I’ve definitely been bitten by the travel bug, and summer is one of my favorite times to go and explore new places. We’re hoping to fit in as many trips as we can in the next year before we have bigger obstacles to tackle (see more about that here), but it’s not always cheap. So how am I fitting in a trip to Los Angeles, the Hamptons, our favorite spot in Maryland, Florida, AND the Caribbean Islands in just one year?
By budgeting, of course! We may be married now, but I’ve never been the kind of girl to let the guy take on the responsibility of paying for everything; I like to pull my own weight. Since I don’t have a whole lot of extra money to work with, I’ve learned a few tricks for bringing costs down, and because of that, I’ll get to go to places I’ve always dreamed of visiting.
Make a little more room in your budget for the fun stuff by considering some of these money-saving vacation tips. Happy traveling!
1. First thing’s first: Plan ahead and save up! We planned to take all of these trips well in advance, so I was able to plan for how much money I would need and when I would need to have it by. How much can you contribute to your travel fund every month? Saving even just a little over time can eventually get you to where you need to be. I set aside a pre-determined amount out of each paycheck in addition to my emergency savings, and if I came across anything extra (we made a profit at our local flea market!), I added it to my stash. Sometimes I ended up borrowing from what I usually budget for entertainment, but to me, it was well worth it.
2. ALWAYS check for deals and discounts online. This has been my biggest money-saver! You can find deals on hotels, flights, and local attractions and events through sites like Travelzoo, LivingSocial, and Groupon. Last winter, we were able to stay in a hotel in the heart of New York City for only $150 per night (originally $344). Be aware of any restrictions on travel times or dates, and always read the fine-print before purchasing.
3. Know what you’re paying for. What’s included in your vacation package? Sometimes you might pay more for a hotel room per night, but you might have included “freebies” – things like WiFi, vouchers for in-house restaurants, or pool access – that you might otherwise have to pay for at other places. For example, we paid a little more for lodging than we initially planned for during our stay in the Hamptons, but it also included breakfast and snacks each day, as well as access to nearby beaches, chairs, and umbrellas. It’s always best to compare offers to see where you can get the most for your money.
4.Travel during the off-season or during the week instead of weekends. Rates are often the most expensive during high-travel times; it’s common for folks to take a week-long summer vacation or an extended weekend during the rest of the year. Hotels generally have lower rates for Sunday – Thursday stays. Also avoid traveling around holidays, when rates tend to be higher.
5. Consider a last-minute destination. Seems kind of contradictory to the “plan ahead” method suggested in #1, right? A lot of sites that offer package deals on flights and hotel stays require that you purchase and travel right away, or by a certain date – sometimes this is within the next few months, occasionally the next few weeks. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should take a spur-of-the-moment vacation; you should still use the money you’ve been setting aside for travel. This just means you might have more restrictions concerning where and when you go. For instance, we’re considering this option for a tropical vacation next spring. We don’t really mind where we go in the Caribbean, so we’ll end up wherever we can get the most bang for our buck closer to when we plan on traveling.
6. Opt to cook for yourself instead of dining out. This is a great option to have, even if you’re not necessarily “cooking” on a stove. Instead of going out to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, consider bringing your own food and limiting yourself to only a few meals out at restaurants. It’s nice to treat yourself every once in a while (after all, it IS vacation), but dining out frequently will really drain your wallet.
7. Bring some friends. Consider planning a joint vacation with a few friends or family members and split some of the costs (i.e. lodging, food, etc.). Having buddies around that like to do similar things can make vacation even more fun. It’s also a great way to squeeze in some extra quality time together.
8. Can’t afford to get away? “Stay-cations” can be just as fun! Sometimes you just can’t afford to go away for a few days. Schedule some time off and explore what’s close to you, whether it’s a local park, nearby museums, or new restaurants. Staying closer to home eliminates a lot of travel expenses, such as flights and hotel charges. Want to save even more? Be on the lookout for free festivals or discount days/times offered by local attractions.