How to save money on your next vacation
Scroll all the way down to see our new Cheap Destinations for Fall Getaways! Whether you’re taking a short or long Trip, our budget travel tips will save you some serious money! Knowing how to pick the right travel options is the key to traveling on a budget. We’ll discuss the 4 key elements that you need to know about saving money when planning and during your vacation.
“Tips”: Look out for this word to learn special budget travel tips and tricks!
Make your vacation planning easier with our printable travel tools like our road trip checklist and travel expense sheet!
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Let’s get this straight – Just because you want to travel on a budget, doesn’t mean you’re cheap. Setting limits on how much to spend is smart so you don’t spend more than you have or wanted to. We all know that a three-day trip might be cheaper than a week-long vacation, so setting a realistic travel budget to include most of your expenses like meals is important.
Lodging will depend on your preference and budget but there are hacks around that! The time of year can also play a key role in your budget.
Some destinations like beaches are more expensive in summer, some like mountain vacations are pricier in winter. Holidays tend to spike prices as well. Nevertheless, budget travel can be done, you just have to know how and where to save money.
Important Questions to consider:
- How long is your vacation going to be?
- What’s your travel destination?
- What is your travel budget? (Is it strict or can it be tweaked?)
- Are your travel dates during a holiday or event and are your dates flexible?
- What lodging style do you prefer? (Condo, resort, motel, etc)
- How many travelers?
Going on a vacation with little money is possible with budget travel
Have you ever taken a vacation and been shocked by your expenses when you got home? Or maybe you gave up on going anywhere because you thought you couldn’t afford it?
With our budget travel tips, that will be a thing of the past. You can take a vacation at any budget and with good planning, you won’t get the shock of what you spent afterwards.
So how do you set a budget? First, think of a realistic amount you have available either on hand or can afford to pay off.
Budget Travel Tip
Credit cards often send out checks (or special offer) to use for special “interest free” period. If you use those checks to pay, you can have 1-2 years of interest-free time to pay your vacation off! A lot of times this offer is for newly opened cards but it can be your current cards special offer as well.
Then, count in your expense factors, look at the example below:
"all-inclusive" family vacation to florida (road trip)
$2000 – 7 days
- Transportation (there and back)
- Lodging (6 nights)
- Meals (every day)
- Other Spending (shopping, indulgencies)
$2000 – 7 days – Beach Trips from St. Louis to Florida
- $350 (gas there and back)
- $700 (condo at $100/night) info in text below
- $560 ($80 per day for 4 (but you can cook food in the condo to save more money)
- $200 attractions (museum entrance, nat. park entrance, other) I usually choose 2-3, then more if budget allows.
- $190 left for “other”
Imagine what 7 days to Mexico would cost for 4! If you have a baby or small children, they still charge per person (even the baby) for hotel/flight, when in reality – hotels never charge you for a baby and usually don’t charge for kids. The cost per person is usually at least $1000 so you’d be looking at a minimum of $4000. If you like the vacation idea above, we have a couple of articles dedicated to Panama City Beach like the best Things To Do and taking a Road Trip to Panama City Beach from various destinations. Things To Do focuses on the best attractions, restaurants, resorts and other things in PCB and Road Trip to PCB shows maps, highways and stops on your way to PCB.
Remember, this is an example, so your amount might be different depending on what your budget allows and all the possible factors you choose. As you can see above – activities, meals and even the condo were all factored in. But this amount could be different if you didn’t spend as much in one category (like meals or attractions). Check our condo tips below for great cheap condo options!
Looking for the best family vacation destinations? Here we narrow it down by type to the top 6! All are very family-friendly.
Here we go, the 4 Top ways to travel on a budget!
TOP 4 budget travel tips
budget travel - transportation
Firstly, Transportation is the first thing to consider when planning a vacation, especially is you don’t have much money to spend.
So taking a road trip is the cheapest travel option. Traveling on a budget is easier if you plan a road trip because you don’t have to consider expensive flights for multiple people. But if you’re going alone or just prefer flights, one of the best things to do is pick dates that are cheaper like mid-week days. Another way to catch a deal is having flexibility even by just a few days can be really helpful since a flight could be much cheaper by tweaking just one day.
Tip# 1 – Save on Flights
- Keep your dates flexible (a flight might cost $59 one day and $250 the next!) Flash deals on flights are offered here!
- Mid-weekday travel is much cheaper than busy weekends.
- Check different airlines and make sure you check the bag limits (some airlines have 0 bags included so that would be an extra cost)
As a result, whether you prefer to travel by air, train or car, consider the cost. Airfare can be costly depending on your travel dates, so researching the cost before booking your hotel will be essential. DON’T PURCHASE YOUR LODGING BEFORE YOU RESEARCH YOUR TRANSPORTATION!
A little more on road trips:
Having freedom of time and your own dependable transportation are amazing if you like to do things on your own schedule. No need to rush, no schedule to keep, go where and when you need to go. If you don’t like driving for too long, it’s easy to stop and rest or stay the night at a cheap hotel. For more reasons you should take a road trip, check out some tips here!
Next, let’s take a closer look at lodging choices…
lodging for budget travelers
Tip # 2 – Save on Lodging
Lodging is another huge decision for the budget travel conscious. This is one of the most important choices you will face. With so many options to choose from, planning a vacation, especially on a budget, can be overwhelming. It’s best to narrow it down by choosing the type of stay you want first. Let’s review lodging options from cheapest to most expensive. For our top recommended deals on lodging, flights, attractions and vacation packages, click here. For deals vacation rentals click here for our lodging deals!
- Camp (free to $)
- Motel ($)
- Hotel ($ – $)
- Condo ($ – $)
- Resort ($ – $)
- Especially relevant to luxurious as well as budget traveling are hotels, condos and resorts because they have a wide range of pricing.
more tips and Secrets to lodging
Tips and Secrets to Lodging – Best Travel Tips are in Bold!
Some hotels even have condo-style rooms with kitchens or added bedrooms. However, with a hotel room you still don’t get the comfort of a condo or amenities of a resort.
Vacation Rentals and condos
A cool example of the difference of condos is that most condos in Florida have things like beach chairs and/or toys for guests to use. Of course you’re expected to return it, the reason it’s there is because people, left it so that others can use and return it. This can be a huge plus when you don’t have those bulky items on hand! Other destinations might have items related things to their own location that either owners make available or travelers leave behind. Decorations in most condos, compared to a tasteless hotel rooms, make a big difference too. Right now you can find amazing beach condos for rent! Add your dates and location and all listed condos are under $100, many for much less!
Condos are a brilliant choice for budget travel and great for long as well as short stays because of their comfort. Some condos can be rented directly through an owner and you can even make an offer or negotiate on the price. However renting through the rental site gives you added traveling securities and insurance which can outweigh the pricing difference. If you see “contact owner” on the website through email or phone, it’s worth contacting them and asking politely if there are any exclusive offers available. The owner might give some sort of discount or code for you to use at checkout.
Resort stays can give you some or all the amenities of the resort while renting from another source for less. For example, most of the Condos in Panama City Beach are inside beachfront resorts. On the resort website, you see huge prices, while through the vacation rental site the prices vary because each condo is privately owned. If you’re looking for saving on some all-inclusive beach vacations including flight and resort stay, how about 65% off and a possible $1000 credit?
The Resorts offer pools, hot tubs, restaurants and sometimes even activities. Therefore, a condo rental usually includes access to these activities without the hefty price! This gives you the luxury of a resort, without the hefty price tag! This makes resorts and condo rentals the best option for budget travel.
Going camping is a great way to take a break from electronics and every-day stresses. Nature is best for relaxing and connecting with you inner-self as well as those around you! Camping can be a mini vacation trip too!
Hiking, fishing, hunting and sitting around a bonfire are a few of the completely free activities to consider. Canoeing, renting a boat and other water activities are also options near a lake or river. Renting a motel or camp-type cabin are more very cheap lodging choices. This can be a benefit to camping trips because it gives you the ability to take a shower and sleep in a bed. It can also be a clever idea if you won’t spend much time inside during your vacation.
Everyone has lodging preferences and travel budgets, but different kind of vacations call for different options. For most budget travel vacations, we prefer renting condos at popular resorts.
Budget Travel Tips:
Hotels are abundant and usually available anywhere. Hotels are an excellent choice for short vacations and trips like weekend getaways & single-night stays. They can be pretty cheap, making them a good choice for budget traveling. To get a cheap hotel, advance booking is usually best and always check the “specials” tab. Hotels usually have seasonal, holiday, extended stay and other types of special offers. They are pretty bland though without much to offer in the amenities & atmosphere department. The best offers are usually having a fridge and small microwave, however some hotels nowadays are adding extra bedrooms and partial or full kitchens to make them more like condos.
In contrast, condos offer many comforts of home. They range in very low to high pricing which makes them a great option for budget travel. Some of the benefits of condos are: fully stocked kitchen, dishwasher, washer and dryer, separate bedrooms and decorations as well as being very personal. Having a kitchen is significant if you want to save money. Money spent on meals can be a huge expense! for budget travel, condos are a perfect choice!
Back to Resorts, which are usually better than hotels. Resorts usually include better amenities like activity options, spa services, on-site restaurants, possibly even daily room service, pools and other amenities. Traveling on a budget usually doesn’t recommend resorts, but it’s a possibility, since condo rentals are often inside of resorts! If you go through a vacation rental website like this popular one and browse condos, look at the location description as well as main information, usually there will be mention of resort name. If you book a condo that is at a resort, make sure that activities and pool access will be included because that kind of stuff can depend on the owner.
Another thing to consider if you’re on a tight budget or want a different kind of trip is camping or renting a motel. They’re both cheap options and easy weekend getaway options.
meals for budget-friendly travel
Tip # 3 – Meals
First of all, meals and drinks can be a huge portion of your vacation expense, so including them in a budget travel vacation is a must. If you’re staying at a hotel or resort, breakfast might be free during your stay, which can save you a lot of money. Look for hotels that include breakfast, or condo with a kitchen so you can make your breakfast. Spending an extra $25 per day on breakfast alone is definitely possible!
Also, meals can vary in price depending on where you eat and how many people you need to feed. Of course, a family of four will spend more in food than one or two people traveling. Similarly, going to an elaborate restaurant for dinner is obviously more expensive than a cheaper option. If your room has a kitchen, you can save a lot of money by cooking some or even all of your meals yourself. Lastly, don’t forget snacks! Passing by an ice cream shop can be very tempting if you’re out shopping. With a refrigerator freezer in your room, you can buy snacks for whenever you have a craving!
Budget Travel Tips:
- Look for hotels with breakfast included.
- Look for a kitchen in your room/condo (at the very least a microwave and fridge). – Cook your own meals.
- Check menu options online before going to the restaurant!
- Go to restaurants around happy hour, drinks and appetizers are much cheaper.
- Pack snacks for your travels and keep snacks in your room for times of cravings.
Tip # 4 – Attractions
Next, if you want to create unique memories and explore your surroundings, attractions are the best way to do that. Even if you’re traveling on a budget, attractions are possible for as low as free! Budget travel shouldn’t mean boring travel! There are some great attraction discounts available at popular destinations for theme parks and other attractions. Check out our deals on attractions!
You can find great cheap ways to make ANY vacation more romantic right here.
Furthermore, attractions are important because you need something to do on your vacation. Your vacation will be a ton more interesting when you add a few things to do. Many attractions can be free, let’s review those first.
- Parks (hiking, fishing, hunting, nature)
- Some Zoos and Museums
- National Parks
- Lodging Attractions (if any)
A great example is St. Louis with their many free and super-cheap attractions, but this availability will depend on your destination.
Some attractions charge an entrance fee but you enjoy them all day long, such as Waterparks and Theme parks. Here are some attraction ideas with price ranges:
Budget travel – Attraction Ideas
- National Parks (free – $ Entrance Fee)
- Sight Seeing (Free)
- Mini-golf ($)
- Arcade ($-$)
- Zipline ($-$)
- Zoos and Museums (free – $)
- Waterparks and Theme Parks ($-$)
- Golf and other Sports ($-$)
- Shopping ($-$)
- Many more depending on your Destination
More Budget Travel Tips:
- Plan ahead, don’t just up and go.
- Choose some free attractions for every day of your vacation and add a couple of paid ones.
- Some attractions are cheaper to purchase online, so check for offers online before you go.
- Look for a Groupon deal for attractions as well as restaurants and hotels. (However Groupon is not always cheaper than “regular price” beware of that!)
- Museums and Theme parks often have exclusive offers for in-advance purchases.
- If you’re interested in exciting and adventurous attractions, here is a great place where you can find unforgettable things to do at discounted prices! Make sure you choose your city and interests. Choosing at least one adventurous attraction can make a huge difference in your whole vacation experience!
other expenses to consider
More valuable tips to know!
There can be other expenses involved in your vacation. For example, added lodging fees can include cleaning, taxes, refundable deposit and other fees. Yet, sometimes your vacation rental can include all the fees. If you’re planning on fishing, you might need a license, depending on your location. Shopping could add more spending but a souvenir is nice to have for memories. The best souvenir can be free – Taking lots of pictures and framing them! Remember, budget travel is possible at any budget!
Hopefully you enjoyed this article and found some helpful hints to save money on your next budget travel vacation. Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Great things to know especially when you have a family of 6!
I love saving money on trips, I always try to follow some of these tips when I fly but there were some here I hadn’t thought of. Thanks for the post!
I love saving money on my trips. I try to be as flexible as possible with my flights so I can get the best deals. This was all such great information, thanks for the post!
Great info here for the budget traveler! I don’t consider myself to be one 100%, but I do look to book condos / homes during my stays usually because I like to spend my money on cultural activities instead of lodging. I’ll be saving this post for future reference 🙂