We all would certainly love to travel more and vacation in exotic places. A Harvard study showed that most people daydream 46.9% of their waking hours, mostly at work and mostly about being anywhere else but work. But travel can be expensive. When the average middle class family only spends about $1,445.00 a year on travel, that doesn’t seem to get you very far, which is why most families only take a real vacation every couple years.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Vacations are essential to mental well-being, and there is a multitude of clever approaches and ideas to create a luxurious vacation on a budget without ever feeling like to are skimping. All it takes is a little time and research. Breaking down a trip into the four basic “vaca-groups” allows you to decide where to spend and where to save. Plan out transportation, accommodation, dining and activities in advance, and get ready to be surprised by how little you actually need to spend.
Up, Up and Away
Deciding on whether to drive or fly obviously depends on your destination. Try choosing a destination based on travel deals – you may find that the comfort of flying could be less expensive than a long road trip if you follow a few guidelines. It is a common misperception that booking travel tends to be less expensive on Tuesdays or Wednesday. It is a better bet to travel instead of book on those days instead. Midweek travel gives you two benefits. First, the flight is generally less expensive as most people try to get away for the weekends. Second, if you travel Wednesday to Tuesday, you only get one weekend of higher accommodation rates instead of two, which you would get on a weeklong Friday through Sunday trip.
(Image Source: denverpost.com)
Choose a destination for which you can pack your necessities into carry-on. Almost all airlines charge checked baggage fees, so do max out your carry-ons. Quite often, an airline will gate check the bag for you for free anyhow, especially if you are one of the last ones to board a full flight. Choose airports outside the cities that may offer more discounted airline flights. Conde Nast magazine says ideal advance ticket purchases are 57 days for North American travel, 160 days for USA to Asia/Pacific and 176 days USA to Europe. Use fare trackers like Yapta or Skyscanner to notify you when prices go down.
For Your Heart and Your Wallet
With the prices of gas and insurance skyrocketing, walking tours and public transportation are so in style these days. Choose a destination that offers both. Cities like Las Vegas or New York can look expensive but also are two of the most walkable cities in the country. Many cities offer free self guided walking tours or are just plain interesting to walk around in, especially if you have a guide in hand. From neon lights to historic skyscrapers, there are always free and interesting things to do in a walking city.
(Image Source: showbus.com)
Most hotels will offer shuttle service if you call ahead to help you avoid expensive cabs from the airport. Many cities such have fun-themed, cool public transportation available for free or on a day rate, such as street cable cars in New Orleans or the double decker bus you can find in the casino-filled streets of Las Vegas, affectionately known as The Deuce. The Deuce allows you to get on and off all along the strip for one price, saving you tons on cabs. It runs 24 hours a day and you sit in the comfort of lovely AC on those hot Vegas days. Moreover, in Las Vegas and other popular cities for travelers, many hotels offer free shuttle services. It does pay to do your research.
Sleeping Under a Comforter or Under the Stars
Many people think of hole-in-the-wall hostels or flea-bag motels when they think of budget hotels. Not necessarily so! A little extra research can uncover little gems of accommodations in exotic cities for a fraction of the expected cost. Some nicer hotels offer packages with the airfare or tour package and others great off-season prices. While internet fares may be smaller for larger chain hotels, oftentimes a personal phone call will get you a great rate from a Bed and Breakfast or other independent hotel.
Other options for accommodations are offered by specialized online platforms, like personal room rental service AirBNB or vacation rental site VRBO. Sometimes it pays (or saves, in this case) to plan your travel with another family and share a home rental. A less known way of getting free accommodation is a home swap. There are quite a few websites and services that help connect people in different countries who want to swap their homes for a vacation. Plus, you get the added benefit of being in a fully equipped home rather than a hotel room, so if you feel like it you can also save up on meals by cooking.
An unusual and newly re-energized accommodation is camping. Over 45 million people went camping last year in the USA. Unlike the days of dragging tents and sleeping bags around on the roof of your car, many beautiful campsites around the world come with tents and bedding. If you want a little more luxury, “glamping” has really come in style. From African safaris to camping the highland trail, there are many companies that will set up your luxury campsite for much less than the local hotel.
Dining on a Few Dollars
Dining options can be a deal breaker for some and merely fuel for the ride for others. Regardless, when you are on vacation life should be more delicious. The biggest bang for your buck is always going to be brunch. Most hotels in more popular destinations often offer a one-price brunch buffet which will cover you for breakfast, lunch and snacks for later.
BYO is a great method for all travel meals. Whether flying or in the car, bring sandwiches and snacks from home. Even gourmet lunches and snacks from a local market will be more affordable than stopping at a roadside diner or purchasing on board meals. Bring your own breakfast treats, coffee and alcohol and store them in your accommodations so you can save your dollars for one great meal each day.
(Image Source: sites.psu.edu)
Look for Happy Hour food deals or kids-eat-free. Taco Tuesday or Burger Madness Monday often comes with specials for your wallet and your taste buds. Order appetizers instead of meals or order one meal to share with a side salad. Portions are huge these days and are easily shared.
Best Budget Activities Ever
Activities are sometimes harder to plan for a group or family as everyone want to do something different. If there is something you are dying to see or do, obviously search the Internet, craigslist and eBay for discount tickets. Walking tours take you so far and general sightseeing can be great fun, but local special events take the cake.
All we can say is Festivals + Fairs = FUN! Every city, every state, every country in the world has local fairs and festivals. These events are full of music, food , activities, sights and sounds. Every state fair is different as each region represents different food styles and cultural activities. Rodeos may be the main attraction in Texas, while wine tasting and grape stomping take the cake in California.
(Image Source: toscanainside.com)
When one thinks worldwide, there are international music festivals and food and beverage fairs throughout Europe, South and North America. The lovely Italian region of Tuscany hosts multiple wine and music festivals while Brazil hosts a number of interesting alternative music festivals. Millions of dollars are spent to create spectacles for worldwide audiences. The audience gets to enjoy much of it for free or for very reasonable fees. Planning a vacation around a festival can provide entertainment for the whole family for very little cost.
Shop around, research the Internet, cut coupons, get Group-ons, check social media and lastly, make real phone calls to personally ask for more. People want to give and make others happy. And doesn’t your family deserve a special vacation?