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How to Take an Inexpensive Vacation
Taking a Cheap Holiday
Are you tired of opening Facebook and being bombarded with images of your friends and family on exotic vacations? They look tanned and happy, and you just look stressed--especially when you open your bank statement and see that a vacation is definitely not on the horizon.
Take heart--not all vacations have to be expensive, and there are money-saving tips and tricks to taking an inexpensive vacation (and no, it doens't involve sitting at home on your couch and watching the Travel Channel).
Keep reading for cheap vacation ideas both within the States and abroad.
Saving Up for Your Inexpensive Vacation
Part of the reason a vacation may feel like such a financial impossibility is because we don't save to take one--we feel we have to charge it right away or not go at all. This is not true! Unless you're truly in a financial bind, will you miss $25 or $50 a paycheck? That's giving up a Starbucks habit, a few lunches or dinners out, or the extra random items you throw in your cart at the grocery store.
If traveling is very important to you, cut back on your entertainment budget and allocate a bit of that money each paycheck to a "travel fund." You'll be surprised at how quickly it grows and, depending on where you want to go, you may be able to travel within a year.
Another tip--and this is only if you have self-control and won't abuse a credit card--is to pay all of your bills with a credit card that gives you miles per dollar spent. Southwest, American Airlines, and a host of other airline companies offer credit cards. However, remember that doing this does not mean you have extra cash--if you don't use that cash at the end of each month to pay the credit card in full, you're digging a hole. If you use the card responsibly, you'll accrue miles or hotel points that can make your destination dreams a little more affordable.
How long has it been since your last vacation?
Taking an Inexpensive Vacation in the States
Unless you get a killer deal, it will be cheaper to go on vacation in the continental United States than it will be to travel abroad. If you look at flight and hotel prices, though, you may still be shocked at the cost--many of the best tourist spots in the country don't come cheap (or if they do, you'll be sharing your bed with some creepy crawlies).
Here are some tips for taking a cheap holiday in the United States:
- Consider driving--almost no matter how far you go, it will be cheaper than a flight.
- If you're driving, pack snacks so that you don't have to grab so many fast food meals--those add up financially (and add some pounds).
- Research the off-season of cities. Yes, Chicago is frigid in the winter--but you will see all of the same sights, for cheaper!
- Ask hotels or bed and breakfasts if they have specials for certain types of employees, or for discounts if you stay a certain number of nights.
- Research free attractions at your destination--if it's a major city, it will have free attractions.
- Research weekend trips from your home--even a few days somewhere new can recharge you and add excitement to your life.
Remember, a vacation is about enjoying yourself, not impressing others. You're not ever going to be able to go to a luxe ski resort in Aspen without spending a pretty penny, but there are plenty of destinations in America that are affordable and offer your family (or friends, or whoever you travel with) the opportunity to have a great time, learn something new, and make some lasting memories.
Taking Cheap Vacations Abroad
For some people, it's not a true vacation if it's not a) on a beach or b) in foreign lands. However, keeping these vacations inexpensive is significantly harder--plane fares overseas are pricy, as are hotels, meals, and attractions. That being said, if you look hard and are savvy with your travel choices, you can take a great vacation abroad without breaking the bank.
Here are some tips for taking inexpensive holidays in other countries:
- Research the off-season for the country you'd like to visit, and compare the prices for those months for the prices for high-season (for instance, in Europe one of the top travel months is July--wait just one month later and you'll travel for much cheaper).
- Try discount websites--two of my favorite package websites for great deals are www.europeandestinations.com and www.beachdestinations.com.
- Set a budget for each day, and stick to it in order to keep costs down.
- Let each traveler pick one or two main attractions they absolutely must see per city, and research free attractions for the rest of the time.
- Purchase snacks and bottled water at local convenience stores within the country--tourist attractions mark them WAY up.
- Research countries (or beaches) that may not be as well-known--chances are they will be just as amazing but much cheaper.
- Hotels in other countries are more likely to haggle on pricing--just ask and see where it gets you.
Thrifty Travel for the Vacation Deprived
Unless you're in dire financial straits, assuming you can't travel is just a negative state of mind! Whip up some optimism, start saving, and start researching your top three destinations. With enough determination, willpower, and the motivation to search for great deals, you could be on an affordable vacation in no time.