Now that it’s officially vacation season and the clouds have given way to some glorious sun, let’s talk summer travel, shall we? It pains me when my friends and family say they don’t have the funds to travel, because, hey, guess what—jet-setting doesn’t have to break the bank—and if you do have the flexibility and privilege to get away from it all this summer, I’ve got some ideas for how to travel on a budget.
This post was last updated in August 2022.
Embrace the Great Outdoors
You don’t have to go far to take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Whether you live near the Rocky Mountains, in the Smokies, along the East Coast, or even close to the Great Plains, you can always find a patch of grass to call your own (S’mores and late-night gab sessions come with the territory). Sleeping on a hard, dirt-packed ground not your thing? No worries: Glamping, a glammed-up version of camping that offers a more luxurious night’s stay in a cabin, yet still out in the wild, is always a great option.
Travel close to home
It’s a common misconception that the most desirable locations are located halfway around the world. Not true. From Portland, Maine, to Austin, Texas, some cool and quirky spots can be found right at your doorstep and don’t require much advance planning– other than filling the tank with gas, booking a place to stay, and making a restaurant reservation or two.
If you’ve been receiving alerts from search engines and airfare trackers regarding flight deals that seem too good to be true, they a) probably are, or b) likely leave and/or return on Tuesday and Wednesday. Airfare prices for midweek travel are often half of what they are on Thursdays or Fridays, so consider avoiding weekend travel and book flights that fall midweek instead.
Related post: Plan a Mid-Week Vacation to Savannah, Georgia
Consider off-season destinations
Good news to all of those who like the heat: Sunny locales like Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean see the most visitors in the winter and early spring months (December through April), meaning prices are at their lowest during the summer. Just be sure and check the weather forecast in advance to make sure you’re not planning to hit up Haiti during hurricane season or Guatemala when mosquitoes cloak the country.
Take the roads less traveled
While a jaunt across the Atlantic could quickly empty your bank account, there are still destinations where the dollar goes far. Consider cheaper destinations like Central America—think: Guatemala, Panama or Nicaragua—that still provide a plethora of cultural offerings (and a killer tan). Or take advantage of the fact that the U.S. dollar and Euro are finally 1:1 and plan that trip overseas that you’ve always wanted now.
Embark on a road trip
While the cost of fuel is nothing to scoff at, if you rope in a few gal pals to join you on your trek—or have a family where you’d be paying airfare x 5—taking a road trip can actually be an economical way to travel. Combine that with glamping or couchsurfing with a friend, and you’re practically traveling for free. Pack a cooler of refreshments and a trunk full of non-perishables, and you’ll further reduce expenses incurred.
Seek last-minute vacations
Want a weekend away but failed to plan anything in advance? Not a problem. If your departure and arrival times and location are flexible, you’re the prime candidate for budget travel. Most airlines sell remaining seats a week or so in advance for a much reduced price. Check out Scott’s Cheap Flights, airfarewatchdog.com or lastminute.com, which post weekend travel fares from one to 10 days beforehand, or else visit your preferred airline’s website to see what kind of last-minute deals you might find.
Extend a work trip and get there for free
Already heading to Los Angeles (or somewhere equally as vacation-worthy) for a midweek business meeting? Make the most of it: Ask ahead of time if your company would consider extending your ticket a few days for a much-needed break, provided you use vacation days and pay for any extra nights in the hotel.
Now what are you waiting for? Get to planning that much-needed vacation!
What are your personal tips for how to travel on a budget and not break the bank?
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