Everyone loves taking vacations, but the hardest part is planning and paying for those fun travel plans. It can be stressful and feel nearly impossible to plan a vacation on a budget since we always assume nice vacations are expensive. That’s why we put together this guide to planning a vacation on a budget. So you can relax knowing you can still take that trip you’ve been dreaming of if you put some time into planning and making smart choices.
Set A Budget & Save
Decide the maximum amount you can spend on this trip and then plan within that budget. Start saving several months in advance to ensure you don’t need to go into your regular savings to pay for the trip. If you start saving 6 months in advance, try putting ⅙ of your budget aside each month so you are ready to go when the time comes. Of course some parts of your trip you’ll have to pay for prior to actually leaving, but at least you will have saved the full amount.
Pick An Off-Season Time
Depending on where you want to vacation, look up the peak times to visit and pick an off-season time. This can save you on almost every aspect of your trip! You’ll have to be flexible with the timing of your trip for this to work though. If you have a specific time in mind for your vacation then consider a few different destinations before you decide to go at a peak time. Remember you’ll have to be flexible to have a great vacation on a budget but it’ll be well worth it.
Don’t Stay At A Hotel
Back in the day hotels were the only option to stay for a few nights on a vacation. Not anymore! In our experience, you can find a nicer place to rent on airbnb.com or vrbo.com for a fraction of the cost of a hotel room. These sites will show you many different kinds of places to stay including renting out an entire home or just a room. Use the filters to specify your preferences.
Take A Trip With A Group
Obviously this isn’t only to save money! If you go this route then make sure it’s with people you will enjoy spending your vacation with. Plan a family vacation or a trip with friends and you can find a larger place to stay on Airbnb or VRBO with separate rooms and bathrooms and split the cost. This can really save on how much you spend for sleeping accommodations and depending on the amount of people you can really find a great place to stay at an affordable price. This can even save on spending money while you’re on the trip if the house has a pool, game room or other fun stuff to do.
Plan & Book Ahead
It’s best to make your reservations several months in advance before rates go up and space is limited. This is especially true if you will be needing to purchase airline tickets. Doing so will also allow you to relax a bit before taking the trip and give you some time to save. Vacations are supposed to allow you to unwind and take you out of the everyday grind so planning ahead can really reduce the stress of planning.
Consider A Road Trip
If the destination is within a drivable distance, consider saving on airfare and drive instead. You’ll have to compare the costs and this might not be ideal if you’re short on time, but if you’re up for it this could be the key to planning your vacation on a budget. Some costs of flying include the fights and possibly a rental car vs the costs of driving like gas, tolls and coffee breaks.
Look For Discounts
Each time you make a purchase for this trip you should see if the website offers discounts for things like AAA. Other common discounts include student, child and senior discounts. It never hurts to ask so don’t hesitate to call if you can’t find the information online. Some places may even have discounts if its off-season!
Cook & Eat In
One of the expenses that really adds up on a vacation is paying to eat out for each meal. Instead you can go grocery shopping when you arrive and make your meals at home. If eating out is something you really enjoy on vacations, then eat out for one meal a day and make the rest at home. You can pack sandwiches or wraps for meals on the go.
A Great Vacation On A Budget Is This Easy
Let’s say I wanted to take a vacation to Asheville, NC and I don’t want to spend over $500 per person. One quick Google search and I found that the “busy” season is spring and autumn. It’s not an amusement park like Disney so crowds aren’t a big deal, but to save a bit I’ll plan the trip for June. About 4 months out I found a dozen of nice looking places on Airbnb for 4 people under $120 a night. These aren’t rooms, they are actually full houses. Take a look:
For a trip for 4 adults and 4 nights it would be about $500 for the Airbnb (the one pictured above had $184 in fees and taxes but it’s still cheaper and nicer than getting hotel rooms) so it comes to $125 a person. That's basically only $30 a night! Now let's figure out the most economical way to get there. Even this far out a round trip flight is $270 a person. So plus the airfare it puts us at $395 per person. That only leaves about $100 per person in the budget for food and fun while we’re there.
So, if we decide to drive from South Florida instead, we can all fit in one car and a few road trip calculators online claim it’s about $60 of gas each way but I’ll over budget for that to about $100, plus tolls, so let's call it $150 in total driving expenses one way. The round trip drive becomes $300 in total or $75 per person. We’ll also use gas driving around there, but we will save on a rental car by a decent amount so we will offset those costs. With $125 per person for sleeping arrangements and $75 per person for travel expenses we now have $200 per person for food, fun and gas in Asheville. Once we get there we can make our breakfasts and lunches and eat out for dinners. Just like that we're taking a beautiful trip to the tall mountains in Asheville with friends for 4 nights without hurting our wallets!
Taking a vacation doesn’t need to be expensive or overwhelming. Use a few or all of our tips for your next trip and see what a difference it makes on your wallet and your stress level. Happy travels!
Having a monthly budget can help you spend more responsibly all year round. Learn more about how to create a monthly budget.
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