Looking for a budget-friendly way to explore new places and create unforgettable memories? Look no further! Traveling on a budget is not only possible, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. With a little bit of planning and some insider tips, you can plan your dream vacation without breaking the bank.
I absolutely love to travel and see new things. A lot of people think that going to awesome places is expensive, but it’s not. In fact, there are many places to vacation for cheap.
Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a novice adventurer, there’s something for everyone in this article. You’ll learn how to create a budget, research your options, and find the best deals on flights, hotels, and activities. Plus, you’ll discover insider tips on how to save money on food and drinks, so you can enjoy all the local cuisine without going over budget.
So why wait? Start planning your budget-friendly vacation today and make your dream trip a reality!
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How To Plan A Vacation
Planning a vacation on a budget doesn’t have to break the bank. Whether you go on an international trip or not, it’s still possible to do it cheaply and have a great time.
First of all, I could have only afforded to do this by following the simple budget that I first created. Over the years of budgeting, I saved enough money to start taking vacations.
My priority was to create an emergency fund first so that my family could be financially secure with a safety net.
Once you’re ready to get out there, here are the steps to take:
- Start by looking at your budget: How much can you afford to spend? How long can you take off work? Leave some room for unexpected expenses, then start planning!
- Do a lot of research on destinations: Decide where you’d like to go, how much it costs to get there, and the price of accommodations. Choosing a place with a lower cost of living is a great way to save money.
- Be flexible: Being flexible with your travel dates can save you a lot of money. If you’re able to travel midweek instead of on weekends, for example, you’ll likely find cheaper flights and accommodations. Sometimes just adjusting my travel dates by a day or two has saved me hundreds!
- Travel during the off-season: Not only will you avoid the crowds, but you’ll also save a lot of money. Flights, accommodations, and activities are usually cheaper during off-peak season.
- Find activities that you would like to do: I prefer to plan a couple of things every day, and then use the rest of the day spontaneously exploring. Also, look out for places like museums and historic sites that have free admission on certain days.
- Book accommodations: Once I decide on what I’d like to do, I look for inexpensive places to stay nearby to cut down on transportation. Booking last minute can get expensive, so do this ahead of time!
- Use public transportation: Taxis and rental cars can add up quickly. Instead, use public transportation, like buses or trains, to get around. It’s often much cheaper and can be an adventure in itself.
- Save money on food: Look for local restaurants that offer affordable options. Cook some of your own meals if you have access to a kitchen.
- Go on a local vacation: If you’re on a tight budget, take a vacation somewhere local or a staycation.
- Begin packing and start the countdown! Be sure to take the weather and terrain into consideration!
1. Set A Budget
Planning a vacation is exciting, but setting a budget can be stressful. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with some tips on how to set a budget for your next adventure!
- Determine how much you can afford to spend on your vacation.
- Break down your budget into categories such as transportation, lodging, food, and activities.
- Create a daily budget to make sure you don’t overspend.
- Leave some wiggle room in your budget in case of emergencies.
2. Research Cheap Destinations
When I pick somewhere to go on vacation, it’s usually kind of random. If you have read my post “Finding Cheaper Flights” you’ll know that one of my favorite tools is Google Flights. There is a feature in it that allows you to pick flexible dates, put in your city of origin, and see the cheapest flights going to different places for the next 6 months.
This is how I decided to go to Paris when I saw a round-trip ticket for $300; I could not pass that up! And if there’s a specific place you want to go, you can still use this feature to see which months would be more affordable to go.
NOTE: Be sure to check for travel advisories and visa requirements.
Pro Tip: Before you scratch a place off your options due to the flight cost, don’t forget to check out the total cost to vacation there!
I once traveled to Vietnam and the cost of the flight was expensive. However, the daily rate of my hotel was so cheap, it balanced the whole budget for my vacation. The 5-star hotel I stayed at only cost about $70 a night!
Of course, I could have found a cheaper hotel, but when else would I be able to easily afford such luxury? The hostels with 4+ star reviews were also under $10 a night.
3. Be Flexible
Being flexible is key to saving money on a vacation, and there are several reasons why.
- Cheaper travel days: As I mentioned earlier, adjusting my travel dates by a few days has saved me a lot of money in the past. If you’re flexible, you can take advantage of cheaper flights and accommodations on less popular travel days.
- Last-minute deals: If you’re flexible enough to wait until the last minute to book your travel, you can often score great deals on flights and hotels. This is because airlines and hotels would rather sell their unsold inventory at a discounted rate than not sell it at all.
- Alternative accommodations: If you’re open to staying in alternative accommodations like hostels, vacation rentals, or camping sites, you’ll save a lot of money compared to traditional hotels. Plus, you’ll get a more unique and authentic travel experience.
4. Traveling During Off-Peak Season
If you’re willing to travel to a destination during its off-peak season, you’ll likely find lower prices on everything from flights to hotels to activities. Plus, you’ll avoid the crowds that often come with peak-season travel.
Of course, the cheapest times to travel are usually during the colder months. The tickets I see at a good price are usually around September to March.
5. Activities On Vacation
If you’re like me, you love to have a good time without spending money. And there are plenty of free activities you can do if you research the place you’re going a bit.
- Go exploring or take a walking tour.
- Find free attractions or museums.
- Explore stores and farmer’s markets.
- Visit a local park.
- Sit down with a treat and people-watch.
Pro Tip: If you are going to a popular attraction, try arriving early when it opens. This helps you avoid the need to buy “skip the line” tickets.
When I went to Italy, I paid very little for activities and saved for the ones I really wanted, like the bus tour of Rome. I was also fully prepared to pay about $14 to enter the Colosseum, but found out we were there on a free entry day! That is something I’ll be sure to look up in the future for anywhere else I plan to visit.
6. Where To Stay
Another thing to think about is the cost of a hotel or other accommodations. They can easily add a lot to your vacation.
- Search everywhere: Like always, I utilize every single search engine for the cheapest options. Ex. Expedia, Orbitz, Google, etc.
- Rent someone’s home: Another option instead of a hotel is to use sites like Airbnb and HomeAway to rent a room or someone’s home. (Please be safe and take precautions. Look at the reviews to make sure you’re getting a good place.)
- Stay at a hostel: If you don’t mind sharing a room with strangers, hostels are also a cheap option. If you’re friendly, you can make amazing friends and connections from all across the world. Consider how much time you will actually be in your room. If you’re like me, you prefer to be out and about all day.
For my military family, please take advantage of the services provided to you! You can get 7-night stays for $50 to $60 per night at various locations all over the world with the Armed Forces Vacation Club. Be sure to read the fine print if there are additional fees.
7. Use Public Transportation
Using public transportation on vacation can be a great way to save money, reduce your carbon footprint, and have a unique cultural experience
Public transportation is often much cheaper than renting a car or taking a taxi, especially in large cities where parking fees can add up quickly. It can also be more convenient than trying to navigate unfamiliar streets (especially with different languages), navigate crowds, and find parking.
Riding public transportation can also be a unique and immersive cultural experience. You can observe the local people, customs, and daily life in a way that you wouldn’t be able to if you were driving. It’s also a great exercise to burn off all the local treats you’ll want to try!
8. Eating On Vacation
Depending on where you go, the cost of meals can be very expensive or very cheap. In Vietnam, I could get a meal at a nice restaurant including drinks for less than $10. That’s not always the case though and things can add up very fast. Here are a few pointers on eating while traveling:
- Skip the extra cost of a hotel that includes breakfast. The price may be worth it, but sometimes it is an unnecessary expense. You can search online for the menu of nearby cafes to compare.
- Go to a local grocery store or farmers market. If your room has a fridge, you can buy cold sandwiches or salads to eat for lunch. Stock up on water to carry around. You can also save a lot if you cook your own meals.
- Eat street food! Some of the best food I’ve had came from inexpensive “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants.
- Avoid restaurants nearby touristy areas. They’re usually overpriced. In Paris, my husband and I went to a restaurant near the Notre Dame Cathedral. He ordered steak and fries for almost $20, but what he got was a burger patty and fries.
9. Plan A Low-Budget Vacation Nearby
If you’re trying to vacation on a tight budget, you may not be able to afford a flight plus every other expense. It is also easier to take a short vacation within the United States, rather than lose time spent flying.
I. Go Camping
Camping is a great way to take a budget family vacation that’s also fun. I have a lot of great memories of growing up and doing this. We did fun activities like fishing, swimming, going on a boat, and more. Of course, the best experience when camping, even as a child, is telling stories around the campfire while roasting marshmallows.
II. Explore Your “Backyard”
How much do you know about the place where you live? When you are from a place, you get into a routine of going to your “regular” spots. Exploring your city with new eyes as a tourist will give you a new appreciation for it.
Get out there and be adventurous!
III. Plan A Stay-cation
To be honest, vacations are fun and exciting, but they’re not always relaxing. One of the best vacations my husband and I took was in our home.
We had no flights to rush for, no plans to stress over, and absolutely nothing to worry about. It was great to take off work and do absolutely nothing but enjoy our time together at home.
IV. Go On A Road-trip
Instead of flying somewhere, you can take an affordable road trip for a vacation. It’s also cheaper for a large family when you don’t have to buy multiple airline tickets!
Road trips are great because the journey is also a part of the fun! I love to map out cool spots to make a pit stop along the way!
10. Start Packing
After you’re done planning your vacation, the last tip I have before you go is to pack efficiently. Take the weather and activities into consideration when deciding the appropriate clothing and items you’ll need.
Making a list and assuring you have your essentials will prevent the need to buy items upon arrival. Sticking to the essentials will also prevent overpacking and needing to pay for extra luggage.
In conclusion, taking a vacation is an essential aspect of our lives. It helps us to relax, unwind, and rejuvenate ourselves, which ultimately leads to a happier and healthier life. Even if you are on a budget, it is still possible to have a great vacation that will leave you with wonderful memories for years to come.
So, don’t let a limited budget hold you back from experiencing the joys of travel. By following the tips outlined in this article, you can plan a cheap vacation that is tailored to your interests, preferences, and budget. Remember, a vacation is not just a luxury but a necessity, and you deserve to treat yourself to one regardless of your financial situation.