Scientific American says that in order for you to be productive at work, your brain needs a vacation. Studies have shown, though, that Americans leave 8.1 unused vacation days at the end of the year — and we don’t get many vacation days to begin with. If you’re going to make a resolution and stick to it in 2015, make it to do some traveling. Whether it’s domestic or international, use these 17 tips for taking a vacation without breaking the bank. Your brain will thank you.
Where to stay
1. AirBnB is a great resource for both international and domestic travel. A whole apartment with an Eiffel Tower view can cost as little as $150 on AirBnB, whereas hotel prices can easily go for two or three times that much. On top of that, you have the ability to cook for yourself — you’ll save a lot by not eating out for every meal.
2. If AirBnB isn’t for you, try staying in an old school bed and breakfast. Rick Steve’s tip is that a B&B offers double the warmth and half the cost of a hotel, plus all the local knowledge you could possibly ask for (and breakfast!).
3. If you’re down for it, a hostel can be the most inexpensive option of all. There’s always the dorm-style lodging if you’re really cutting costs, but they’re not the only possibility. With the demand for cheaper travel options past just the backpacking hoards, hostels are becoming a bit more swanky and are adding more private rooms.
4. If you are going to stay at a hotel, Independent Traveler suggests you call to book. Often, simply asking if there’s a promotion or lower rate available will land you some savings.
Where to go
5. If you’ve wanted to take a road trip, this is a great time to do it. Gas prices are dropping and it’s off-season travel; take a cheap flight to somewhere warmer in the U.S. and rent a car. If you live in the colder, northern states, a road trip around the Southwest may be just the right thing. While it’s low single digits and below in the Northeast, it’s 70 degrees in Tempe.
6. Lonely Planet put together a list of 2015 travel destinations with the best value. On the list is Tunisia; now that travel warnings have dropped, it’s anticipated that tourism-related prices will drop significantly to lure travelers.
7. Business Insider points out that the rand is weakening against the dollar, making this a great time to go to South Africa if you’ve always wanted to travel there. They recommend visiting in their off-season: March to May or September and October.
8. For something tropical without any hassle, International Business Times is calling Puerto Rico one of the cheapest destinations in the Caribbean. Airfare is consistently 40% cheaper than flying to Cancun, for example. IB Times explains that since Jetblue, Southwest, and United have all added routes to Puerto Rico, competition is fierce and deals are plentiful to those who look.
How to get there
9. If you’re within reasonable driving distance, take advantage of the current low gas prices by driving yourself or taking a bus. Around the U.S. and some other countries, busses simply give you more destination options than trains. If you’re thinking about driving yourself, price it out with CostToDrive.com and compare against flight prices.
10. If you are going to fly, don’t travel on peak days. According to FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney in an article from USA Today, this means traveling on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Since most business flying happens at the beginning and end of the work week and most vacationers like to travel Friday through Sunday, airlines drop prices to try to fill seats on “off” days.
11. Don’t book too early; it can actually play against you when it comes to airfare. Quartz suggests buying tickets 45 days before your trip for domestic travel and 60 days out for international travel to avoid paying too much for your flight.
12. Booking flights on budget airlines like Spirit or Ryanair can be amazingly cheap, but remember to ask about additional costs like luggage fees. Some will charge for every bag, including carry-on luggage. Even if a carry-on is included, they are very strict about size and weight — much of their money on very cheap flights comes from additional fees like these.
What to do there
13. Eat like a local! Skyscanner recommends looking for backstreet bistros and restaurants off the beaten path that aren’t full of tourists. They’re usually full of local ingredients and the meals often come at better prices. If there’s a language barrier, brush up on some vocab before your trip, make a flashcard that says “I can’t eat X, what do you recommend?” or, if you’re an adventurous eater, just go with the daily special every time!
14. Save money while you’re traveling by not restricting yourself to cafés and bistros and restaurants for every meal. Lunch and breakfast tend to be cheaper, but in countries like Italy, some restaurants don’t even open until 8 p.m. Choose the meals you’ll splurge on, and eat lightly or pack a picnic for the others. There’s nothing like swinging by an open air market to buy some locally grown produce and then eating it at the base of the Eiffel Tower.
15. YTravel makes the point that while you are where you’re going, you should travel like a local. If everyone’s taking the bus, it’s probably the best way to get around. If there’s great biking infrastructure, bike. Otherwise, walk! It’ll cut costs and calories, and you’ll get a great sense for your destination.
16. Do some research, but don’t get stuck on the tourist traps. Museums often have days or hours with no admission charge, so it’s great to plan around that information. Waiting in line all day to see the David, though, means you’re missing out on the rest of Florence.
17. Don’t rely on your credit card. Many locations won’t accept them. Ireland, for example, has a system of cards with chips embedded to help protect against fraud and can’t take an American card without them. Instead, pull larger sums of money out of a local ATM to avoid fees for many small withdrawals. Rick Steves also notes that many of the places that offer better bargains, like craft shops and independent bed and breakfasts, may not accept plastic.