Italy-traveling-on-a-budgetFor many of us, taking at least one vacation per year is a necessary reprieve.  The time to rest from our work and literally “vacate” our usual occupations is essential for our mental health and state of being!  While it can be easy to spend thousands of dollars on a luxury vacation, booking a refreshing trip to relax and enjoy God’s creation doesn’t have to break the bank.  It’s pointless to stress your personal finances to take a trip that’s supposed to be relaxing, especially when doing so will only create more stress later on.  There are a number of ways to go on an awesome vacation with a minimal amount of cash; here are a few strategies that have worked for me and my wife:

Go on a “staycation.” Plane tickets, car rentals, or gas can add a lot of expense to a vacation.  Save money by going on a vacation that’s nearby. Stay in your local area (within few hours driving distance) and explore places you haven’t been before.  I often talk to people who have never visited the great sites in their own back yards.  Chances are there are people who travel to your state for vacation; find out what they’re looking at.  You might be surprised by what you discover!

Find hotel alternatives.  Hotel prices seems like they are going up and up these days, especially in highly traveled areas.  The good news is that there are a number of new “people to people” websites that make affordable vacation rentals easy to find.  Instead of paying exorbitant amounts for well known hotels in prime locations, give a vacation rental a try.  Many privately owned vacations rentals offer special amenities and are located in scenic areas that can’t be matched by large hotels (and at a fraction of the price).  Here are the sites to check out: airbnb and VRBO

Make your own food! Eating out for most of your meals can add up really quick, so find a vacation rental or hotel with a kitchen or kitchenette   Stock up with all the food you need for your trip at the beginning of the week, and you’ll be set!  Buying groceries and making your own meals will save you a lot of cheese, even if you buy a few gourmet groceries to help you really get in the vacation mode.  To get more of the local experience, shop at a farmers market and meet a few of the natives.  You might even get a few insider tips about what to do in the area.

What’s included? When considering the price of where you’re staying, carefully examine all the amenities.  For example, if a hotel you’re looking at includes a gourmet breakfast, that could be anywhere from a $10 to $30 value per person.  As previously mentioned, it might also be worth spending a little extra on a place that has a kitchenette, since you’ll ultimately save money on food costs.

Go with friends! Traveling with friends is probably one of the best ways to save money, especially if you’re traveling overseas.  You can potentially split the cost of a place to stay, groceries, and a rental car.  You might even be able to get group discounts on admissions tickets and passes.  Plus traveling with friends is just a lot of fun and provides a great bonding experience!

Plan and book ahead. Planning is a big money saver and can make your trip far more enjoyable.  If you set a budget for your trip and schedule what you want to do and how many times you plan on eating out, then you can enjoy your itinerary without worrying about spending too much money.  Also, by booking ahead (about three months) you can save money on flights and rental cars.

Travel in the off-season. Peak season is almost always more expensive for traveling, so try and vacation when everyone else is staying home.  Summer is often the most expensive time to travel, but the weather is usually still beautiful near the end of spring or at the beginning of fall.  In addition to saving money, you’ll also beat the crowds!

Travel light. By taking as few bags as possible, not only will you save money on baggage fees, you’ll also be able to rent a more affordable car, since you won’t need a ton of space to store your stuff.

Sign up for a frequent flyer miles credit card. This tip has really paid off for us.  Choose a frequently flyer mile card that will earn you miles for an airline that flys where you most often like to go on vacation, then use your card for as many expenses that you can!  Just be sure to pay it off every month; you won’t be saving any money if you have to pay interest on payments you didn’t have cash for!  If you own your own business or work for an employer that reimburses you for expenses, then you mileage points will add up even faster.

These tips have helped us save a ton of money during or travels and allowed us to go on more vacations than we would’ve been able to otherwise.  If you have any tips for vacationing on a budget that I missed, please share them in the comment section below!

Photo Credit: Andy Langeland

Originally posted 2013-06-08 17:54:38.

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