Whether you suffer from constant wanderlust, have a travel bucket list, or simply need to get away, travel can create lifelong memories and be an incredibly freeing experience. But at what cost? Most people desire adventure, but shudder at the price tag, and rightfully so. With the cost of airfare and hotels increasing over 3% in 2018, the concept of a cheap vacation seems like a pipedream. Fortunately, a combination of technology and a little bit of know-how allows us to circumvent the conventional travel package system and vacation for cheaper than you ever imagined possible.
- Flexibility on dates and destinations
The number one key to finding amazing vacation deals is being flexible. Most people box themselves into expensive travel deals because they have particular dates and destinations set in stone. Rather than booking a flight for summer or holidays, known as the peak seasons, which will always be more expensive, try having a variety of available dates. Equipped with an open mind, consult Skyscanner. The destination search engine lets you enter potential dates and origin location to see the cheapest flight prices for domestic and foreign options. Google Flights is another great resource for finding cheap tickets. The flight search engine highlights the best available prices given desired dates or suggests possible destinations based off potential travel dates. If a good deal is more important than ending up on a specific beach, you will be thrilled to find that you can save hundreds if not thousands on flights and still get a golden tan.
- No more hotels
Hotels fall into three categories: average, gross and glorious. You’ll forget the average ones, regret the gross option, and agonize over the cost of glorious. Thankfully, Airbnb saves us from this impossible dilemma. Rather than break the bank or your back sleeping on a twenty-year-old mattress, book a room or entire house through the hospitality-sharing platform. With locations around the globe, you’d be hard-pressed to find a destination where renting a place from Airbnb was not an option. Local houses, cottages, and apartments provide a unique feel and access to cities for the price of less than a modest hotel.
If you’re looking to save even more money, consider staying at a hostel. Perfect for people looking to connect with fellow travelers, hostels typically charge less than $30 per evening of stay and sometimes can be much cheaper. HostelWorld is the industry-leading search engine for discovering quality and safe hostels around the world. Another cool option is Couchsurfing.com, a platform connects travelers with local hosts willing to let you stay on their couch (or possibly spare room). The stay is free, but tradition dictates you should bring a gift of some sort. Staying with locals fosters global friendships and provides the opportunity for unique experiences unavailable for those who stay on the beaten path.
- Buy groceries and cook
This is where people usually tell me to go stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. Cheap flights? Absolutely. Affordable accommodation? Sounds great. Cook meals for myself on vacation? Get out of here. I understand this knee-jerk reaction, after all, vacations are about relaxing and having no responsibilities. However, if you’re staying in a city or popular tourist destination, cost of food can be staggering. Dining out for three meals a day, especially for a family, for an entire week can cost more than hotels and flights combined. Since you’re smart and booked an amazing place on Airbnb, you have access to a kitchen. Utilize it. Find the local supermarket, buy some breakfast and lunch essentials, and then eat like kings for dinner. A few extra minutes of effort spent on cooking will make you, and your wallet, much happier.
There’s nothing better than getting away from home, kicking back and enjoying new surroundings. Most people fantasize about exploring and adventuring from their cubicle, never realizing that cheap travel is right at their fingertips. Planning a vacation on a budget can seem daunting, but like anything, is merely a skill. The best advice is to actually do it, learn from your mistakes and try again, you won’t regret it.