Cheap Vacation How-to: Save Money on 4 Most Expensive Parts

The main purposes of a vacation are to break the routine, get a change of pace, get a different perspective on one’s life, have fun doing so, and often to catch up with family or friends. Accordingly, the four most expensive elements present in most vacations are: transportation, accommodations, meals and activities. When we think “vacation,” what most readily comes to mind in these four areas tend to be more expensive than we like to admit. And yet, with a bit of thought and planning, it is possible to save a great deal in any of these. Just halving travel, for example, would be significant. Imagine halving each of the four expensive parts of a vacation!

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Cheap Vacations: How to Save Money in Four Big Areas

  • Transportation

    The purpose of a vacation is to get a change of some sort, a change of pace or perspective. This usually involves travel away from the usual surroundings and day-to-day routines. Travel is expensive, but it doesn't have to be.

  • Lodging

    The purpose of a vacation is to get away from the day-to-day grind for a change of pace. That means more than a day trip, so you'll need a play to stay. Accommodations are one of the most expensive parts of a vacation.

  • Meals

    One purpose of a vacation is to get away from the routines of cooking and familiar restaurants. Eating ethnic cuisines and experiencing local ambience, however, can be one of the most expensive and time-consuming parts of a vacation.

  • Activities

    Vacations are for doing something else for a change--something that you're not used to, haven't done for a long time or want to do more of. You'll want to save as much as you can on activities, amusements and attractions.

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A savings in one of these four areas may sometimes be in conflict with a saving in another area. You need to calculate the costs both ways and determine which combination is going to be less expensive. But keep the main purposes of the vacation in mind; it is possible to scrimp too much in the wrong area and end up not really getting the break you wanted and needed.

Advice about taking advice

What works for someone else might not work for you—because you are you, not them.

We learned that on our first trip to Bali. We asked someone who had been there recently for advice on where to stay. They recommended a moderately-priced hotel in Kuta. It was facing a white-sand beach where we could see the surfers and the sunbathers; on the other side was the pool. Our son was nearly two, and my wife and I had absolutely no appreciation for saltwater, sand or swimming pools. It was surrounded by hundreds of little kiosks selling trinkets and souvenirs, which did not interest us either. We felt trapped. We rented a motorcycle for a week and rode up into the hills to the artsy-craftsy areas and found traditional Balinese culture.

On one of these excursions, we stumbled onto an old historic-looking cluster of villas in a quiet area of Bali known for its older, more traditional culture. After bargaining some, we discovered that we could stay in our own little stone bungalow in a peaceful tropical garden setting for less than we were paying at the other place. So we moved and enjoyed a style that suited us better.

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