Traveling on a Budget

When building a budget for vacations, three main factors need to be considered:

  • transportation
  • lodging
  • and food.

On average, a weeklong vacation costs $1500 per person. This cost can be reduced by booking everything yourself and taking advantage of date flexibility, buying in advance, and bundling.

Each purchase the you make on vacation with a credit card can help you build your credit, just remember to pay off the charges on time when you return.

Buying Plane Tickets

A person's typing on computer. Computer screen displays words "Flight Booking".

The first step in travel is planning out how you’re going to get to your destination. The “prime booking window” for air fare can range anywhere from four months to three weeks. There are two key tools available to the consumer to get the best price of airfare possible, dates and location. When you know exactly which dates you would like to travel on and where exactly you would like to travel to, the Hopper App will track your trip status and tell you when exactly in the “prime booking window” you should make your purchase.

Flexible Dates

Calendar

If you have flexible dates and an open mind to where you would like to go, Google flights has and “Explore” feature that shows you the best priced flights to anywhere after you pick a travel month and time frame. Being able to change plans and switch up a destination at the last minute will help you take advantage of deals and opportunities that come up when booking ahead. Companies such as Orbitz and Expedia look to get rid of unsold flights and hotel rooms from two weeks to as little as a few hours before the flight departs.

Book Hotels

A person standing next to a bed with suitcase.

Like airlines, hotels have a window of booking, the best strategy is to start looking for lodging at least 40 days in advance. There are many websites including Booking.com, Expedia, and Priceline, that will compare prices to hotels and work to get you the best price available. Most hotel groups such as Marriot, Hilton, and Hyatt, have a free rewards system that can send offers to their members. In addition, major hotel groups and credit card companies offer travel rewards where you can use points for your reservations.

Transportation

A picture of people on public transportation.

The cost of Ubers and Taxis can add up when exploring around your destination. A great option for cities is to utilize public transportation like subways, buses, metros, and rail stations. When booking your vacation, you can save money by renting bicycles in a city or reserving a rental car in advance.

Peak Season

A group of people posing for a photo in the snow.

If possible, consider your destination’s “off-season” and utilize those low hotel prices. For example, In the winter, airfare, hotels and travel packages are cheaper when traveling to Europe. However, if you are looking to getaway during the summer, booking a cruise to the Caribbean between June 1 and Nov. 30 can save you between 40% and 60%.

Vacation Rental

Two people with a suitcase standing outside a house.

Whether you’re traveling alone or with a larger group, the cost per-person can be lower. Airbnb and VRBO are great options when looking at booking anything from a condo to an entire home. The perks of a vacation rental can be amenities like a private pool, a home gym, a full kitchen, and extra sleeping spaces. There are many ways you can filter your search on these websites to be pet and child friendly. When staying in an Airbnb, utilize the kitchen as much as possible, go grocery shopping and make meals at your booked property to save money.

Dining on Vacation

Two people eating in a restaurant.

Eating out for 3 meals day while on vacation can be a very expensive option. When staying in a vacation rental the kitchen and cooking meals for yourself is a great option. When staying in hotels without kitchens, the easiest meal to provide on your own is breakfast. Buying cereal, breakfast bars, fruit, and snacks when you arrive at your destination can off-set that cost. Sites like Groupon.com can help you buy discounted gift cards for restaurants and activities you would like to do.

Vacation Bundle

A picture containing on a person sitting on a suitcase.

In the case of spontaneous travel, bundling is the best way to save money. Websites such as Expedia Priceline, and Travelocity, can be your one stop shop for purchasing, and will most likely give you a discount by booking all aspects through them. If you are looking to go tropical, check out the Caribbean and Mexico and go all inclusive!

Research Your Trip

A person working on the computer.

Explore social medias like Instagram to find your favorite travel bloggers, see where they go and tips they offer. When you have pinpointed a destination, research that cities “restaurant week,” local happy hours, or deals for activities. Reach out to friends and family who have traveled to the places you aspire to go, and learn the pros and cons from their experience.

Meet Locals

A picture of people pointing.

Be open to meeting new people while on your journey, more specifically people who reside in the town or city you’re visiting. Most likely the locals will know which restaurants offer half price burgers or which bars have the cheapest drinks. In some cases, locals can lead you in the direction of free community events.

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