I’m on a mission to prove that planning epic adventures and seeing the world is not something just reserved for the wealthy. Travel smart by making trades and being intentional about where you spend your money. If you missed our first post in this series about how to travel on a budget by tackling the 5 big travel categories, go back and check it out first! Then, come back and learn even more travel tips and tricks on how to save big money by choosing your travel destination wisely.
The more you travel, the more you want to travel. It opens you up to new worlds and experiences. Dust off your bucket list and score some great deals by being flexible on the location of your next adventure.
Travel Tips: choose your destination wisely
Different areas of the world have different high and low seasons for tourism, so consider this when you book. Research some of your top destination choices to determine the most economical time to visit.
Low season is often less crowded, but it could be because the weather is terrible. Or, it could be that it’s a beach town and the ocean is too cold for swimming in the winter. Consider the trade-offs to determine if what you’re giving up by going off-peak is worth it to you.
For example, if you hate swimming in salt water, but love warm weather, going to Florida or California in the winter might be a trade you’re willing to make to stay on budget. You’ll give up warm ocean water that time of year, but since it’s not a priority to you, it’s a good trade.
Also, consider traveling to a location that has a lower cost of living than your home base. You could save a ton of cash adventuring there, or live like a queen as you get luxury options for a fraction of the cost at home.
Scoring a great destination deal
There are lots of travel websites out there that gather some pretty amazing deals. By regularly researching destinations, you get a general idea about how much it will cost to go there. When you see a crazy good deal, you’ll recognize it quickly and will be able to take advantage.
Watch for flash sales, daily getaways, and discounted vacation packages on these recommended sites:
- Groupon Getaways
- Travelocity Daily Deals
- Last Minute
- Voyage Private (European market)
- Living Social
- Travel Pirates
Just be certain to read all the fine print before you buy! You don’t want to waste your money purchasing a package that doesn’t work for your travel window or has specific terms that make you uncomfortable. Also, if the trip requires flights, scout out prices before you purchase the package. A good deal on accommodations won’t mean much if the flights to get there are out of your budget!
Be wary of unknown sites- a cautionary tale
Be wary of booking with websites you’ve never heard of before. When we were traveling to Mexico, I price compared flights and carriers until my eyes were crossed. We had to make a decision ASAP, and I remember just clicking on one of the several options my search tool had returned.
I picked the cheapest one (mind you, it was only about $15 less than the others) and began the booking process. I clicked to set up the sale and was notified that they would call me to set up the purchase. While this seemed odd, I was sleep deprived and not fully focused, missing the obvious red flag.
It was only after an awkward phone call, with someone who was clearly in a different nation, that I began to get concerned that I might have fallen for a scam. I googled the company and found countless horrible reviews about hidden charges, terrible customer service, and failure to deliver on promises.
I felt sick! I couldn’t believe my fatigue won out and kept me from being fully present for such an expensive purchase. And I couldn’t believe I went with a company off a mass search without looking into them further. While I trusted the search tool I used, as I had used it several times and it was reputable, I allowed that trust to transfer to another company I had never heard of.
I prayed that my foolishness would not cost us money or let us down, and thankfully our flights went off without a hitch. I did, however, experience issues long after we returned.
I hadn’t noticed beforehand, but the company never charged my card for the trip. Almost six months later, the charge came through, under a different company name and for $600 more than the ticket price (the shady company said the charge differences were for itinerary changes we made after booking, which was a complete lie, as we didn’t change a single detail).
After discussing the situation with my credit car company, they were able to help me sort out the issue and I was never charged the price difference, but it could have been a very costly mistake.
Travel Tips: Out of the Box Destination Options
One of the most economical destination travel tips for staying in the US is to check out national parks for a cheap family vacation or couples retreat. Pair your travel with “free entrance days” and get free admission to any national park. The National Parks System also offers America the Beautiful entrance passes, which cover admission fees & day use fees for the vehicle driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas (or up to 4 adults at sites that charge a per person fee). All children age 15 or under are admitted free. American the Beautiful passes are welcome at over 2,000 federal recreation sites.
Traveling with a fourth grader? Check out the Every Kid in a Park initiative! All fourth-grade students in the United States are eligible for the program. When your fourth grader signs up, they can print passes that provide free entrance for themselves, as well as anyone under 16 and up to three adults.
There are also discounts for free America the Beautiful passes for certain populations.
- Seniors (age 62+ plus) can score passes for $20 a year, or $80 for a lifetime pass
- An access pass is free to US citizens or permanent residents with a permanent disability
- Volunteers with 250 service hours with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program can earn a free access pass
- Current U.S. military members, their spouses, and their dependents can receive free annual passes
For more information or specific details, check out America the Beautiful
If you are adventuring to a national park with kids, be sure to check out How Kids Can Become Junior Rangers Through the National Park Service from Sarah over at Homegrown Scholars
If your budget is more ramen noodle than you want to admit, planning a staycation can be a great option. Take in a local sports game, visit a museum in a neighboring city, or plan an epic road trip to some attractions within a few hours drive to home.
Just beware- sometimes, with the right research and attention, you can plan a vacation away from it all for about the same cost as staying local.
Instead of going on a standard vacation, consider doing something altruistic with your time off, such as going on a missions trip or volunteering somewhere. Check out organizations like Volunteer HQ, Discover Corps, Globe Aware to learn more.
Top travel tips for selecting your next destination:
- Keep a bucket list of all the places you’d like to travel. When you find a great deal to somewhere on your list, book it!
- Check out some online bucket lists and be inspired to start your own
- Research low season and determine if it’s an acceptable travel time for you
- Travel to in-demand tourist destinations at off-season and shoulder-season times for best pricing.
- Travel to places that have a lower cost of living than where you reside to make your dollars stretch further.
- Be flexible on your next destination to take advantage of cheap flights or last-minute vacation packages
- Consider traveling to regions that aren’t well-known for being tourist destinations but that can have a lot to offer
- Be aware of your proximity to the city center and how it impacts your budget.
Travel the world by being flexible with your next destination
Being flexible on your next travel destination can be a huge travel tip for keeping your journey on a budget. Do some research and don’t be afraid to try something new.
Once you’ve incorporated these destination travel tips, you’re ready to take your budget journeying to the next level by making decisions about the timing and duration of your trip!
Other posts in this series…
Destination- You are here :0)