Everyone is entitled to a great vacation no matter his or her budget, income or tax bracket. However, we can’t all hop on our private jets and rent an island, but with some planning, these helpful tips and a little creativity, you can have a great, relaxing and pretty awesome vacation that won’t break the bank. Best of all, it can be completely ratchet-free.
Who wants to stay in a flea-bit motel or fly with 12 layovers just to get a little R&R? As with anything for the financially-challenged, it does take a couple extra steps, but it will be worth it when you come back renewed, refreshed and happy to work your 12 jobs.
Everyone knows about booking on Kayak.com, but if not, you just found out. There are quite a few compassion websites which are a great resource for finding cheap flights, though airlines like JetBlue and Virgin America have mailing lists that are worth signing up for because they will randomly have seasonal sales or flights for dirt-cheap. It’s worth being hyperaware of these since they are worth planning a trip around. Plus, you get to watch TV while you fly and order your half can of soda to your seat.
Tip: To save a couple extra bucks, bring food to the airport. Not only will you get exactly what you want, but you’ll dodge spending $12 dollars for some orange juice.
Gasp! There Are Other Modes of Travel?
Sure, you want to fly because it’s faster, but by not flying, you can knock off a lot of unnecessary expenses like luggage fees, taxis to and from the airport and anything you buy in the airport. Buses and trains can be so much cheaper, and you get the added bonus of using any random coupon code you find on the Interweb. Sites like Megabus and GoBus provide speedy, reliable, no-frills travel perfect for a quick weekend, plus, they often have Wi-Fi and charging stations on board.
Tip: If you’re feeling shameless and don’t want to have to sit next to someone, organize your bags on the seat next to you in a hard-to-maneuver fashion and then pretend you’re asleep. Move your bags around a lot, and you might be able to dodge the last person who needs a seat.
Hotel, shmotel — if you’re on a budget try Airbnb. It offers an affordable, local alternative to hotels. At first, it may feel weird to stay in someone’s home, but die-hard Airbnb-ers will usually leave you to yourself, provide you with helpful info and occasionally even a ride. The nice thing is that these folks are real budget-conscious people just like you.
1. Set up an account using your Facebook and other ID checks to prove you aren’t a creeper.
2. Check out the offerings based on your price range and where you may want to stay. Keep an eye out for if they include towels and breakfast options as well as the convenience of their location. Be sure to read all the user reviews to know what you’re in for.
3. Introduce yourself to the folks. You let them know who you are, why you’re visiting and are free to ask questions. You also double check that they are available. It kind of blends the worst parts of looking for a roommate and Internet dating, but you will learn a lot about where you’re visiting and find a place that’s a good match for your wallet.
4. Once you get the OK book, reserve and show up.
5. When you get there, you’ll get a rundown of the lay of the land. Some folks provide toiletries, towels and have a pretty nice set up. The nice part is you can grill them about local restaurants, shops and get an authentic experience in the city.
Tip: Leave reviews and get reviews. This makes it easier for you to make connections.
It may seem obvious, but looking into a city before you go can save you a lot of money. There’s so many cool things to check out, such as restaurants and points of interest that are not tourist traps, so why not check out an amazing building, unique shop or exotic eatery? If you’re from a big city, maybe check to see if things like cocktails, cigarettes and sales tax are cheaper. If you’re from a small city, look to dodge all the tourist traps and see how the locals live. Vacations are the best time to experiment with new cuisine, so after thoroughly checking what restaurants are nearby, why not try Burmese or Ethiopian food for the first time? Plus, it may sound crazy, but you can even check out discount chains like Century 21, TJ Maxx or DSW; you get to go home with great clothes, and you didn’t spend a ton of money on a shirt you’ll only wear a couple times.
These are just a few tips to shave a few bucks off of traveling and make your impossible vacation possible. Be sure to share your favorite travel tips in the comments!
Christian Cintron is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.