No More Travel Envy: 7 Ways to Make a Vacation Happen on a Budget

published Dec 21, 2016
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(Image credit: Alicia Macias)

Sometimes I feel like I can’t log into social media without being launched headfirst into an ocean of travel envy. There’s always at least one friend Snapchatting European museums or idyllic beaches while I’m sitting at home, saving up my pennies and making more plans for my own set of adventures—which in turn tends to lead to extensive research on how to make those sorts of grand adventures more affordable. If you find yourself in the same boat (or wishing you were on any boat, anywhere), you’re in luck: These seven tips will help cut travel costs and make your next trip easier on your budget. So let’s start planning, shall we?

Establish a Trip Budget

This is rule number one. By setting a budget ahead of time, you’re not only acknowledging what you can actually afford to spend on a trip, you’re also creating boundaries for yourself—and your agenda.

Stay Flexible

More specifically, stay flexible with the specific dates you plan to travel. Many travel booking sites, like Kayak, will allow you to view multiple combinations of dates for things like airfare. You can choose dates within a small range for both your departure and your return, which allows you to see which days will ultimately be the least expensive and thereby save you the most money.

Consider the Shoulder Season

Viewing flexible dates will potentially help out with the financial burden of your adventure, but so will traveling during the less expensive shoulder season—the time of year that falls in between the higher prices of peak season and the less desirable weather conditions of low season. Shoulder seasons will vary by location, so do your research based on your destination.

Keep an Eye on Bargains

Don’t stress yourself out by checking travel and airfare sites day after day, looking for a bargain. Instead, sign up for a notification or two (you can always unsubscribe if the emails are too frequent) at a site that will do the searching for you. AirfareWatchdog, Kayak and Priceline are great places to start.

Account for Incidentals

It’s time for more budget talk. When it comes to travel, small things like meals, museum fees and public transit can be every bit as important as big things like airfare and lodging. When you’re planning, take these things into consideration and look for ways to save money with them too, like finding a hotel with complimentary breakfasts and free parking, or purchasing a travel pass that allows access to multiple attractions at a discounted rate.

Live Like a Local

My all-time favorite way to cut costs when I travel is to avoid traditional lodging options. My preferred alternative? Renting my accommodations from local hosts. Sites like Airbnb and VRBO feature locations around the world and make details like booking and communication super simple. Plus, when you’re staying in a real home you can save even more money by preparing your own meals instead of eating out all the time.

Go as a Group

Traveling with friends and family can have its challenges, but the benefits are huge—especially when it comes to saving money. Think of all the things you can divide up instead of footing the bill alone: Uber fares, apartment rentals, food. Don’t forget to keep track of expenses and establish a plan for splitting costs (Venmo is super helpful here) ahead of time.

Are you a budget-friendly travel pro? What’s your secret?