How to Travel on a Budget Without Carrying a Backpack or Staying in a Hostel

Just last week, I was talking about planning dates to deal with the cold weather but now, with temperatures slowly rising just as the weatherman promised, it seems like spring is right around the corner. I am just itching to get out and about! But despite this winter warm-up, it's still a few months until the summer is officially here (and temperatures stay steadily above 35 degrees). That doesn't keep me from dreaming about my summer vacation. I've officially allotted one week at the end of June, a week between classes and free of work, to have an ultimate vacation experience with my man. Surrounded by this month's bills and bills and bills, a girl can dream, right? Though my money is limited, I've found that, with a few simple tricks, you can stretch a tight budget for a fabulous summer vacation.

  1. Determine your price point: Figure out what's a doable amount for you to spend on your vacation, irregardless of where you want to go, what you want to do, etc. Knowing how much you can spend keeps you from getting carried away with planning or keep that fabulous vacation from giving you a money-induced headache. If you think you want to spend $1,000 on a week vacation then you can start saving now and not have to worry last minute about having money left for souvenirs or fun side trips. It will also give you a good starting point for places you should think about travelling to. Just because you might not be able to afford a lot, that doesn't mean you can't find something you'll enjoy at your price point
  2. Be flexible: Some day when we're all rich and successful, we won't have to compromise. But when you don't have a lot to spend, you'll eliminate a lot of headaches the more flexible you're willing to be. A hotel that's not quite in the idyllic historic district but a couple blocks off might be $50-100 cheaper. Airline travel is also cheaper when you're flexible. I often get last minute flight deals to Mexico from a major airline for $198--round trip. Travelling in the middle of the week or at odd times helps too. Don't compromise on so many things that your vacation loses its appeal; a few things compromised here and there can make a big difference.
  3. Do your research: Though you might be adamant about going to a certain place, do a little digging and you might find a more affordable, "cooler" locale. My process always begins the old-fashioned way: hitting the books. I use the library to locate travel books for all destinations on my top ten list. A travel book has a lot of good surface info to see if the place you want is really the place you want and the right place to get the best bang for your buck. From there, the Internet is your friend. There is a lot out there so try to be specific about what you want. Reading the New York Times' Frugal Traveler and other travel blogs can give you good tips and tricks to finding interesting places and good deals. You can also use websites like Yapta to track flight prices to help you get the best possible fare.
  4. Prioritize: What do you really want to do on your vacation? If you want a lot of adventure, a big resort with lots of amenities may sound good but it might be better to pick a slightly cheaper hotel with just a pool and now more money left over zip-lining through the rain forest canopy. If you're just looking to lay by the pool, then spring for that resort! It also applies to everything you do on your vacation days. Food versus activities is a big point of prioritizing. An expensive meal might mean more lying in the pool or you might look for cheap but good hole-in-the-wall restaurants to pack more value (and crazy experiences!) into your day. Know your budget and use it positively to make good decisions about how you'll spend your day.
  5. Be creative: Just because you don't have a lot of money doesn't mean you can't have the vacation you want. It may require more digging and research, talking to locals or making phone calls to get deals on hotels the old-fashioned way. Doing something different or unexpected is really what makes a vacation truly amazing.