Need a vacation? There’s nothing worse than feeling guilty after a trip for spending too much. But you don’t need to spend thousands on airfare and hotels to take time for yourself. The below tips are an easy way to take a vacation while staying within your budget.
How (and where) you book makes a difference.
Using sites like Airbnb and VRBO lets you shop around for your accommodations. Maybe your budget is $100 per night – Finding a decent hotel at the number might be difficult, however, Airbnb and VRBO let you view a Maps setting so you can easily expand your search to other areas and see how the prices compare.
Pro Tip: Specifically, with Airbnb, you can ask request a “Special Discount.” To do this, message the host of the property you’re interested in booking (rather than selecting the request to book button). Checking into VRBO for Sunday to Tuesday, September 29th to October 1st costs range from $200 to $400+ total.
There are also hotel apps such as Hotel Tonight, where you can get last-minute deals for sometimes around 50% less than the normal asking price for a hotel. You’ll get the biggest discount booking the day of your trip or the night before.
What You Need: Flexibility. Booking accommodations on weekends is going to cost you the most. That’s why booking something on a weekday, like Sunday through Tuesday, will most likely get you the lowest rate.
Time of year matters.
Consider taking your trip at the tail-end of a season. Late September is a good month – It’s before popular fall destinations double their prices and when school is starting, meaning many people have already taken their vacations. If you’re really pining for an overseas trip, use airfare watchers such as Scott’s Cheap Flights to track flight costs. This makes it so that you can receive email notifications when flights are at a low rate for your preferred destinations.
Pro Tip: Flying overseas for Thanksgiving you can usually find a much cheaper flight than other times of the year.
What You Need: Willingness to travel over Thanksgiving (or other less popular times of the year)
Don’t underestimate the power of spending a night or two in a tucked-away neighborhood a stone’s throw away from your home. Try to find something within an hour away. Splurge on a nice home with a pool or a hot tub. Maybe you live near the ocean and want a different view? Change it up by staying on a river or somewhere with more foliage. Your trip can be less about the town and more about the actual home you are spending your time in for that getaway.
What You Need: Time to search for a home to book. In my experience, plan for one to two hours of researching homes online that have the options you want (using sites like Airbnb and VRBO).
Keep the activities low-cost.
Visiting National Parks is a great way to do this. You can get a Parks Pass for $80, good for the year and all entry into every National Park. If you’re over the age of 62, you’re in luck. You can get the Senior Pass for $20 (the annual parks pass) or $80 for a lifetime pass. Most National Parks are open year-round and cost anywhere from free entry to $15 to $30 per vehicle.
What You Need: Willingness to drive. Luckily for those living in Florida, there are three National Parks in the state, two of which are a day’s drive away – Everglades NP in Miami and Biscayne NP in Homestead. If you’re looking for more of an adventure, check out Dry Tortugas in Key West where you have to take a ferry, chartered boat or seaplane.
It Helps to Bring…
Bringing the following items on your relaxing getaway trip will also help you keep costs low:
- Eat your favorite meal out and cook the others where you are staying. Is dinner your go-to meal of the day? Make that the one you treat yourself to during your stay. (Pro Tip: Ask your waiter which item is the best on the menu. This is generally a good rule of thumb to follow anywhere).
- Take your bike with you so you can limit your time in the car. If you don’t have a bike or prefer to walk, then make sure to add a good pair of walking shoes to your packing list.
- A budget. If you take even just a few days ahead of time to plan your trip, this can make a big difference in reducing unexpected expenses. Try writing down a list of what you want to treat yourself to on your getaway (for example, a dinner out each night, a bike rental, a massage). Whatever those items are, make a note of them and an estimate for how much they’ll cost. That way going into the trip, you’ve booked some things in advanced, securing the rate, and there are no unexpected expenses.
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