Written by Spotloan

After a year of waiting, daydreaming, plotting, and planning, traveling is finally becoming a real possibility again. We’re all itching to get out of the homes we’ve been confined to, and who could blame us? In light of rising vaccination rates and loosened COVID restrictions, a getaway seems well-deserved. And we’ve got some wallet-friendly ways to plan and execute yours.

Best Vacation Spots for People on a Budget

Already this year, certain travel sites have experienced record-breaking booking days. While it’s definitely a positive that so many of us are starting to feel comfortable enough to travel again, it can make taking a budget-friendly trip trickier. 

When locations are in high demand, their prices tend to follow suit. The first step to taking a budget-friendly trip is to avoid going to the most popular destinations. The most popular destinations for summer leisure flights are Honolulu, Denver, Chicago, Miami, and Orlando. The next step is to seek out travel destinations that are open to vaccinated travelers.

Choose Less Popular Destinations 

Just because it doesn’t land on a top-five flight list doesn’t mean that an area isn’t still desirable. Avoiding crowds not only saves you money but it could also make you more comfortable as you adjust to a post-COVID world and spend quality time with your spouse, friends, or family. And, sticking to those locations where vaccinated travelers are welcome might make you feel a bit better about protecting your pocketbook and keeping your family safe. Let’s face it, travel for the unvaccinated will remain a challenge.

So, with vaccination-friendly and low-cost locations in mind, rather than packing for Honolulu or Orlando, consider a less popular but still thrilling and beautiful destination. Think locally first and expand out from there. One good example of an alternative destination is the upper peninsula of Michigan. Another great example is the Oregon coast.

Family Vacation Ideas on a Budget

One of the easiest ways to save on a family vacation is to consider alternative modes of transportation. With record-high bookings, flights will likely continue to get more and more expensive as the year goes on. 

Instead, try to plan a trip that is within driving distance. You can also save money and enjoy scenic views by taking a train or traveling by bus. National Parks often offer free admission for children under a certain age, and on six days each year, all of the national parks offer free admission to everyone. Plus, if you have a fourth-grader in your household, the Every Kid Outdoors program gets your family a free national park pass to use for the year.

Beaches offer incredibly cheap or even free days of fun in the sun. And lake trips, complete with picnics and kayak rentals, provide affordable fun for the whole family. Pack your tent and sleeping bags for an incredible, affordable getaway under a blanket of stars. If your budget won’t allow for a getaway this year, don’t forget that you can still plan a unique staycation that takes advantage of all those great things to do within 50 miles or less of where you live.

How to Plan a Budget Vacation

Now that you’ve determined where you want to get away to, it’s time to dig deeper into the planning. Whether you’re planning for a thrilling family vacation or a romantic couples’ retreat, there are two rules that remain the same: separating your needs from your wants, and saving money wherever possible.

1. Separating Your Getaway Wants and Needs

When you’re planning a budget-friendly vacation, it’s important to separate wants from needs. For example, the hotel, resort, or AirBnB of your dreams might be twice as much as you want to spend. These places can be a total budget buster and not what you want when you are trying to maximize every dollar. Many of these places include resort fees, cleaning fees, and other fees for amenities that you might not even use. So pay attention to the fine print and be on the lookout. With all of these additional fees tacked on, these locations may not be the best choice for a budget-conscious trip. 

Planning a low-budget getaway is all about balance. Instead of blowing your budget (and regretting it later especially when you are trying to improve your financial situation) on a week away in that fancy space, why not book it for a night or two instead? 

Spend the rest of the getaway in a more budget-friendly but still comfortable and convenient hotel. This way, you get the best of both worlds. You save money on most of the nights of your getaway, then splurge toward the end to make it even more special. 

2. Saving on the Less Important Getaway Budget Categories

Another common budget-buster on vacation and in everyday life is our meals. It’s much easier to buy a quick meal on the go or snatch up a table at your favorite restaurant than it is to shop for, prep, and cook all of our meals. 

And on vacation, our options for cooking our meals are often limited. Your hotel room might not have a full-sized fridge, oven, or stove. Eating out then becomes both a necessity and a luxury. But that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to do it. 

Rather than cutting out a night or two at a more upscale hotel or skimping on activities, you can save money while eating out by following a few tricks. For example, eating a snack before going out to dinner will make it easier to order an appetizer or share an entrée rather than ordering an entrée per person.