Vacations are a time to de-stress and relax. But the process of planning a trip can come with its own headache. A vast majority of folks hassle over finding the best deals on flights, hotels and rental cars, and they often end up spending more than they need to.
Here are a few easy ways to cut back on costs and alleviate stress when planning your trip.
Where are the Best Low-Cost Spring Break Destinations?
When it comes to Spring Break destinations, Floridians have the advantage. With places like Miami, Daytona Beach, Fort Myers and Panama City Beach only a few hours away from the Bay Area, it seems like a no-brainer vacationing to these locations.
Finding inexpensive lodging can be challenging, as hotels in these cities often jack up their rates during the busy Spring Break season. Students have an advantage in this case. Some hotels and car rental services will offer a discount if you ask and show valid student ID. Museums and art galleries will offer free or discounted admission if you show your student ID, so keep an eye out and don’t be afraid to ask!
Places like Atlanta, Nashville, Houston and New York, while not the most popular Spring Break destinations, often have cheap flights and accommodations available. U.S. News Travel compiled a list of some of the cheapest travel spots that get you the best bang for your buck.
If the beach is a must, consider your backyard. Clearwater and St. Pete Beach are often hot spots for Spring Breakers.
How to Save on Baggage Fees
Esteemed travel writer and blogger Rick Steves wrote: “You can’t travel heavy, happy and cheap. Pick two.” Happy and cheap are the two favorable options, which means packing light.
When flying, traveling light can avoid the extra costs of baggage fees and will overall improve your traveling experience. Lugging around a suitcase isn’t ideal, and it can be expensive if you have to check your bag. Try to stick to a personal item (a backpack or purse) and a decently-sized duffel bag. You’ll find it’ll probably fit everything you need for a week-long trip.
If you’re going somewhere for longer than a week or two, maximize space in your bags by packing lightweight clothes and rolling them up. Remember, you can always do laundry if necessary. Also, pack clothes you can wear more than once.
Why Traveling with Friends is Best
While traveling alone can have its benefits (you get to do what you want on your time), it has its drawbacks. The big one is cost — you have to pay for everything on your own. Whatever costs you accumulate, it’s all up to you to take care of. And every mishap that comes with traveling is on you, too.
Another drawback is, well, you’re by yourself. There’s no one to share the memories with, and, in practical terms, you put your safety at risk. Trekking with a buddy ensures safety in numbers — the more the merrier, as the saying goes. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be impervious to the potential setbacks and mishaps of traveling, but it can give you some peace of mind.
Memories with friends are invaluable. There really isn’t a price tag you can put on experiences with others. In fact, you’ll spend less if you split a trip in multiple ways. Whether it’s splitting a hotel room or gas on a road trip, you’ll surely save a lot, and the stories you create will only add value to the overall experience.
How to Find Cheap Flights
Even if it’s for less than a week — you can end up shelling out a few hundred just on airfare for a getaway. Fear not, there are a few ways to save on flights if you’re willing to make a few small sacrifices along the way.
Airlines like Spirit and Frontier Frontier are the frontrunners in “low-cost” travel. You can find flights as low as $30 roundtrip, but you have to pay for anything more than a personal item. Carry ons and checked bags can add up over time, so it quite literally pays to travel light. You also sacrifice things like complimentary wifi, food and even legroom. Those willing to pay for such things will find an experience similar to the big airlines — including the price tag. If you’re willing to travel a bit rugged, then there is some value in these budget airlines.
There are also tons of sites to get you started on finding discounted flights. Skyscanner and CheapOAir are some of the most popular apps that can connect you to cheap flights and tell you when the best time to book is.
Another app called Hopper tracks the prices of flights over a period of time and tells you when the best day is to book a flight. It also lets you know when the prices will rise again.
The simplest way to save on flights is to book in advance. Prices tend to skyrocket in the week leading up to the departing flight, so if possible, book early and you’ll save big. Keep an eye on sites like Kayak and sign up for notifications to get notified when prices drop.
How to Find a Place to Stay Without Paying a Fortune
Once you’ve got a flight booked, the most logical step is figuring out where you’ll stay. Most people gravitate to hotels, but there are definitely more adventurous options than a hotel, often at a significantly lower price.
The most popular alternative to a hotel is Airbnb, which will connect you to people who rent out their homes or private rooms for a relatively low cost. Airbnb may be the most popular, but sites like HomeToGo and Flipkey provide similar services.
Pictures featured on these sites can be deceiving, and you don’t always get what you paid for. This is a two-way street, as sometimes you find exceptional — sometimes even luxurious — places for the same cost as a night in a highway motel. So if you’re willing to be a little bit adventurous, you may score a huge deal.
These tips should get you where you need to go, and help keep a few bucks in your wallet to treat yourself once you’ve arrived at your destination. Once your plans are settled, be sure to drop by your local credit union to see if there is a branch location or ATM where you are traveling to. Credit union members have access to thousands of fee-free ATMS throughout the country. You never want to be somewhere and not be able to access your money in a pinch.
If you’re traveling internationally, your credit union can assist with traveler’s insurance in case of a potential mishap, as well as ensuring that your credit cards work correctly by adding your travel plans to the card’s permissions.
And always remember to enjoy yourself! The last thing you want to be worried about on vacation is your finances.