As of June 20th, it was official: summer arrived. The seasonal depression of winter has passed, the sweater weather is over, and the lovely summer season is upon us! It's finally summer and we all need a vacation to celebrate making it through the hardest parts of the year. Yet, we don't all have the means to take the luxurious vacation we so totally deserve. That doesn't mean we can't take the break we need, though! Some people believe that vacations can only be roughing it, like camping in the Poconos, or glamorous, like five star resorts in the Bahamas; but for savvy travelers like ourselves, there is certainly a gray area. You don't have to rough it to keep it affordable, and you don't have to forage for deals to have a relaxing time.
Vacations can end up taking a major toll on our wallets, but they don't have to. Most of the major expenses from vacations (outside of the costs of planes tickets and hotel room costs) come from needless souvenirs, impulse buys, and a lack of foresight, planning, and organization. These are all problems and expenses you can easily prevent, with just a little bit of practicality and know-how. When planning far in advance it's even possible to plan a last minute vacation on a budget, if you do it right!
If you are in desperate need of some time off, you're not alone. Fear not! Here is your total guide to planning your PTO on the cheap. Here are fifteen tips for keeping your vacation under budget and affordable.
15 Set A Budget Up Front
Okay, you're on vacation: TIME TO PARTY! But wait! That doesn't exactly mean it's time to make it rain. Just because you're not home doesn't mean that you don't have the same responsibilities as you did before. Remember, once you're home, you're going to have bills to pay, groceries to buy, and plenty of things to pay for. Do not let the nirvana-like effects of vacation fool you- you do not have unlimited funds, and you can not shirk your responsibilities just because you're taking a break from life.
14 Travel During Off-Seasons
13 Book Last Minute Deals Or Book WAY in Advance
The majority of vacationers book a few months in advance, with enough warning to take time off, make arrangements for kids and pets, and post pictures of their vacation to be on their Instagram and Facebook ("Look where I'm going to stay!"). Of course, airlines, resorts, cruise lines, and hotels know when you are most likely to book and hike their prices up accordingly, so it's easy for them to trap you in their high prices. However, that also means that it's easy for the savvy traveler to navigate around their price traps.
12 Consider Your Mode Of Travel
For most vacations, we immediately jump to one mode of travel: flight. If we're going on a cruise from Miami to the Bahamas, we have to fly to Miami; if we're camping in the Grand Canyon, we have to fly to Arizona; if we're skiing in Albuquerque, we've got to fly to New Mexico. It's easy to forget that, while airplanes are a very easy, quick, and convenient mode of travel, they aren't the only one.
If you've got a car, especially one that's fuel efficient, make the journey part of your vacation and save potentially hundreds of dollars on airfare. You won't have to deal with sharing your armrest or getting stuck in the middle seat, and you won't have to deal with pesky or fickle TSA agents.
11 Go In A Big Group
Vacationing in a large group can cut down on a lot of expenses. Buying airplane tickets or hotel rooms in bulk can get you group discounts. Having a large group to split a few cruise cabins with can cut the costs down to a completely affordable level. If your group is large enough and your stay is extended, renting a house could be more affordable than paying for hotel rooms or space at a resort.
10 Go On A "Volunteer Vacation"
Think about it: Katniss volunteered as tribute and got an exciting camping vacation in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Why'd she complain so much? Her sister should be jealous, really...
9 Eat Like A Local
It's easy to go on vacation and look for the finest restaurants and most elegant cuisine. It's also easy to go somewhere and pine for the familiar, and splurge on chain restaurants that remind you of home (restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory, Macaroni Grill, and Bonefish Grill). While a few nice meals on vacation sound lovely and delicious, keep yourself grounded and don't be afraid to eat like the locals do.
8 Go Off The Beaten Path
It's very expensive to travel, given, but it doesn't have to be. One reason expenses rack up quickly is because you're traveling to really expensive places! Some of the most expensive places to visit are London, New York City, Paris, Luxembourg, Singapore, Toronto, Sydney, Tokyo, Geneva, and Oslo. Of course these locations are expensive to visit: they're iconic to the countries they belong to, they're packed with things to do, and they're totally tourist hot spots! No matter what time of year, it's going to be fairly expensive to visit these cities- tough luck.
7 Leave Empty Room In Your Suitcase
Both men and women are bad packers. We're all guilty of over-packing and cramming way too many things in our suitcases when it's completely unnecessary. When travelling to Hawaii in July, you don't need to pack two jackets; when travelling to Miami, you don't need to pack five swimsuits (a couple will suffice); when travelling to the mountains, you don't need to bring multiple pairs of hiking boots and sneakers. Pack smart and pack light. By bringing too many unnecessary items, you're only giving yourself fines to pay at baggage check and hassles when you're repacking your bags for your return trip.
6 Keep Your Trip Brief
Usually, the duration of our trip isn't entirely up to us. Our jobs usually keep our trips fairly brief, due to the limits of our paid time off, our crazed work schedules, and the need for us to keep building our savings accounts so that we can pay our bills. However if, for some reason, we have the ability to take longer trips, our expenses will certainly rack up and our wallets will definitely take a hit. Extended hotel stays rack up incredible prices, and the longer you stay in your paradise world hiding from your work, bills, and responsibilities, the longer you neglect your bank account and the maintenance it requires.
5 Bring Your Own Food
One of the perks of vacations, especially if you're travelling with a family and small kids, is not having to cook all the time. Everyone loves taking a vacation from all aspects of life. That said, bringing food with you on vacation could save you a lot of money, not to mention time. Bringing such little things as jars of peanut butter and jelly as well as a loaf of bread for sandwiches can make things like lunches on busy days much easier and cheaper.
4 Plan In Advance With Groupons And Deals
Nothing is worse than scouring the internet for a last minute deal and having to settle for the worst. Don't end up like Larry and his dad going to a gay sauna in Orange is the New Black because it was the only decent Groupon they could find.
3 When Adventuring, Take Tips From Locals And Take Advantage Of Last Minute Tours
While planning things out in advance is the best way to take advantage of online deals and coupons, you may also prefer to be more spontaneous when going on vacation and going on adventures. If that's the case, so be it! It requires a different kind of savvy and know-how, but it's totally possible.
2 Don't Pay for All Inclusive, Unless It Includes A Lot
A lot of people will pay for "all-inclusive" vacations because they believe they are catching a deal. In reality, a lot of people are fronting payments for inclusive vacations when they don't actually use most of what they pay for. Consider what you're paying for with a cruise vacation: you're paying for several buffets, multiple course meals every night, unlimited drinks (of a certain variety, usually not alcoholic), unlimited activities like billiards and shuffleboard, multiple pools, several performances like stand-up comedy and theatre, club entertainment, and lounge entertainment. That's a lot of food and a lot of entertainment. Most people aren't able to and don't take advantage of all the amenities on a cruise ship, which is why they're able to get away with charging you so much.
1 Avoid The Hot-Ticket Locations During Peak-Season
No matter what deals you find or how big a group you go with, there are some places that are going to be crazy expensive no matter what you do. Disney, for example, is always going to be expensive over any kind of 'break' (summer break, spring break, even winter break). The winter holidays, Christmas and New Year's Eve, in New York City are going to be insanely expensive, no matter where you stay (unless you sleep in your car - but good luck finding cheap parking). And if you go to Universal Studios within a year of a Harry Potter ride opening, it's going to be pricey.
Go to Disney or Universal Studios while school is in session and you'll be able to take advantage of some great deals! Better yet, get year round passes to Universal Studios or Disney for an amazing deal, if you want to go more than once. Wait for the New Year's Eve fanatics to clear out of New York City before going up and you'll be able to snag some better deals on hotels. Time your trip well to get the best deals.
Sources: realsimple, usnews
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