Whether you’re traveling alone or with friends and family, we all know how a vacation can really add up. Between activities, lodging, and eating out, it can be tough to know just how much money you should be saving for your trip. If you’ve got your eye on one expensive place in particular, the best advice is to start planning for it now. With some smart spending choices, even the priciest destinations will work with your budget. Your dream of a tropical getaway at a fancy resort complete with buffets of delicious food, beautiful sights, and relaxing activities may be within reach.
1. Travel during the off-season
Taking a trip during the peak of summer is the most appealing, but it’s also typically the most expensive. It’s when most people have children home from school and their vacation time planned. If you can try to swing a mid-year trip to your getaway of choice, this could save you big money in the long run. Bonus points for trying to fly out on a weekday — you can find a steal if you’re flexible about the specific travel dates
U.S. News & World Report says you don’t want to pinch pennies too much, though. While traveling during the off-season is an excellent way to save money and avoid the huge crowds, purchasing travel insurance is always a good idea. Depending on where you’ll be staying, you may experience inclement weather or fewer resources if you’re going when few others are traveling.
On the upside, you may also find new and unique opportunities to experience the local culture. Traveling to Colorado in the off-season will give you better rates on ski resorts with wide-open trails, or traveling to South Carolina when it’s cooler means you could participate in oyster roast season.
2. Look for deals
You may be daydreaming about a vacation that could be years in the making, but it’s important to start looking for deals on hotels and airfare now. Market Watch explains how to work smarter instead of harder and how to let the deals come to you. For example, you can enter all of your appropriate information on travel booking sites without intending to make an immediate purchase. Then, you can exit the website without spending a penny, and you’ll be sent emails for deals when prices drop.
If you’re willing to stray off the beaten path a bit, you can find great deals on specialized websites that you’ve never thought to use before. The same story suggested trying Room Key, a great place to find low rates on hotels. Airfarewatchdog is another excellent site that will send you alerts for cheap airline tickets.
3. Stay in a hostel
If you’re picturing your hotel as a beautiful resort with loads of amenities and premium comfort, then you might shake your head at the idea of staying in a hostel. However, hostels make even the most expensive countries budget-friendly, and you can find a place to stay that’s right in the heart of the action.
Hostels come in all shapes and sizes, too. Indie Traveller says backpacker hostels are run independently, and they don’t necessarily involve you sleeping in a crowded room with strangers. Many hostels offer individual rooms for you and your family, and they sometimes even come with your own bathroom. You’ll be provided bedding, but it’s important to bring your own towel and toiletries with you. And be mindful of what you leave sitting out in the open. Ask ahead of time if there’s any locker storage you can use.
4. Consider all-inclusive resorts
Depending on where you’re looking and what you want out of your vacation, an all-inclusive package could save you a lot of money in the long run. The beauty of the all-inclusive resort is you know exactly what you’ll be spending once you’re there, and many packages also come with snorkeling, spa treatments, and fun activities that your whole family will enjoy.
CNN suggests doing your homework before choosing a resort so you know exactly what you’ll be getting. Make sure to ask about food preparation as well. The last thing you want is to spend your money on a resort that’s full of cheap alcohol, bad food, and bad entertainment, so ask a lot of questions before committing.
5. Stay away from the tourist traps
If you’re planning a getaway to Europe, the Eiffel Tower and The London Eye may come to mind, but these areas are loaded with pricey eateries, hotels, and shops that will have you forgetting your budget in no time. You can explore beautiful and popular destinations for a lot less if you’re willing to forgo the tourist traps, and you’ll probably even stumble upon some hidden gems.
Mashable says one of the best ways to find local, fun activities is by using apps on your phone. Like a Local is one of the best for finding great eats, nightclubs, and bars that you won’t be able to find in a guidebook. The app even tells you when certain events are happening and the hours of popular local spots, so you can plan your trip with ease.