Are you getting the travel bug now that Summer is looming ahead of us? Many people list travel as both their most desired activity as well as their biggest regret when they fail to hit all the spots on their bucket list. However, the problems with traveling in modern America are many and varied. Not only are there the logistics of taking time off from work, there’s the major expense of flights, lodgings and food while away. We’ve compiled some tips for traveling inexpensively so that you can finally make those dreams a reality.
Let’s get the most stereotypical piece of advice out of the way first. It’s the humble staycation. This is where, instead of hopping on a flight somewhere tropical or catching a train to a new locale, you find new ways to enjoy your own backyard. It encapsulates a really important point here, though. So much of our pleasure from vacations is based on our perceptions versus reality. We can have the highest of hopes for a European backpacking trip, but what if it doesn’t live up to expectations? That may very well end up as a less happy memory than the road trip to the National Park a few hours from your own home.
Staycations have a few simple and fairly flexible rules. The first is that you should ideally save any tasks, work, chores or errands for your post-vacation time. It’s tough to feel like you’re on vacation if you’re doing the laundry. The second rule is to go sightseeing! Pick some of the more touristy spots you haven’t seen yet. Eat at restaurants that make their way into magazines and top 10 lists. Go see a show at a local theater. Get dressed up. Go to an amusement park or the zoo. Whatever your city or town has going for it, work with it.
Bang For Your Buck
This one definitely won’t apply to everyone, but there are a few lucky people who get to see the world through their jobs. If you’re traveling for work, consider asking for a few extra days at the beginning or end to take in the city. Conferences, client meetings and on-site work can open up some surprising doors, depending on your industry. If you add some vacation days on before a big work-related event, you’ll be more relaxed and better adjusted to the time zone, too.
It doesn’t matter whether or not the city you’re in would make it into a flashy magazine. You can have amazing vacations pretty much anywhere. A small town experience can offer a unique perspective on the culture you’re visiting.
Off Season Travel
There are plenty of website and email lists that aggregate cheap flights to top destinations across the world. These are often simply based around non-peak tourist times. There are added benefits here, too. Avoid the crowds and take in the sights in the off season. A little bit of drizzle never hurt anyone, and a wintry wonderland can be twice as beautiful as its sweltering counterpart.
Earn Travel Points
This tip is really only for people who already have their financial ducks in a row, but it’s still a good one. Don’t attempt it if you’re prone to carrying credit card debt from month to month, accruing interest. This completely negates any benefits of having an airline credit card or one that’s similar. If you’re ready for it, though, look into the different options and make a decision based on your own purchasing habits and travel preferences. Some cards give extra bonuses for certain types of purchases while airline-specific cards may allow you to redeem for their own flights much sooner than a general travel card.
Want to hit up a new place but unable to foot the bill solo? Consider traveling with a group of friends. Lodgings can often be split much more affordably over a larger group. Cooking meals in an Airbnb from shared groceries is especially cost-effective. If you’re driving together, split gas money across the group. Plus, you’ll be less inclined to spend your time going to as many expensive attractions and focus on just a few shared events. Hanging out with friends becomes one of the added perks. If your party is large enough, you may even be able to get group rate discounts.
It’s About Who You Know
If you’ve done a good job nurturing longstanding friendships, chances are good that you have a standing invitation to visit. How about you set aside some time to take that friend up on their offer? Make your travel plans far in advance (and with their consent!) so that they can be fully present for your trip. They’re not just a free guest room or couch, after all. Lodgings are a huge part of travel costs, and you’ll save plenty of money by avoiding tourist traps with their sage advice.