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Ready for a vacation?
Planning a vacation that’s not a budget buster (but also not a no-fun, do-nothing waste of time) can be a challenge.
Whether you were traveling by road or air in 2020, you were treated to a number of discounts on everything from gasoline to lodging to airfare.
Now, prices are soaring again, as supply and demand rebounded at double-time, with everyone itching to get out of the house again.
Here are a few data points y’all might find interesting:
- Daily air passenger levels hit 2 million in mid-June 2021
- Airfares rose 10% in April and an additional 7% in May 2021
- Cruise prices are soaring, too, with bookings up 45% during March, April, and May 2021
With overall travel prices going up, consider these cheap travel tips to help you stick to your budget AND have some fun.
Cheap Travel Tips to Help You Plan a Vacation on a Budget
Every budget has areas that are easier to save money.
You can save money in your food budget, wait to buy clothes when they go on sale, or cut cable and switch to Netflix or Hulu.
Vacations are the same. There are simple ways to save money, and these cheap travel tips are a great place to start.
Avoid Debt by Saving in Advance
According to a recent study, 74% of Americans have gone into debt to pay for a vacation.
HOLY COW. Read that again 👆🏻
That’s way higher than I thought it would be. And it doesn’t have to be that way for your vacation.You don’t need to go into debt to go on vacation. Debt makes vacation much less enjoyable.
An easy way to avoid debt is to save for your trip in advance.
First, and perhaps most importantly, set your sights on a vacation that is within your reach. If you have to pick up an extra shift or two to get there, that’s okay.
But if you will need to eat ramen every night for a year, it may be worthwhile to pick a less expensive destination or push your timeline.
Create a detailed budget that includes every imaginable expense: travel, lodging, food, attractions, activities, and souvenirs.
Don’t forget to include a cushion for unexpected expenses and emergencies.
Seriously, an extra cushion is so worth it. You never know when you want to splurge on an experience or souvenir. Plan ahead for it.
Once you have a total, divide that amount by the number of months before your trip. That will tell you how much to save each month. You can use this sinking fund tracker spreadsheet to track your savings progress.
Be sure to note any payments that need to be made in advance, like flights and deposits.
We spent two weeks in Ireland for our 5 year anniversary, and this is how we planned a vacation on a budget.
It may also help to open a dedicated account where you can set aside your vacation funds separately, like a high-yield savings account that pays interest on your balance.
Save Money on Hotels and Accomodations with Hopper and Loyalty Perks
With the rise in demand, travel apps are competing for your business. That means there are some pretty cool perks out there for travelers who know where to look.
Have you used the travel app Hopper?
It has a sweet feature that allows you to lock in the lowest rate for any specific hotel for as long as 60 days.
Other services offer in-app discounts and free rewards nights after you’ve booked a certain number of stays.
Of course, specific hotel chains offer deals too, especially if you stay with them exclusively. If you find a hotel chain you LOVE with tons of locations, you could take advantage of better rates.
A good example is Wyndham.
Wyndham operates Super 8, Days Inn, Baymont, and other properties, and offers club rates and deals.
Oh, and remember to take advantage of midweek stays if you can. Midweek stays are almost always cheaper.
Prefer to camp or stay in an RV?
Join an RV club to get extra perks and discounts for a fairly low annual fee.
Again, it’s helpful to choose one with a lot of locations if you plan to travel extensively. On the other hand, if you’re content with heading to the same fun and familiar location each year, that won’t be an issue.
You can also explore bed and breakfasts, hostels, and Airbnb.
Cheap Travel Tips for Road Trips – Finding Cheap Gas Prices
Gas prices hit a seven-year high in the week before the July 4 holiday in 2021.
And many gas stations reported shortages as travel-hungry Americans rushed to hit the road for the three-day weekend.
Nearly 9 in 10 Americans were buying regular unleaded gas for $2.75 or more by that point, compared with last year, when just 1 in 4 were getting gas for more than $2.25.
You can also save money on gas with loyalty cards.
It shaves a few cents off per gallon, and every penny helps.
Need help finding the cheapest gas near you? Check out Gasbuddy, which also has a discount card of its own.
And it helps to remember that gas prices tend to vary from place to place based on taxes and availability.
Finding the Best Prices for Flights
Can’t talk about cheap travel tips without talking about flights.
The cost of your airfare can determine everything from your chosen destination to the length of your trip to how much you have left over for lodging and activities.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know when and how to buy tickets to get the best price.
Here are a few things to remember:
- It pays to shop around. Check different websites for deals with various carriers.
- To get a lower fare, consider flying out of a different airport.
- If you’re willing to accept a layover, your choice of inexpensive fares will widen.
- Book your flight for overnight hours, which are less popular and often cheaper.
- Some travel sites offer bundled discounts that let you save if you book your flight and hotel together.
- In addition to frequent flyer miles, some airlines also offer discounts if you apply for a credit card through them.
One last tip for booking flights.
Sometimes the place you want to go is crazy expensive, and will eat up a big chunk of your vacation budget.
Nobody wants that.
Instead of focusing on a specific location, choose a specific flight that makes sense with your budget, and choose the destination from there.
The world is big and there are so many places to explore that you can have fun anywhere.
Choosing a flight based on cost instead of destination could open up your budget to explore and have way more fun.
Eat Local Food and Cook Your Own Food
Eating out every single meal of a vacation gets spendy fast!
If you’re traveling by car or RV, pack as much food to go as you can. Your hometown supermarket is almost certainly a lot cheaper than roadside convenience stores or restaurants.
Cooking and preparing your own meals as you travel can save you hundreds of dollars in the blink of an eye.
If you LOVE going out to eat, remember to include it as part of your vacation budget.
To save even more, utilize coupons and loyalty cards.
Plan for Emergencies on Vacation
Life is unexpected, and sometimes so are vacations.
Creating an emergency plan is a smart way to plan a trip because if an emergency happens, you could be spending LOTS of extra money.
I know a lot of people in the Dave Ramsey corner will denounce credit cards, but when you’re in a foreign country or thousands of miles from home and an emergency pops up, you might not be able to get cash when you need it.
A credit card can be a lifesaver during a travel emergency.
If you don’t have a credit card or (good) enough credit to get one, consider a secured card account. The credit requirements are less stringent, since you make a deposit in exchange for a line of credit. You build credit by making monthly payments on time, as you would with any other credit card.
If you need to rent a car for a day or two, many rental companies won’t do business with you unless you have a credit card.
Furthermore, deposits for your car or at your hotel can cost hundreds of dollars and take days to credit back to your account. And you’ll want a way to pay for any unexpected repair or medical bills, too.
Even minor accidents aren’t cheap.
One more thing to consider: We’re not completely done with COVID.
The Delta variant is posing an increasing threat, and there are still limits on foreign travel.
The CDC classifies scores of nations in the ”high” or “very high” risk categories.
Know the risks and restrictions as you choose your destination if you’re traveling abroad.
These ideas can help get you started on planning a budget-conscious vacation in 2021 and beyond, even if prices have risen again from their pandemic era lows.
If you look for discounts on gas, lodging, food, and airfare — and plan for emergencies — you should be able to take a trip that’s both fun and frugal.
Travel and vacations are expensive, especially if you want to buy EVERYTHING.
It’s fun to spend money on vacation and soak in the experiences, but it’s NOT FUN to be paying for your vacation months or years later. My wife wrote a blog post to prove that you can enjoy adventures and splurge on vacation AND stick to your budget.
Learn how to budget for a vacation when you want ALL the things.
Article written by Jessica Larson, SolopreneurJournal.com