this money on travel or adventures!

If your tax refund is:

Under $200:

Apply for passport

If you have wanted to travel out of the country, but have never had the chance for whatever reason, take the 1st step and apply for your very first passport! Applying for your first passport is such an exciting experience. Passport fees for first-time applicants over 16 years are $145, so this is the perfect way to spend your tax refund!

Apply for Global Entry / TSA Pre-check

I have talked about the wonders Global Entry has done for me here. If your current credit card doesn’t cover the application fee, this a great time to invest in yourself and upgrade your travel experience by cutting down wait times both at flight departures (with TSA Precheck) and at flight arrivals (with Global Entry). Don’t forget, the application fee for Global Entry is $100 and automatically comes with TSA Precheck if you are accepted; however, if you apply for TSA Precheck directly, it does not come with Global Entry so be sure to apply for Global Entry!

Book a local adventure, like skydiving ;)

Ok ok, you don’t have to go skydiving if that’s not your thing, but this is the perfect excuse to get out there and take on a new adventure you’ve always wanted to try. Depending on where you are located, some ideas include white water rafting, trapeze class, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, surf lesson, bungee jumping, or zip lining! You would be surprised at how many fun adventures are located right in your hometown or just a couple of hours away.

Under $500

Book a staycation

HotelTonight is a wonderful way to find nights at your local hotels for much cheaper! If you aren’t familiar with them, they work with top notch hotels and offer customers access to their last minute unbooked rooms at a discounted price, allowing you to book anywhere from a week in advance to minutes before checking in, which is a win-win for both the hotels and you!

HotelTonight Use code ATOSCANO23 at checkout to get $25 off your 1st booking ;)

Take a weekend getaway

Take this opportunity to get out of your city and book a cozy weekend in at a nearby cabin. Glamping Hub, Airbnb, and Sonder all have beautiful and super unique places you could stay in, from tree houses to tiny houses to glass window cabins!

Airbnb - through this link, get $40 off your first home booking of $75 or more and $15 off an experience of $50 or more.

Book a cheap international flight

In this blog post I went into my receipts and showed you exactly how much I paid for my cheapest international flights. You may be surprised to know that most of my international flights have been under $500! I always suggest keeping your travel days flexible while you are searching and use the feature on Google Flights to input your home airport (without inputting a destination) and click on the interactive map to see how much flights are to any part in the world.

If you have been dying to visit a specific location, you can also input your home airport and dream destination and click on the calendar to see what dates are the cheapest throughout the entire year, and plan to visit during that country’s low season! I have clear instructions about how to use these Google Flights functions here.

$500 - 1000

Learn a new skill

This is a wonderful opportunity to invest in a new skill that you will use during your travels! Take a photography course or become scuba dive certified.  These are both investments you won’t regret making that will only amplify your travel experience!

Go on a cruise

If you are limited on time and want to maximize the number of places you can see, a cruise is a great option. While you don’t get to stay at each island for long, it is a great sampler to different island countries and allow you to experience different activities or cuisines while you are there.

$1000 - $5000

Invest in a DSLR camera

If you’ve wanted to get more serious about travel photography, this is a great time to invest in a new DSLR camera or lenses without feeling guilty about the price tag. Nice cameras are not cheap, but a useful investment that can last you well into a decade! I’ve had my Canon 60D for 9 years now and it has traveled the world with me!

Plan a longer vacation to a dream destination

With this amount of money, you really have the opportunity to cover a flight to most places around the world. If you have always been dying to visit a place, this is your chance to finally make it a reality. Book a flight to Kenya or Tanzania and plan your first safari, book a flight to Beijing and plan your visit to the Great Wall of China, book a flight to Peru to visit Machu Picchu, or book a flight to South Africa and plan your cage diving experience with Great White sharks!

$5000 - $15,000+

The world is really your oyster here with this tax refund! Go after your wildest dreams because guess what, you can!!

Book a luxury stay at an over-water villa

You could book the luxurious trip of your dreams at one of the over-water villas in the Maldives or in Polynesia (Tahiti, Bora Bora, Fiji) with all of the bells and whistles.

Note, you definitely don’t have to spend this much money to do so though. A huge tip to staying at an overwater villa in the Maldives for cheap is to travel during low season around September when overwater villas are as cheap as $400 and book your travel by flying first to Sri Lanka and then taking a short 1-hour flight to the Maldives.

Travel to more remote destinations

This amount of money is perfect to spend on a trip to a more remote location that has been on your list, because they often tend to be more expensive. Below are just a few places that are a bit further and/or more expensive to get to from the US:





Papua New Guinea

New Zealand


Book several, big international trips

If you don’t like the idea of spending all of your tax refund on one luxurious trip, you could also maximize your money by booking several big trips. Say you spend around $2,000 per trip, which still allows you to do so much, you could schedule some amazing adventures spread out across the year.

Book a Round The World flight

There are such things as Round The World (RTW) flight tickets. In short, these are tickets that you purchase through airlines or online travel agents, such as Star Alliance, One World, or SkyTeam that offer a designated number of flights that you can book during one year. They cost around $2,700 - $15,000 depending on the number of stops and class of fare. From what I have heard, these are good options for those that have a set travel schedule for a full year and don’t like using local budget airlines as you can only travel within the same airline group.

Book a 180-day Around the World Cruise

Ok now I’m just getting wild, but if you really have some money to spend and you have the flexibility to travel for 6 months, you could take Oceania’s 180-day Around the World Cruise! Prices start around $38,000, around $211 per day, so maybe that one is a little too ambitious for a tax refund, but still really cool ;)


I hope you enjoyed this blog post! I am personally so excited to hear what you end up doing with your tax refund (please share it with me here or on Instagram!) I can’t wait to live vicariously through you and cheer you on with whatever you choose to spend on!

Til next time!


Disclaimer: I have included referral codes in this post, which have no impact on my opinions shared above. I will receive a small commission fee if you choose to book with my link; however, you will also receive a discount off of your booking, so it’s a win-win for us both :)

Be sure to save this image below to your Pinterest board to reference later!