Travel on a Budget

Every month I save a little money into my budget for travel. I usually travel on spring break and during the summer. So when summer comes around, I have enough for a week long trip with my boys. However, I can’t save a lot, so I have to make sure to stick to a budget. Here are some ways I have great, yet economical, trips.

Get a Credit Card That Pays

First, get a credit card that pays you for travel. I use Capital One Venture. I get 2 miles for every dollar I spend. I put all my expenses on that credit card and pay it off every month, so they pay me to use it. This means that every year, I earn about a plane ticket and a half to see my dad in Houston, Texas. I can also use the money toward hotels or vacation rentals if I wanted. Because of this credit card, my spring break trip is basically free. I have to pay for parking at the airport and a little money to go out to eat and that’s it.

Driving or Flying

So, the money I save each month goes toward a summer trip. When I go somewhere, I typically drive. If you don’t lease your car or you do and your’re way under miles, you can drive and save money IF you are traveling with other people. If it’s just you, it’s cheaper to fly. However, if I were to pay for three plane tickets, plus parking and a rental car, I’d be way over budget. This means that I do spend a bit of my trip in the car, but if you break it up and see things on the way it can be fun.

Staying with Friends and Family

Try to stay with family and friends along the way to save money on hotels. I stayed with my mom on the way down and back from Charleston, which was great. My kids got to have fun with family and my mom cooked for us, which saved money going out to eat. I have friends and family in Tennessee, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Texas, and a few other places as well. I’m sure you do too.

Eat Meals In

I like to search for a vacation rental on www.vrbo.com. I can usually find a place with enough beds for around $100 a night. This is about what you’d pay for a hotel, except there’s more space and I make sure to get a kitchenette. This is so I can make my breakfasts and lunches at the house when we travel and only go out for dinners. This is a huge money saver! So, paying a bit extra for the room is worth it. Remember to add in taxes and cleaning fee when you’re searching. However, if you have to stay in a hotel on the way down or back, search several sites like Expedia, hotels.com, or Orbitz for the best rates. Just make sure you research the area. Booking the cheapest hotel may not be the safest hotel.

Entertainment on a Budget

I picked one fun touristy thing to do each day I traveled that took up about three hours. On day one we toured a plantation, day two was a carriage ride in downtown Charleston, and day three was Fort Sumter. It was just enough time for the boys. Anything more would have been too much in the heat or they would have gotten bored. But the rest of the day, we went to the beach. We only had to pay for parking when we went to the beach, so it was about $6 each day. So, try to find some things to do that could be free like parks or beaches. You could also search the city’s websites to find community events to attend like music or festivals. Also, you can find coupons on Groupon that could save you some money. I bought our carriage ride tickets on Groupon and saved a bunch. I could have also bought plantation tickets on Groupon, but I needed four people. I would definitely search Groupon whenever you travel somewhere. It can even give you ideas for places to tour.

Restaurants on a Budget

When choosing places to eat, you can search places on Yelp that have one $ or two $$, so you find places that are cheaper. You could also pick one $$$ place and the rest $ or $$. You can also take out to save money on tips or bring the food home and buy your own sodas. 

Estimate Every Expense

Add in some money for ice cream treats and renting movies. These are pretty inexpensive ways to have fun. Plan on driving a bit when you’ve reached your destination as well, so add in some extra for gas during the trip, not just on the way down and back. I find that if I plan for every expense, it doesn’t stress me out when it happens. I even estimate how much it costs to board my dog and cat. If you want to take your pets, make sure they are well trained and won’t make a costly mess. But you can find vacation rentals that allow pets, which makes the trip even cheaper. However, you might pay extra in cleaning fees or a deposit. Also, you can’t always take your dog everywhere. No pets were allowed on Charleston’s beaches, for example, so I’d have to trust my pet to stay at home and not be noisy or make messes while we played. Sometimes you’re renting a garage apartment or backyard mother-in-law suite, so you don’t want your pet to be barking while you’re gone. Remember to add in tolls for your road trip. I got an I-Pass and saved money on tolls around Chicago.

Other than that, you just have to be disciplined and stick with the budget you’ve created. You can’t do everything you may want to because of the cost, but careful planning and saving will ensure a great trip even on a budget. What are your ideas? Comment below, I’d love some more tips.

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