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Jun 1, 2015

How to Vacation on a Budget

If you’re spending your coffee breaks daydreaming about tropical islands or ancient cities in distant lands, you’re probably in desperate need of a long vacation. Although travel is expensive, don’t let your bank account destroy your fantasies. Flying by the seat of your pants and selecting luxurious accommodations at the last minute can make your travel expenses balloon, but careful budgeting can save the day.

1. Book Your Travel Early

Once you and your family have chosen between a mouse-themed amusement park or a tropical paradise, start looking online for cheap airfare or train tickets. Use blogs and airline newsletters to discover upcoming sales, or use an app to track rising and falling airfare. If you wait until two weeks before your trip to purchase your tickets, you'll likely face middle-of-the-night travel times that will make your kids miserable and expensive prices that will leave you in tears.

2. Tour with Your Feet
If spending hours cooped up in an expensive museum isn’t your idea of a good time, consider making your own free walking tour instead. Wending your way through an exotic city is a fun way to discover the history and life of the people who actually live in the city. If you plan ahead, you can even put on your own tour guide hat and lead your family with the assistance of a smartphone app, such as a pre-recorded audio guide.

3. Don't Stay in Hotels

High-end hotels offer luxurious sheets but lack many of the comforts of home, such as a kitchen. Renting a vacation home can give you full access to a list of comfortable amenities at a reduced cost, especially if you share the expense between multiple families. Vacation rentals usually include multiple bedrooms, a well-stocked kitchen and sitting rooms. If you're vacationing with a smaller group, however, you may want to consider other alternative lodgings, such as:

  • Staying with friends or family
  • Renting a short-term apartment
  • Hostels with shared living spaces

4. Avoid the Crush of Crowds
Airfare and hotel rates tend to be higher during the summer as merchants capitalize on the large influx of travelers breaking from school and work to chase their own vacation dreams. Taking a trip during the winter, the off-season for most destinations, is a great way to avoid these summer price hikes while also avoiding the maddening crowds at popular attractions.

5. Take an Adventure with Public Transportation
Taking a taxi in a new city can be an adventure on its own, but taxi fares quickly add up. Before you travel, look into your destination's public transportation options. Subways and buses may not feel glamorous, but you’ll get a chance to rub elbows with the locals.

6. Look Out for Discounts
Discounts and coupons aren’t just for grocery stores. For example, if you have a membership at your local zoo, you may be able to attend other zoos around the country at a reduced rate. Other potential discounts include:

  • Age-based discounts, including senior discounts and child rates
  • Package travel deals that include airfare and hotels at a reduced rate
  • Special rates for large groups

7. Eat In
Eating out for every single meal is costly, especially if you choose to eat at the fanciest restaurants. If you rent a vacation home that includes its own kitchen, use its kitchen to experience local foods at a fraction of the cost of a restaurant meal. Even a small kitchenette usually includes enough tools for a simple meal, such as a bowl of noodles. Instant noodles are just as cheap for budget-minded travelers as they are for starving college students.