As summer begins and vaccines roll out, it’s likely that many people are zeroing in on any and all opportunities to finally get away from their quarantine pods. For many of us, it’s certainly been a while since we’ve stepped on a plane or sat on a beach or explored a new city. While post-pandemic travel is likely to bring on more domestic travel and staycations, maintaining a budget will remain just as important. As you begin to plan your upcoming getaways, here are our top 8 tips for a budget-friendly trip.
- Set your budget. Before anything else, you should set your budget and decide the total amount of money you’re willing to spend. It may be helpful to break that total budget into a daily spending limit. Be sure to include travel, food, accommodation, and any other costs that will be a part of your trip. Some factors you should consider include how you’ll get to and from your destination, if you’ll be eating out or cooking, and where you’ll be staying. Remember to factor in those “special” expenses, such as pet or house sitting. And don’t forget the souvenirs.
- Plan an off-season trip. Traveling during the off-season can certainly save you money. According to US News, “Because hotels and attractions need to lure more travelers during this slower period, they frequently offer discounts, both for lodging and nearby attractions.” Plus, the off-season promises smaller crowds, perfect if you’re worried about COVID-19 but longing to get out of town. Check out Traveling Lifestyle’s off-season destination recommendations ranging from Cape Cod to Costa Rica to even New Zealand.
- Consider vacation deals. One of the best ways to stick to your budget is to look into vacation packages and deals. There are tons of sites, like Groupon, Expedia, and LivingSocial, all of which offer various packaged travel experiences. Many of these experiences include transportation, accommodation, and tourist activities. Keep in mind, however, that some of these sites may have hidden fees or varying prices.
- Go somewhere local. Think about traveling locally. You’ll not only get to explore nearby but also save on gas, mileage, and hotel costs. There are likely many attractions and sites you have yet to explore even within your own state. Consider spending a day in a nearby city or traveling to the next state over, both of which are guaranteed to save you money and be just as enjoyable.
- Travel at odd times. If you’re not pressed for time or on a strict schedule, consider traveling at less common times of the day. For example, try to book early morning flights if you can. According to Life Hacker, early morning flights often guarantee not only cheaper tickets but also smaller crowds, cleaner airports, and fewer delays. The same typically goes for trains and buses. For example, when looking to book an Amtrak trip from New York City to Washington, D.C., the 6:02 a.m. train costs $60, whereas the 5:27 p.m. train costs more than double at $159 the same day. It might be worth losing a couple of hours of sleep to save some money and get to your destination sooner.
- Go away for just a couple of days. Planning a vacation for longer periods of time – such as an entire week or two – means more nights spent in a hotel (or wherever you decide to stay), more eating out, and more of any other travel expenses (pet-sitting back home, gas, travel, etc.). A shorter trip will certainly save you money and is the perfect refresher, especially if you have a busy schedule or are on a budget.
- Stay at an Airbnb or on a friend’s couch. These days, there are many alternatives to your typical hotel stay. Vacation rental marketplaces, such as Airbnb and Vrbo, promise a local stay and sometimes even a cheaper one at that. Other options include hostels, couch surfing, or staying with friends or family in the area. Keep in mind, however, that location may determine price, so definitely keep your eye on hotels as well – they might just end up being the best (and least expensive) option.
- Book early. The early bird gets the worm. The earlier you book your flights, for example, the cheaper they are likely to be. The same goes for hotel rooms, although you want to carefully check their cancellation and refund policies. While waiting until the last minute can also save you money, it can be stressful. Book in advance so that you can save money, avoid the stress from last-minute booking, and focus on some of the more exciting aspects of planning the trip.
While you may be eager to get away as soon as possible, you’re probably not looking to break the bank either. Consider these 8 tips to ensure a fun but affordable getaway.