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Traveling is something many of us enjoy and love, but it can also get expensive. If you want to plan a vacation that is not only fun and memorable, but also budget-friendly, here are 7 tips that will help you!
1. Set a budget
The first thing you want to do is set a budget. Getting an accurate number early on will give you a better idea of how to make sure you can include the most important parts of your vacation without breaking the bank. Here are a few ways to do it, depending on your preferences. The first and easiest way is to simply set a hard cap. This is probably most ideal for shorter trips or trips with a single destination. It is the fastest and least complex method. However, it may limit your options when last-minute changes occur.
If you want to build some flexibility into the plan, break that initial number down into a range that includes your intended vacation budget plus some emergency finance. This is helpful for longer trips or trips with many aspects (e.g. multiple tours, hotels, etc.). By budgeting for some extra space in advance, you won’t be let down. And if all goes according to plan, you can always use the extra money towards an extra fun stop towards the end of your trip.
2. Define your “dream vacation”
After you’ve budgeted for your vacation, you’ll want to figure out exactly what you want out of a vacation. This is important as it makes it easier for you to prioritize aspects of the holiday that are important to you and which aspects can be impacted. If there’s anything that would be a “deal breaker” for your dream vacation, keep that in mind as you plan. Camping, for example, can be a great way to reduce accommodation costs. However, if you’re absolutely not a camping person, you should probably look at other aspects of your vacation that can keep costs down. Be honest with yourself here, but also be willing to compromise on some less important aspects.
3. Create your own plans
Booking tours is a convenient way to ensure you see the best parts of your destination, but it can also get expensive. Well, there are several reasons why you might decide to book a tour. In some places, an experienced guide is either required or simply a good choice for safety reasons. They can also offer you detailed information about your destination, and booking a tour will streamline your planning process. However, if you’re willing to do the extra research and planning, there are many places where you can not only save money, but also offer a unique, personalized experience. For example, if you visit New York, you will find no shortage of sightseeing tours. While this is an excellent way to see the city, you can also plan a tour of your own – including not only famous sights, but also places that are of personal interest to you.
4. Don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten track
Some of the most popular attractions can be not only crowded but also expensive. While it’s not a bad idea to add some iconic things to your itinerary, don’t be afraid to explore some lesser-known places too! Many of these “hidden gems” are much cheaper – or even free – compared to more touristy spots. For example, if you’re in Southern California, Wild Willy’s Hot Springs are a group of relaxing, tranquil springs that include a unique and photogenic heart-shaped pool, and are completely free.
5. Take advantage of offers and discounts
One of the best ways to make a vacation more budget-friendly is to take advantage of offers and discounts. Even more expensive attractions occasionally have promotions that lower their costs. Look at previous years to see if there are recurring annual discounts (e.g. for holiday celebrations) and if there are special discounts that may apply to your trip (e.g. veteran discounts). Another great opportunity to look out for package deals – like all-inclusive resorts. These can often not only save costs by including meals, accommodation and activities at a flat rate, but also make planning easier.
6. Plan ahead and book early
Planning ahead can save you a significant amount of money on your trip. Early booking is sometimes associated with offers or discounts as described above. It also ensures that you don’t have to spend extra money on last-minute accommodation or experiences if your desired accommodations are sold out or otherwise unavailable.
7. Traveling in the “off-season”
A fairly consistent way to save money when traveling is to visit places off-season. Many popular destinations can be extremely expensive during peak travel times, but surprisingly cheap at other times of the year. Exactly when peak/low season is depends on where you are traveling to. The off-season for popular beach destinations like Southern California is generally fall and winter. Meanwhile, for places most often visited for skiing or fall foliage, like Vermont, the off-season is likely in the summer.
After you figure out where you’re going, take a look at what are the most common reasons for visiting. This is how you can tell when it’s the low season. This brings us to the disadvantages of off-season travel. While you can save some money, you also have to make other compromises. For example, if you visit Southern California in the winter, the water can be cool and the beaches cloudy. Of course, if you’re okay with the compromises required, this is an excellent and easy way to make your vacation more budget-friendly.
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