Frugal Vacations: Think Summer

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?

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Making the Most of Your Staycation at Home

Is your budget too tight to go on an out of town vacation this year? Why not try a staycation? A staycation is a vacation where an individual, family or friends relax in their own city and make day trips to area attractions. Whether you have just a few days or an entire week, a staycation is a great option.

While staycationing at a hotel can help you get the out of town feel, you can also get this feeling at your own home by following these simple tips:

  • Clean and Redecorate Your Space: Before your staycation, clean your house and do all of your laundry so you have no chores left to do. Decorate your space for a vacation by adding candles or moving the furniture around. You might even bring hotel amenities home by purchasing terry cloth robes, high thread count sheets, or nice chocolates to put on your pillows at night. While this may seem expensive, for about the same price as one night in a hotel you can purchase luxuries that you can enjoy for many years.
  • Take A Time Out: Turn off your cell phone. Set your email to “out of office” and don’t look at it until your staycation is over. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, take off your watch and remove all of the clocks in your home. You’re on vacation time!
  • Do A Little Research: Plan your staycation like you would a regular vacation. Check out the local attractions. You’re likely to find out some new things about your city and maybe even a couple of new favorite places to frequent. This is a great time to use your student discounts.
  • Get Outside: Staycations are a great excuse to get outside. Go camping at a local campground or in your backyard. Explore a biking or hiking trail. Have a picnic. Go to the pool.
  • Enjoy Your Time at Home: If you’re at home it can be easy to just do chores and zone out in front of the TV. Instead, indulge in a vacation reading binge, have your own three-day film festival, turn your home into a spa, take up a new craft project, or challenge yourself by trying a new, cooking recipe.
  • Splurge A Little: One of the best parts of a vacation is that you can splurge a little bit and enjoy a few things that you wouldn’t normally allow yourself. You are already saving quite a bit of money by staying local, why not try out that expensive restaurant you’ve read about? Stay at a bed and breakfast for one night? Or, go to a concert or play?
  • Make Memories: Just because you are in town doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t document the occasion. Take pictures and put them in an album. Make a staycation video. Collect brochures of the places you visit and make a scrapbook. Buy souvenirs.

For more staycation ideas check out this REAL SIMPLE article. Happy Staycationing!

Join the Conversation: Have you ever been on a staycation? If so, what is one of your favorite things to do on a staycation?

Frugal Vacations

Are you itching to get out of town but fearful of the cost of travel? Here are some great vacation ideas that won’t break the bank.

  • 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.
  • Save Your Money and Your Perks: Set up a vacation savings account so that you can save for your vacation all year round. Also, save your gift cards, credit card rewards, and frequent flyer miles to use towards your vacation.
  • 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. Or, if you must vacation in the prime season, stay 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.

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 your vacations?