How can I Plan a Vacation on a Tight Budget?

Diana Bocco

If you are planning a vacation and want to save money, there are many things you can do to stretch your budget significantly. The key to a budget vacation is in setting up as many details as possible beforehand so you do not have to deal with unexpected expenses, which tend to dip into a budget quickly and drastically. Start by establishing how much money you have available for spending? Is it truly what you thought? More? Less? Once you know your real budget, you can plan your vacation using the following guidelines.

Vacationers with a tight budget may shop around for airfare discounts.
Vacationers with a tight budget may shop around for airfare discounts.

If you don't mind planning your vacation on the run, Internet discount sites often offer last-minute deals which can save you up to 50 percent on airfare to selected locations. If this is out of the question, consider long-distance buses, which often cover hundreds of cities for a fixed price. For short-trips, use a car, especially if you are traveling with a group and can share gas and tolls. Even renting a car can be a great budget alternative if you do it online or use a coupon.

Coupons may help travelers save money on vacations.
Coupons may help travelers save money on vacations.

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While hotels may seem the obvious choice for vacation accommodation, the truth is that they are often overpriced and end up eating as much as half of the budget. If you are comfortable opening your house to strangers, a home exchange club can put you in touch with people living in other cities who are willing to exchange homes with you for a limited time. If that sounds too risqué, renting a holiday apartment is the closest you can get to a hotel for a much cheaper rate. Apartments also allow you to cook your own food, which will save hundreds in restaurant meals. If you're staying close to home for your vacation, consider camping. Sleeping under the stars is romantic, adventurous, and even comfortable, as most campgrounds now offer everything from showers to electric outlets.

Collecting spare change can help pay for vacation expenses.
Collecting spare change can help pay for vacation expenses.

When it comes to food, avoid restaurants as much as possible. Cook your own if at all possible, or eat at local diners or take-out venues. If you are traveling with children, always choose a place that offers a reduced-price children's menu. Shop for snacks at the local supermarket and avoid stands around touristy attractions as much as possible.

Vacations can take place close to home, cutting down on travel expenses.
Vacations can take place close to home, cutting down on travel expenses.

Finally, be open to options. Travel in the off season if that means big savings, and do not fall into the temptation of buying souvenirs everywhere you go; you can end up spending a small fortune on trinkets you will probably never look at again once you are home.

Discount websites can help travelers save money on last-minute flights.
Discount websites can help travelers save money on last-minute flights.
Hotel stays are one of the biggest costs when going on vacation.
Hotel stays are one of the biggest costs when going on vacation.
Some resorts offer great vacation deals during the off season.
Some resorts offer great vacation deals during the off season.

Discussion Comments

chrysalis

My husband and I have found a bed & breakfast we return to for weekend getaways often throughout the year. Since we are such good repeat customers, the owner charges us the lower price for our room even during high season (with its higher prices).

We look at this getaway as a cheap vacation because we stay in a bed & breakfast and have free breakfasts every morning and a free happy hour every evening before dinner. This way we usually end up paying for a good lunch and then a light dinner. For snacks we eat fruit and cheese and nuts that we bring from home.

bananas

Camping is a wonderful way to see places and not spend much money. Visiting national parks and forests, seashore and desert, all can be done with a tent at a fraction of a cost that a resort would cost.

Of course this type of vacationing does not appeal to everybody, but it is a wonderful way for families with young children to see the world.

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