How to Plan a Vacation on a Tight Budget?

This post may contain affiliate links


Have you ever tried to plan a vacation without breaking the bank?   Have you ever tried to vacation on a tight budget? If I had one wish it would be to retire now and spend the rest of my life traveling the world.  So far my favorite vacations have been Greece, Turkey, and Washington D.C (in that order).  And because I’m not rich, I have to be creative when choosing a location, lodging, transportation, etc.  In fact, I’m still trying to find a nice yet budget friendly location for this year’s vacation.  Because I’m budget conscious, I don’t believe you have to travel to the Fiji islands to enjoy a luxury vacation (although I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity).  Whether it’s a staycation, weekend getaway, or long vacation, everyone has the ability to travel as long as they plan carefully.

I love week long vacations but sometimes that’s just not an option.  When that happens, weekend getaways are my saviors when I want a mental break.  Generally, my husband and I take a one week vacation and at least one weekend getaway per year. Our budget determines what  kind of vacations we take.  Right now I’m looking to take a week at the end of June IF I can find something that fits the budget. If everything goes according to plan we will be hitting the Caribbean this year as well as a city in Florida we’ve never been to before.  We also plan to use this year to take a couple of staycations and enjoy the Tampa Bay area.

Costs can add up very quickly so when I plan I research, research, research.  I’ve become quite good if I do say so myself.  I get a thrill from finding good deals.  BUT because I know planning vacations can become time consuming, I’ve put together some tips that will not only help you plan your vacation, but my tips will also help you vacation on a budget.

Here are My tips on how to Vacation on a Budget

Decide on Your Budget

Before you can pick your location the first thing you need to is create a budget for it.  Now if your budget is $500 don’t expect to go overseas. How much do you want to spend on lodging, food, souvenirs, activities, etc.  Once you have that figured out, figure out how long you want to go.  Once that’s decided, you also need to budget your time.  How much money do you need to spend daily?  Next set a savings goal for the amount you need to save.  Doing this will allow you to save in increments instead of trying to come up with a large sum of money at once.

Start a Vacation Account

We DO NOT use credit cards on vacation.  I refuse to go into debt for a few days of fun.  I have a vacation account at Navy Federal that I’ve set up automatic transfers to.  Most banks require you to select a future withdrawal date which means you cannot withdraw any money until that date arrives.  Once we meet our goal or date, we withdraw the money and use that amount.  Alexis over at Fitnancials has great summer travel savings plan so check it out!  If you don’t want to open an account, use the envelope system but make sure you are disciple enough to leave it alone and let it grow.

Sign up for Email Alerts

While it’s true you can find last minute deals, it’s also smart to start looking at plane tickets early. I signed up to get email alert anytime flights dropped in price.   My FAVORITE sites to watch for flights are Airfare Watchdog and Skyscanner.  I set my alerts for preferred options instead of getting emails for every location.  Setting it up to get alerts for certain locations helps cut down on unwanted and unnecessary emails.  You can also sign up for emails from direct airlines and countless others.

Check Living Social or Groupon.

I live on these sites.   In fact I was able to find a fabulous deal to St. Augustine on Groupon for our 6 month anniversary.  Both Groupon and Living Social offer great deals.  One of the locations we are considering this year is San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Right now Groupon has an offer for $499 for a 4 nights stay at Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort for two people!!!!! If you can score some great flights you have a great vacation under $1000!!! Before you book anything through these sites be sure to read reviews on the hotels and resorts.  You don’t want to buy a deal for the sake of a deal, you also want to be happy with your stay.  You can also use Groupon and Living Social to find deals on attractions, food, and activities.  Don’t forget to use Ebates to purchase your Groupon and Living Social deals to score cash back which you can use towards your vacation!

budget, travel, vacation, planning

Research Rental Car Options

While it’s convenient to rent a car from the airport it’s not the most cost effective.  You can end up spending two times more.  Instead of renting from the airport choose a rental car company near the the airport that offers shuttle services.  We always rent from Fox which offers great deals.  We rented a car from Fox for $27 for our weekend getaway to Miami and $117 for week for our honeymoon to Helena.

Be Flexible with Your Lodging

My husband and I booked a great cabin for our honeymoon to Helena for $416 for the entire week which included taxes and cleaning fees through AirBnB.  Our cabin included a bedroom loft, full kitchen, cable TV, and a Jacuzzi.  We also enjoyed a condo on the beach in Miami for $130 for the weekend through AirBnB.  This is a great option if you want more privacy than a hotel can provide.  These places were perfect.  You can get a $20.00 credit for signing up here.  As always read the reviews and make sure the place has everything you are looking for.  By renting a home or condo, you can save money on food by cooking some of your meals which is what we opt to do from time to time.

How have do you save money when planning a vacation?