Most people who have to vacation on a tight budget think small. It’s logical to think that if you don’t have much to spend, you can’t do anything special. Luckily for you, vacationing on a budget doesn’t mean you have to think small. It just means you have to think outside the box.
New and exciting experiences (that are still budget-friendly) can create lasting memories. Most people consider extreme activities a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but adventure is a matter of perspective. You can almost always save enough money on other areas of your vacation budget, such as lodging or meals, to free up dollars to spend on unforgettable activities.
7 Tips for Keeping a Fantastic Vacation Affordable
When you vacation on a budget, you often discover great lodging and dining accommodations you wouldn’t consider if you could afford more. Try these money-saving tips when you plan your next vacation:
- Get active. Some of the best activities are free. Abundant hiking, biking, and walking trails are available at many destinations.
- Eat locally. Avoid chain restaurants and go somewhere local. Local establishments are almost always cheaper, and you’ll usually find great regional dishes, too.
- Avoid peak times. Most destinations have off-season discount prices. Research your options. Traveling in the off-season can mean cheaper flights, accommodations, food, and activities. As an added bonus, your destination will be less crowded.
- Save on flights. If you have to fly, book in advance, and use a discount airline like Southwest if possible.
- Save on car rentals. Again, book in advance to be safe. Last-minute rates can save you as well if you’re feeling adventurous.
- Explore nontraditional accommodations. Booking nontraditional accommodations, like Airbnb, can save you from exorbitant hotel costs. Furthermore, staying in a room in someone’s home adds to the experience, since you get to meet new people who will undoubtedly have great tips about what you can do in the area.
- Get groceries. Food is a huge expense when you’re traveling. If you can get access to a refrigerator (even if you have to pay a small fee), you can save money through buying groceries and making most of your meals and snacks yourself. These savings free up your budget for a few restaurant meals or extra activities. You’ll also probably eat healthier and feel more energized throughout the day.
5 Affordable Adventure Trips You’ll Remember Forever
Adventure excursions inspire memories and camaraderie. You can literally do anything that takes you out of your comfort zone, and the result will be an experience you won’t forget. Consider these adventures:
- Dive with sharks. Save money by staying in private homes with Airbnb, and use the money you would have spent on a hotel to dive with sharks.
- Try an NYC food tour. It’s hard to stay on a budget in New York City, so go during the off-season and take a food tour. Because eating is the adventure, you’ll get a meal and an experience.
- Drive a race car. There are several places you can drive a race car, so pick the one closest to you for affordability, and spend the extra money on more laps. Make it even more budget-friendly by getting a group of friends together so you can take advantage of group rates.
- Fly a plane. Orlando, Fla., can be a budget-friendly destination, with lots of moderately priced flights and hotels. Take the money you might have spent on a pricier destination and use it to fly a plane.
- Skydive. This is one of my favorite adventure excursions because you can do it almost anywhere. There is almost certainly a place to skydive within driving distance of your home. You can do it over a weekend with little or no budget for travel or accommodations.
No matter where you go, take risks. I met one couple who took a cheap cruise to the Bahamas by going over Thanksgiving. They couldn’t afford a tour of Nassau, so they hopped on a bus and asked to be taken to the beach. They were dropped off on a small, dirty strip of sand next to a fish market. Next to them, an angry man was yelling through a microphone at some sort of demonstration, and there was no public transportation in sight. They walked two miles back to port in flip-flops along a busy road with cars whipping by at 50 miles per hour.
They arrived at the ship covered in dust, exhausted, nerves shot, and thanking their lucky stars they hadn’t been creamed by a passing car. Instead of calling it a day, they jumped on another bus and tried again. This time, they ended up at a beautiful white-sand beach with just enough time to snap a few photos, dip their sore, dirty feet in the ocean, and head back.
The point of that story is that, while the vacation wasn’t perfect, it was an adventure. They weren’t afraid to take risks. While the rest of their memories have faded, they’re still telling that story, laughing at their little adventure. Lasting memories are never about the money you spend; they’re about the experience you had.