How to Have a Great Vacation While on a Budget

April 9, 2019

Want to cross a destination off your travel bucket list? You’re not alone. Collectively, Americans spend over $100 billion on summer vacations every single year. However, you don’t need to spend a small fortune to go on your next getaway.

Whether you’re planning a staycation, a cross-country trip, or a big international tour, you can plan something that works for your lifestyle. Read on for our 5 tips on how to vacation on a budget.


1. Make a vacation budget

When you’re looking to vacation on a budget, the first thing you need to do is…make a vacation budget. This may seem obvious but creating a comprehensive list of expected expenses will help you make smarter choices while traveling.

Identify what you’re able to pay for fixed expenses like flights and accommodations. Then, do your research on your destination to help create a list of expected costs for food, activities, and other vacation musts.

Once you’ve established your expected vacation budget, it’s recommended to build in a cushion and add 10-15% on top of what you think you’ll spend. After all, every vacation has its mishaps, like missed flights or forgotten toiletries.


2. Travel during the offseason

If possible with your schedule and your vacation policy, avoid planning trips during popular times. Flight and hotel prices often skyrocket during times like spring break, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day.

You should also research your destination to see if there are any big concerts, events, or conferences that overlap with your ideal dates. You might not be familiar with these local events, but they’re always good to be aware of since they often mean more expensive flights and booked hotels.


3. Fly smarter

Researching flight prices early can save you a significant amount of money. Use sites like Skyscanner and Kayak to forecast when flights will be cheapest and to set price alerts.

Nowadays, many airlines offer “Basic Economy” seats. These tickets are the most affordable, but they typically don’t include any carry-on or checked bags. If you’re traveling with a group or with children, it’s nearly impossible to travel without luggage. When you do choose to add on extra carry-on or checked bags, try to pack light and limit the additional fees.


4. Think outside of hotels

While your dream vacation may consist of plush hotel robes and poolside service, this likely isn’t the cheapest option. Accommodations are often the priciest part of any trip, so it pays to save.

Vacation rental sites like Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway offer shared or private accommodations that are typically cheaper than hotels. Plus, they give you the freedom to cook your own meals—another major way to save money.


5. Look for discounts

If you hunt around, you can find easy ways to save on your next vacation. For example, AAA and AARP members can get deals on things like travel insurance, theme park ticket discounts, car rental discounts, and more.

Other common discounts can apply to students, teachers, veterans, and kids. And don’t forget to check out if popular attractions have free days! You could see a famous national park or world-renowned museum for free.


Need help?

Illinois Lending has got your back. A low-interest loan could help make your bucket list vacation dreams come true. You can easily apply from a phone or computer, get same-day approval, and take the stress off planning your next trip.

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