Like so many of others, I love to travel. So many of us feel the urge to wander, to discover, to seek a new adventure. I find this want to be virtually ingrained into my psyche, like an ancient genetic trait surviving from the days of our ancestors and their nomadic ways. Unfortunately, though, many of us tend to live under the misguided pretence that travel is expensive. If finances are leaving you believing that you are unable to take that much needed get away, there is hope. The key is to make a plan: set a budget, find the best deals, decide on the most convenient time, believe that it can happen, and follow through with your plans. As with all things, travel can be a major part of anyone’s life if prioritized and managed well.
One of my favorite past times is to plan an upcoming trip and try to find the most economical way to do so. This is a list of tips and tools that I have found helpful in trying to plan a vacation on a budget:
~The Great American Road Trip
One of the best things about living in America is how far you can get in just your own vehicle. From my home in mid-America, it is possible for me to get to either coast in less than 2 days. Some people may not find that idea appealing, but some of us love a road trip. Not only do you get to visit your destination, but also see all the sights along the way. With current gas prices at a low, my family has recently been able to enjoy more trips than usual. On one excursion, we made a 20 hour drive to Florida for about $350 in gas. That $350 paid for 7 people to take a vacation cross country and go somewhere we had never been. Definitely worth the time and money.
~Cheap Airline Tickets
When time and convenience don’t allow for a long road trip, there are many ways to find cheap airfare. According to an article by Huffington Post, a recent study showed that the best time to book domestic flights in the U.S. is approx 54 days before your flight. For international travel, this number may vary. You can visit their site for further details: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/01/best-time-to-book-a-flight_n_4875266.html
I have also found that tickets tend to be cheaper during the week (Tues-Thurs) than during the beginning and end of the week. Using a credit card that offers points can also gain discounts on airfare. Signing up for email alerts can help keep you abreast of sales and promotions. I find that Frontier and Spirit airlines frequently have good deals on domestic airfare, especially if you are willing to travel light and avoid baggage fees.
~Visit During Non-Peak Seasons
We made our recent trek to Florida during mid-August which, as I was informed by locals, is part of Florida’s off-season. Because of this, we were able to find great deals on vacation rentals. One condo we stayed in was on a small island and right off the beach. It was perfect: two bedrooms, full kitchen, four beds, plenty of room, and even beach toys in the storage for us to use. All for only $150/night. During peak seasons, the same condo rented for $400/night. And the weather was still perfect.
~Bring The Kitchen Sink
Or, actually, stay somewhere that has one. When looking to save money on subsistence while out of town, try to stay somewhere that has a kitchen stocked with utensils and cookware so you can cook your own meals. This is very common in most vacation rentals and can save you a lot of money, especially if you’re feeding a large group.
~Groupon Is My Best Friend
There are so many ways to get discounts on travel. One of my faves is Groupon. It is easy to use and you never know what you might find. I mostly use it for finding things to do and places to eat while we are out of town. This helps keep the cost down on those extracurricular activities that you might normally spend too much money on. You can also find deals on hotels and even whole vacation packages. The deals are normally good (close to half-off the regular price) and tend to be for businesses that are either off-the-beaten-path or new. While I have never purchased one of the vacation packages, there have been many times that we have taken our 4 children on whole “Groupon” weekends; going to restaurants, a bounce house, bowling, ice skating… all deals I found on Groupon for half the price.
We have a houseful of children and constantly live on a budget. But we still make time to travel and explore. I love it. My kids love it. It may seem like a lot of work to accomplish it on limited funds, but the experiences you will have and the memories you will make are priceless.