Traveling has been proven to be great for your mental health, so how can we do more of it? Vacationing on a budget can allow you to make more trips. Here are some ways to plan on a frugal travel experience.
Paying for a Trip
Since your friends are probably unlikely to respond to a GoFundMe for your weekend in Mexico, you’re going to have to find a way to save that cash yourself. Calculate how much the trip will be, then start saving.
One way is to take the money you’d normally spend on a latte or a dinner out and put that into a travel fund account. If that doesn’t sound feasible, picking up low-commitment some side gigs, such as doing jobs through Fiverr, driving for Lyft or Uber, or recharging electric scooters can give you the boost you need.
Cars vs Planes
We all know relatives who drive cross country because the cost of gas is cheaper than airline tickets, but there’s more to consider here. There’s the wear and tear on your car, the cost of food and hotels en route, and the time cost.
If you have five days of vacation and it takes you three days to drive cross country, then obviously you’ll want to spring for airline tickets. Unless the road trip is part of your dream vacation, then you should just opt for flying.
It used to be that the best day to book a flight was on a Tuesday; now it’s on a Sunday that’s at least three weeks out from your trip. Skyscanner did an exhaustive project where they tracked airline prices and times. They found that to get the best times, you should book 2-3 weeks in advance for domestic and 5-6 months in advance for international.
The other big tip is to try not to travel on a weekend. The cheapest flights tend to be on Tuesdays.
You should call around to different hotels for the best deals. Sign up for the members club of your favorite hotel chain to get extra discounts and rewards points. Also, search online for discount codes or use memberships like Costco and Triple-A for additional discounts.
Traveling in off-peak seasons will get you a better deal, too. For example, summer is high season for most places, but not all. The desert states like Arizona have the best resort deals when it’s the hottest because fewer people visit.
Instead of a hotel, you could rent a private home. Try a site like Air BnB or Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO). Many times AirBnB will have dirt cheap options like the ability to pitch a tent on someone’s lawn. A hostel is also an inexpensive option, but you might end up sharing a room with someone you don’t know.
If you’re visiting an urban area, you might be better off with a bus or train pass. If you’re at a place with a lot of daily driving and a bad public transportation schedule, then renting a car is probably the better option.
There are a few ways to get a cheaper car rental or upgrade. Car rental agencies are more concerned with the number of cars they rent than how much each rents for, so you can ask them to price-match other agencies. One way to get an upgrade is to reserve a car for later in the day, especially on a Friday afternoon or a Monday, when they’re repairing the cars from the weekend. This is because the rental agency will usually be out of the cheaper car options and have to give you an upgrade.
When flying by plane, it makes sense to get empty travel-sized bottles or a travel kit filled with toiletries you know you’ll use, especially if you tend to be picky. If you’re traveling by car and space isn’t an issue, you may just want to bring your regular bottles of toiletries and not spend extra money on these items.
Set a food budget. Don’t opt for a fancy meal every single day. You can eat at fast food places for two meals a day, and a sit-down place once. Go to a grocery store and get food items; this is also a better place to stock up on healthy items like fruit and veggies. You’ll also save money on snacks over using a hotel’s minibar or hotel store.
Consider the Microbreak
A microbreak, where you spend just one or two nights away, is just about as beneficial to your health as a longer vacation. So if you’re low on funds and vacation days, you can still have a nice time with just a weekend away.
Using some or all of these ideas will help you take more vacations. Decide on your priorities and what’s reasonable given your budget, then go for it.