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Budget Travel: How to Save Money on Vacation

Updated on May 29, 2016
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Erin Shelby is passionate about living a lifestyle that aims for financial freedom. She writes about personal finance and other topics.

If you're longing for a getaway but your budget is lean, there are lots of things you can do to save money on vacation. Before you pack your bags, try these tips for cheap travel and a vacation on a budget.

Does a beach vacation feel out of reach? These tips can make it more affordable.
Does a beach vacation feel out of reach? These tips can make it more affordable. | Source

Plan in Advance

While you may have the urge to get away now and go on vacation, not planning in advance can be costly. By planning in advance, you can get an idea of the cheapest rates for a vacation including rates for car rental, flights, and hotel stays. If you're willing to travel in what is considered the "off-season", when a resort doesn't see the traffic it does during the busiest times of year, you can save dramatically.

Look for Free Fun on Vacation

When you're planning a budget vacation, it's important to know that there will be things waiting for you there that are free or cheap. Here's a total opposite: going to Las Vegas. While rooms might be cheap, it isn't a budget vacation destination because it's famous for gambling, and you need money to gamble.

What are some great destinations that provide free fun, once you've paid for your accommodations? You'll want to look for places that provide:

  • Sand and surf: Is there a beach, lake, or other body of water where you can sunbathe, and swim for free? Having something free to do is the backbone of a budget vacation. If not, you'll need to look for other things that are cheap or free.
  • Hotel-sponsored events: Does the hotel have things to keep your entertained, like a pool, hot tub, fitness center or special events?
  • Museums: Are there free museums to attend or a time of day when the museum might be offering free or discounted admission?
  • Music: Does the city or the department of tourism sponsor a free concert series?
  • Sightseeing: Are there bike trails or hiking trails? Are there any other places of interest that you'd like to go that don't require an admission fee?

How have you saved on vacations in the past?

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Is a week at the beach your ideal trip?
Is a week at the beach your ideal trip? | Source

Prioritize Your Budget Vacation

When you're planning a vacation on a budget, think about what you want the most. While it may be a lifelong dream for you to fly outside the country and rent a beach side cabin that provides total privacy, there's a cheaper alternative. Consider what you value most for your trip. Do you want a room with a view on a busy beach or a stay in a secluded area? Is your ideal vacation a week of amazing nightlife or quiet downtime? Prioritize what's most important to you so you can go where the deals are on your cheap vacation.

Ways to Save on Vacation

Use frequent-flyer miles if flying; pack light to avoid baggage fees
Choose a hotel with continental breakfast
Compare prices between resorts; stay in the "off-season"
Choose a destination closer to your home
Shop at a local grocery store when you arrive and purchase food
Choose a chain with a loyalty program (such as "get a night free")
Pick a vacation spot that allows for lots of walking to minimize money spent on gas
Look at area rest stops for coupons or visitor's guides
Consider renting a home or condo instead of a hotel
Drive instead of flying
Look for lunch specials at restaurants
Think about options such as camping or renting a cabin

Group Vacations Can Make Cheap Vacations

Inviting other people into your plans for a vacation can sometimes make it more affordable. For example, a family with kids looking for a beach getaway might pay less in the end if they join forces with another family to rent out a larger property together. Costs can be split down the middle and both families can benefit from the cost savings. They can also help each other with the costs of things like buying food for the week and preparing it.


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    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 2 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Good advice. We are the ultimate "cheap" travelers!

    • erinshelby profile image

      erinshelby 2 years ago from United States

      Vacation is the best time to relax, Genna!

      Apples and yogurt... what great ideas for healthy vacation snacks, Flourish!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      Shopping hotel deals or saving up hotel points so we can really splurge are our favorites. We also like to choose a hotel with a breakfast bar then help ourselves to extra apples, containers of yogurt, and other takeaways for later in the day. Cheap, cheap.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Part of the enjoyment of any vacation is not having to fret about the costs…so it helps to plan ahead of time in order to save dollars. Then it’s time to relax and not worry, as your article clearly encourages. You have provided helpful hints and sage words of advice…thank you.

    • erinshelby profile image

      erinshelby 2 years ago from United States

      Thanks, Larry.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Lots of good tips here. Very helpful.

    • erinshelby profile image

      erinshelby 2 years ago from United States

      DrPennyPincher, It is important for people to get away and relax.

      Robie, Thanks for stopping by.

    • Robie Benve profile image

      Robie Benve 2 years ago from Ohio

      Good advice, I especially try to plan vacations on the off season - not always possible, but it allows to save tons. A good breakfast included in the hotel stay helps a lot saving on food too, and gives you extra time since you don't need to stop much for lunch. I personally don't like to cook on vacation, but I have done that, especially when the kids were smaller. Thanks for sharing!

    • drpennypincher profile image

      Dr Penny Pincher 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Erin, nice tips- I have used a few of these myself. There is almost no limit to how much you could spend on a vacation, but if you work at it, you can get away for awhile and not spend too much.