Planning a vacation doesn't have to be stressful. Here are our 10 best tips on how to plan a vacation on a budget.
Planning a vacation can be daunting. If you're flying, you have to consider the cost of airfare and airport parking, if you're driving you have to think about gas and possibly car rentals or hotels if it's too far away to drive in one day, and then there's food and drinks and excursions to think about as well. It can be overwhelming just trying to figure out which destination is the most affordable for your family or group of friends. That's why we've put together our 10 best tips for planning a vacation on a budget.
- Consider your destination carefully
It's sometimes cheaper to fly overseas than it is to travel across the country, so don't assume that the closest beach or mountain resort will be the cheapest simply because it's closer — they may come with their own price tag, like crowded hotels and restaurants with high prices due to high demand. Instead, consider all of your options when choosing where you want to go.
- Set A Budget
Before you begin planning your vacation, you need to set a budget. This allows you to know how much you will be able to spend while enjoying your trip and prevent yourself from overspending. While some people may feel that they can just spend whatever they want, having a budget in place helps you avoid spending more than you should.
- Make travel arrangements early
Airfare prices and hotel rates often increase closer to the departure date as flights fill up and rooms become scarce. Search for flights as far in advance as possible — six months before is ideal — so that you can lock in the cheapest prices before they rise.
- Search for deals on travel sites like Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity.
The best place to look for prices online is travel sites like Expedia or Travelocity. You can also search for deals directly from the airline's website or by calling them directly if you are looking for better deals than what you find online. Do not forget about other websites like Groupon and LivingSocial as well, which offer great deals on local attractions and restaurants during your vacation as well.
Other websites such as Kayak and Trip Advisor have forums that will allow you to ask questions about specific destinations or activities at the destination of your choice from people who have already been there themselves or even reviews of hotels and restaurants written by people who have already traveled there themselves as well.
- Travel in the off-season.
The cheapest time to travel is usually when everyone else isn't traveling — during the off-season. For beach destinations like Hawaii, that's during the colder months, and for Europe, it's winter. Traveling then might not give you perfect weather, but you'll get better prices — and you may enjoy fewer crowds.
- Go through a travel agent or third party.
If you're planning a trip that includes plane tickets, hotels and tours, you may want to consider using a travel agent or third party travel service. The cost for these services is usually included in the prices of the travel arrangements they make for you. In addition, many times these services offer group discounts that help bring down the price of your vacation.
- Take advantage of vacation packages and bundled deals from hotels, airlines and car rental companies.
Take advantage of deals and packages. From hotels and airlines to car rental companies and travel agencies, many vacation-related businesses offer special discounted rates on their websites or in print publications. If you’re willing to book ahead of time and take advantage of package deals, it can save you a lot of money on airfare, hotel rooms and more.
- Limit eating out by preparing meals at home or in your hotel room, eating at fast food restaurants or buying food from grocery stores and markets along the way to save money on food expenses during vacations.
One of the biggest expenses on a vacation is food. Restaurants are often overpriced, and when you're on vacation you may not be as conscious of how much you're spending.It's a good idea to limit eating out by preparing meals at home or in your hotel room, eating at fast food restaurants or buying food from grocery stores and markets along the way.
- Stay in a hostel, rent an Airbnb instead of a hotel room or stay with family or friends to cut down on expensive lodging costs during vacations away from home.
Hotel rooms can cost several hundred dollars per night during your vacation. Instead of paying for a hotel room, look into hostels or renting an Airbnb room instead. Some hostels have private rooms for couples and families, but they still cost far less than hotels. You can also rent out a room or an entire house or apartment through Airbnb for cheap. If possible, stay with family members or friends so you don't have to pay at all for lodging on your vacation.
- Stick to a budget
This is not only the most important step, but also one of the most difficult. While it's easy to say you'll stick to a budget, it can be difficult to actually do so once you're away from home and having fun. It's tempting to overspend when you're on vacation because you're in unfamiliar territory and on a tight schedule. You might feel like if you don't take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, you'll never get another chance. Oftentimes, however, the thing that makes your trip memorable isn't what money did or didn't buy.
That said, if you have no idea how much things cost where you're going or what your preferences are, it will be hard to create an accurate budget. You can start by researching typical costs for accommodations, transportation and food at your destination — this should help you get started — but keep in mind that personal preferences and varying circumstances will likely impact these numbers.
In the end, planning a vacation can still be fun and affordable, even with all of the tricks we’ve provided to you. It just takes a bit of extra effort and attention to what you’re doing when organizing your trip. It may be helpful to think about these tips before beginning your travel planning in order to keep from getting overwhelmed or spending too much on less important aspects of your trip. Best of luck, and happy traveling!