Where is spring? For those of us here in Minnesota, the weather is dreary and snowy. My longing for spring flowers, sunshine and a little warmth makes me think of vacations. So as you read this article I invite you to envision yourself at your favorite vacation destination, whether that is the relaxing at the beach, exploring ancient ruins, traversing a national park or taking in the culture of a new city.
Are you itching to get out of town but fearful of the cost of travel? Here are some frugal ideas to help you in planning your next vacation:
- Plan Ahead: Don’t wait until just a month before to start planning your vacation. Begin a few months if not a year in advance. Start researching the area, get an idea of the cost of travel, accommodations, food, activities and any other extra costs. Get a good sense of the cost so that you can begin planning out how you can pay for the trip.
- Save Your Money and Your Perks: Set up a vacation savings account so that you can save for your vacation all year round. If you don’t have any extra cash to spare, think about some regular discretionary purchases that you could occasionally give up for a chance to go on a vacation, like coffee drinks or dining out. Any extra cash you get from odd jobs, tax returns, or even Christmas/birthday money put it in the fund. Also, save your gift cards, credit card rewards, and frequent flyer miles to use towards your vacation.
- Volunteer and Work Trips: Believe it or not there are actually ways to get a free vacation by volunteering or working while you travel. Most of these trips include food and accommodations, you only pay for your travel expenses to get to the destination.
- Ditch the Crowds: Take a vacation in the off-season, go right after the rates drop in the fall or right before they go up in the spring. Just make sure that the amenities that you want are available in the off-season. If you decide to vacation in the prime season, consider staying in a town nearby your destination to save money on your hotel.
- Online Deals: Search for deals on Groupon, Living Social, and Twitter. You can often find some really great vacation package deals, just make sure to read all of the fine print.
- Frugal Accommodations: While hotels are certainly alluring, why not travel to a place where you can stay with friends or family? If you are traveling with a large group, try renting a cabin or a house rather than purchasing a block of hotel rooms. If you have a house, you might also try house swapping. Or, if you are feeling adventurous, why not stay in a hostel?
- Buy Tickets Wisely: Use your student status to your advantage by looking at the exclusive deals on student universe and STA Travel. The best time to buy airline tickets is mid-week (Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday) about eight weeks out from your trip. If you can, be flexible on your travel dates, even shifting a day or two can save you a lot of money!
- Eat Light and Local: Make a simple lunch/breakfast in your hotel and just go out for dinner. If you have a kitchen, you could also have fun making your own dinner in. Avoid the tourist restaurants; eat where the locals eat. You will save money and experience more local flavor. If you want to go to some of the pricier restaurants, go for lunch instead of dinner.
- Take Advantage of Discount and Free Activities: Before you travel, check out the free activities and events available at your destination. Pick up a coupon book. Look for student discounts at museums, parks, and even restaurants. Many museums offer free times each week or month, plan your visit during one of those times if possible.
- Make It Worth It: While a measure of frugality on vacation can go a long way, make sure that the frugal choices are worth it. Remember the differences between frugal and cheap. Make sure that the benefits of your frugal choices out weigh the negatives.
- Stay-cation: If you are not sure if you can afford a vacation, why not try a stay-cation?
Don’t forget to relax and enjoy yourself! While you can definitely save some money, it is ok to set a budget and let yourself splurge a bit. This is a vacation after all!
Join the Conversation: How do you save money on vacation?