Traveling on a Budget: 6 Tips for Cheap Trips

Young couple plans trip: 6 Tips for traveling on a budget

If you’ve come across extra funds thanks to hard-earned savings, a tax refund, an end-of-year bonus, or a particularly generous gift, spending your money on experiences instead of objects is one of the best choices you can make—assuming, of course, you are out of debt and on schedule with your emergency savings and other financial goals.

Before you hit the slopes or beaches—or even the keyboard, for that matter—check out the below tips for traveling on a budget to ensure you get the most mileage from your money.

  1. Travel in the off-season

Consider visiting Colorado in the summer months or lounging on a beach in Cancun over the Thanksgiving holiday. Visit Europe between October and April. By avoiding a locale’s peak tourist season, you avoid long lines, gain a different insight into the culture, and enjoy much better deals in the process.

  1. Be spontaneous

If you’re the type whose suitcase is always half-packed, search “last-minute deals.” Travel sites like Orbitz*, Kayak, Hotwire, Expedia, and Travelocity will have lots to offer almost any time of year. Retailers like Costco Travel, Groupon Getaways, and Apple Vacations advertise featured deals to fill their empty seats. If you’re more of a planner, start looking about 10 weeks in advance for a domestic ticket and plan on booking seven weeks before you take off.  Start a few months earlier for international flights.

  1. Don’t book a hotel online

Calling a hotel directly is almost sure to get you a better deal than booking through its website. That’s because you are able to ask, “what deals do you have available?” When they can, many hotels offer discounts if you have an AAA or AARP membership, are a government employee, or work for the military—but you have to ask.

  1. Look into non-traditional options

Alternatives to hotel stays include vacation rentals by Airbnb and VRBO come with useful reviews and sometimes a more personalized introduction to a city. Remember, too, that when your flight lands, city transportation options might cost a fraction of what you would pay a taxi or even a Lyft or Uber driver to take you into town.  Research ahead of time the nearest bus stop or subway station and see if it’s a safe and convenient option.

  1. Travel mid-week

Because most vacationers want to schedule time away around a weekend, the prices of flights and accommodations often drop if you fly on Tuesday, Wednesday. Thursdays and Saturdays are your next best bet. When shopping for flights, choose “flexible dates” to see what combination of days is the least expensive.

  1. Plan ahead to avoid unnecessary fees

Flying? Pack light, meaning everything goes into a carry-on to avoid paying the airline to check your luggage. In case of a delay, take along an empty water bottle (to fill in the airport) and enough snacks to avoid buying overpriced meals when you’re stranded. Renting a car? Call your insurance company and your credit card company to see if you are covered and can avoid paying the car rental insurance fee.

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