Traveling on a budget isn’t rocket science. However, there are a few budget-travel tips not everyone thinks about. This quick list of little known ways to travel on a budget can boost your savings next time you take a vacation.
1. Find out the real off season.
You’ve probably heard that travel is way cheaper in the off season and considerably cheaper in the shoulder season. The problem with that piece of advice is that we often don’t think about what the off and shoulder seasons are for particular areas.
In Florida, for instance, the summer is actually more like the off season. Most travelers hit the beaches in the spring and winter, when it’s cold in the Midwest and North. So, you can save quite a bit by skipping spring break in Miami and going to Florida in July, instead.
Many countries and particular areas have different off seasons than you’d expect, so don’t just make assumptions – find out!
2. Get there early.
Not to the museum, necessarily, though this can be helpful. Rather, get to the airport and train station early.
One of the top ways travelers add unnecessary expenses to their travel budgets is by getting to the airport too late and having to pay hefty fines to reschedule their flights. Plus, it’s just less stressful if you get there earlier than you need to.
3. If you’re driving somewhere, service your car before you go.
Breaking the budget with an unexpected engine problem is no way to start or end your vacation! If you’re driving any considerable distance at all, make sure to have your car serviced before you go.
This includes things like checking the tires, making sure belts aren’t too worn, and changing the oil. Even if your car seems to be in relatively good shape, a minor issue now could be a major one in a few hundred miles!
Plus, when you’re still home, you can use your favorite mechanic that you know gives you good value. If you’re stranded in a city you don’t know well – or, heaven forbid, in the middle of nowhere! – you’ll probably end up paying more for services because of necessity or ignorance.
4. Book a cruise.
So a cruise might sound like one expensive vacation, but it can actually be pretty affordable. Lots of cruise lines today cater to budget travelers.
The best part about a cruise is that you can know exactly what you’re going to spend before you get started. As long as you steer clear of the extras at the spa and casino, you can stick to a really structured budget.
The same thing may be true of certain all-inclusive resorts if you can find a good deal. The point is that with any all-inclusive vacation, there aren’t lots of unexpected fees to worry about. Plus, these vacations tend to be relatively stress-free because you don’t have to drive from place to place for entertainment.
5. Use gift certificates
Use sites like restaurant.com, groupon.com and livingsocial.com to save on meals. For instance, on restaurant.com, you can find $50 gift certificates for $25 or less. You have to buy a certain amount of food to use them, but they’re mostly worth it. Another bonus is that the certificates are normally for locally-run restaurants and smaller chains, though some larger national chains participate, too.
Just go to the website, type in the zip code of the place you’ll be staying, and see which coupons you can get. If you’ve got time before your vacation, sign up for restaurant.com newsletters to get even better deals – sometimes up to 80% off the original cost of the gift certificate!
6. Splurge on a recent guidebook.
It might seem like one simple way to save is to buy a used guidebook that’s a few years old. Guidebooks can be relatively expensive, after all. However, this is not a great idea. A recent guidebook from at least the previous year will direct you to the best entertainment and restaurants that are really in your price range.
With an old guidebook, you might run into outdated pricing or get stuck choosing a less-than-appealing option because the restaurant you wanted to go to is closed. Ordering guidebooks online can save you money even on newer options.