“What’s your travel budget?” asks the travel agent. A trip budget? Most people work each week, pay the rent and the bills; there is no extra money – let alone for travel. I’m here to tell you that it can be done! Now, if you count on comfort, convenience, and courtesy for travel, then this method may not be for you. On the other hand, if you’re stout enough to pass up these few luxuries, you could consider it a fair trade to get to your dream destination.
First, choose your destination; and don’t be stingy with yourself. If you want to go to Europe, or Central America prices during the off-peak season have been advertised at meager prices! Be flexible, when you have an amount of money to spend on airfare – look at where the specials are and consider going there. Remember, travel agents make their commission from the airlines or cruise lines through which they book; their service to you is free. You can call any agent and ask them what the cheapest month of travel would be to your particular destination. Also, if you have a student ID, or are associated with a group like AAA for autos, or AARP for seniors, these discounts can help.
The further in advance, you plan, the more time you’ll have to manipulate the trip. Plus, airfare 21 days in advance is significantly lower priced. One of the conveniences you may have to part with is perfect weather. Destinations south of the equator have their winter in June, July, and August which is tropical is their rainy months. Consider that a trip to Nova Scotia may be more economical in November, though you’ll need to bring plenty of wool!
Let’s talk money. If you can pay for the ticket a couple of months before the trip, this is optimal. Using your tax returns for a tour is the most rewarding gift you can give yourself for having worked so hard all year. Do it! Often after classes and books are paid for, students may have a few hundred dollar surplus from their student loans. Why not plan a five-day getaway for after finals as a reward to yourself? Then, every penny saved for the next couple of months can be used for fun on the trip! It’s amazing how well the infamous change jar works. If it’s February and your journey is in May, simply promise yourself that no matter what, you will not dip into the jar for three months.
• Choose a destination.
• Research different travel times and prices.
• Plan only a month or two in advance.
• Use your tax returns to go.
Start making small changes in lifestyle. Really. Don’t do it for just a week; this is for the trip of your lifetime. Don’t stop by the drive-through for coffee; buy a pound and make it at home. Instead of grabbing a sandwich at the deli, bring your lunch to work or school for a while. Since you’ll probably be walking yourself to death, as most people do on vacation, start walking to the store or nearby places that you usually drive to. This will get your walking muscles up to par and save small amounts of gas. But, small quantities of gas over a three month period add up. Inconvenient? Yes, but you decide if the trade-off is worth it. Think up some of your ideas that seem like only pennies, but will save you dollars in the long run. Go to the library if you want a magazine; skip your hair cut until just before the trip. Nowadays, that’s more than $30.00.
Add up all that money you’ve saved and divided it by the number of days you’ll be on your vacation. For example: if you’ve saved $400.00 and you’re going on a 5-day trip, then you’ve got 80 bucks a day to spend however you wish. Some people wouldn’t get on the plane with only that much to spend, but having that small amount to pay as opposed to not going on vacation at all is worth it to some. Maybe your first day of the trip you’ll lie around the pool all day and do a whole lot of nothing. That means on your second day; you’d have $160.00 to spend. Never go over your agreed amount. Maybe you’ll want to blow the whole daily amount on something frivolous!
• Start making small changes in everyday activities.
• Divide your money by the number of days you will be at your destination.
• Never spend more than your daily agreed amount.
Though staying with relatives is not always the best vacation to some, staying with friends can be. But, don’t just stay with them; by all means, insist on paying them something or at least buy an ample week’s food for everyone in their household including you and whoever is with you. Bring your hosts with you and treat them to some of the sights they may not see if you didn’t visit. By doing this, you’ll enjoy your time and still spend less than half of what you would at a hotel. Sometimes though, getting away from everybody is what a vacation is all about, and only a private room will do. (Here’s where you use the other half of the tax returns.)
If you have the time and the patience to surf the internet for good travel deals, you can often find excellent options at Hotwire.com and Expedia.com. Both of these online travel companies guarantee their services and are secure sites. Hotwire will give you the price and the date of your trip, but the time of departure is not known until you purchase the ticket. It’s up to you whether or not that is worth the amount saved. Sometimes, the flights leave late at night. Expedia is good and offers hotel, and car rentals in packages like most sites do. There are scores of others, but these are the two that have a good report.
If you don’t have the time or the money to search for or pay for a hotel, consider a hostel. Hostels are worldwide no-frills sleeping arrangements that offer a bed and a bathroom and not much else. Some require that you bring your own linens, and privacy may not be one of the best features; but, each hostel is different. Keep in mind that many hostels are run by theme or age group, for example, backpackers’ hostel or an elder hostel only for folks over 55.
Lastly, food is probably the thing that people spend the most money on while on vacation. Let’s face it – we should eat at least a couple of times per day. There’s no shame in packing a jar of peanut butter, or well-traveling snacks like peanuts, apples, or microwave popcorn. If you’re staying at a hotel, make sure it’s one that offers a full breakfast, not a continental breakfast. If you like to eat out, eat during lunch time, but make it later in the day, like 3:00. Of course, if you want to spend your “daily amount” on an $80.00 meal, then go for it. You decide where to cut corners while on your trip; the important thing is that you have taken this trip.
So, if you really want to go on a vacation – you can. It matters only what you are willing to give up in doing so.