Think a summer getaway translates to an emptying of your wallet? Not necessarily. With a bit of research, some advance planning, and the following tips you can enjoy high times on a low budget this summer and beyond.
1. Train by travel. With gas prices on the rise again, and the cost of plane tickets not any better, trade in your car for an old-fashioned trip on a locomotive. Take a long weekend journey through New England, along California’s southern coast, aboard Canada’s famed Rocky Mountaineer, or else hop the cross-country Amtrak that will transport you from one ocean to another in less than a week.
2. Go camping. 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 on the rise.
3. 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. Alternately, consider the other exciting adventures in your backyard.
4. Jet set midweek. 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 reduced by a third or more (these are the prices airlines tend to advertise), so consider avoiding weekend travel and book flights that fall midweek instead.
5. 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.
6. Couch Surf. If you’re outgoing and open to meeting new people, this non-profit organization that allows you to crash in other people’s homes is a fine way to make new friends during your globetrotting (and get a free place to stay while you mingle). Visit CouchSurfing.com to create a free profile and browse others.
7. Take the Roads Less Traveled. That European rail tour isn’t looking so good with the daily weakening of the dollar, now is it? While a jaunt across the Atlantic could quickly empty your bank account, there are still destinations where the dollar goes far. Consider less-traveled spots like Honduras or Nicaragua that still provide a plethora of cultural offerings—and a killer tan.
8. Take 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, taking a road trip can actually be an economical way to travel. Combine that with glamping or couch surfing, as mentioned above, 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.
9. 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 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.
10. Extend a work trip; 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.