Everyone has dreams of taking a vacation, but for many of us finding ways to travel affordably can seem out of reach. However, with some careful planning, budgeting, and priority adjusting, your dream may not be as elusive as it seems. Here are some tips for planning an adventure for less.
Make a Priorities List
Your very first step should be to define your vacation priorities. Knowing what you want out of a trip will allow you to determine what you can afford and what you’ll need to save for. Once you know exactly what you want, you can start making a plan to achieve it. If you’re looking to have a cultural experience, staying in rentals instead of hotels and shopping at markets instead of dining out might not only be cheaper but could be a better way to experience a destination. Some questions you might ask yourself include:
- How many days do I want to travel?
- Do I need to stay in a fancy hotel or is a less expensive place like an Airbnb okay?
- Am I looking to experience a different culture or fill my days with expensive activities?
- Do I need to eat at the best restaurants or can I get by with less expensive dining options?
- Do I need to pay for a flight, or can I take a less expensive mode of transportation to my destination?
Set a Travel Budget
You need to budget while you’re on vacation. Traveling without a set budget will almost certainly lead to overspending. Start by deciding the total amount you can spend on a vacation, then decide where you can go based on the costs of transportation, housing, food, entertainment, and souvenirs. Use your personal budget as a guide to help you figure out where you can find the money for travel. Take into account your savings, expenses, and any variables that might affect a trip. If you’re looking for a little help with a budget, try an app like KAYAK Explore that will show you which destinations fit your budget. All you have to do is input your destination and what you’d like to pay, and it will recommend some places to travel.
Travel in the Off-Season
Traveling in the off-season is a great way to save money. Each destination has a different high season for tourism, but in general, the summer months or holiday breaks will likely be peak times. There are some exceptions, such as tropical destinations, which can be more crowded during January and February when vacationers want to get away from the cold. Family-friendly places will be busier when school’s out. Be sure to do your homework and try to be flexible. You want to travel before or after peak season when airfare and hotel prices are lower, the weather is still good, businesses are open, and there are lots of activities and events still happening, but there are fewer people around.
Search for Hotel Alternatives
Hotels can be very expensive. Make sure to look into non-traditional accommodations. Here are some options to consider:
- Hostels – A hostel is an inexpensive lodging option that requires you to share a bathroom or an entire room with other travelers. Hostels will work best for solo or couple of trips.
- Rentals – Many people now rent out their homes to travelers when they aren’t using them, or they’ll allow you to stay with them while you vacation. Look for rentals on apps like Airbnb and VRBO to find condos, townhomes, and apartments for much cheaper rates than hotels. Most of these rental types will offer you access to a kitchen, laundry and other amenities that you would have to pay for at a hotel.
- Stay With Friends – Travelling to a place where you know someone will save you a ton of cash. Give your friends or family a call and ask if you can crash at their place to cut out the hotel costs entirely.
Take Shorter Trips
A vacation doesn’t have to be three weeks long to be enjoyable. Taking a shorter trip can still give you a chance to recharge, relax and have fun, but it will cost you much less. Consider a weekend getaway in your home state like a camping trip at a state park or visiting a city you haven’t been to. Many attractions will offer state residents discounts and deals, so do some research on what’s available. Planning a shorter trip also means you can drive instead of fly, which translates to big savings.
Keep an Eye Out for Deals
Airfare will be one of the biggest expenses of any trip, so make sure you keep an eye out for airline ticket deals to the destination you want. You can set up a price alert at websites like Kayak and Airfarewatchdog.
Travel with a Group
One way to save on travel expenses is to go on vacation with a group so you can share the cost of hefty expenses like lodging. Hotels, airlines, and popular attractions may also offer group deals, especially if you’re booking several rooms at the same hotel. Sites like Groople can also help you find group rates.