Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Five Ways to Vacation on a Budget (and Without Accruing Debt)

via Unsplash

Everyone loves vacations, right? A chance to step away from work and other responsibilities for a period of time and just relax? Count me in!

I'm a firm believer that everyone should take some form of a vacation AT LEAST once a year. Not only is it good for your mental health, it's good for your physical health, your relationships and many other things.

My work is so adamant about taking vacation that they won't allow you to cash in your accrued Paid Time Off. You have to take it as vacation and it's to keep workaholics from working all the time with no break. (no breaks = burned out employees that aren't functioning efficiently)

But vacations can be expensive! Right? Or, are they?

As the self-proclaimed Queen of The Deal, I'm going  to share with you some tips for planning vacations without going into debt.

one. Consider a Staycation
If funds are really tight and a hotel or airfare isn't in the budget, consider a staycation. Be a tourist in your own hometown area. I've done this a few times and it's amazing how many really cool things are in my area. Try new restaurants or new attractions that you'd ordinarily never do. You're saving money in the long run because you are staying at your own house and not shelling out for a hotel. And don't limit yourself to your city either. Where I live I'm about 2 hours from the mountains of NC and 3 hours from the beaches of SC so either could feasibly be a day trip. Check out your local visitor's bureau website and look at your city like a new tourist would to get ideas.

two. Plan Ahead
I'm a planner, so vacations for me are never a last minute thing. I like to plan trips well in advance. Just yesterday, M and I were discussing our vacation plans for the next 2 years. You're doing yourself a dis-service by planning last minute (and last minute reads to me as 4 months or less before you go). By planning maybe a year in advance, you're able to monitor things like travel rates (the fluctuation). You can also plan to visit at a less expensive time of the year if you do a little research. Doing research will also allow you to save and budget...which brings me to...

three. Save Extra Money
Our trip to Banff this summer, while cheaper than the same amount of time in Jackson, Wyoming (or original destination) isn't "cheap". We still have to shell out for flights, hotel, meals, rental car, etc. In order to afford this trip, we started socking away all of our "extra" money we get. When we started planning this trip, we knew it would be more an expensive trip than we normally take to local beaches so we decided we'd save EVERY EXTRA BIT of money we got between then and the trip. For us, that meant saving our tax refund, extra money I make from singing on the side, M's bonuses from work. This gives us a good base to work with. I then started saving a little extra from what I normally deposit into my savings account for our trip. By the time we travel in August, we'll should be covered! And this is NOT easy. It's hard to get a windfall and put it in the bank, but it will be so worth it when we can take the trip of our dreams!

four. Consider Traveling Companions
If there are other couples or friends/family you'd be okay traveling with, try planning a trip with all of you! You can share in costs for things like rental cars, hotels, etc. and it's just more fun to have travel companions! Plus you have someone to take photos of you! :)

five. Travel to Visit Family and Friends
Do you have friends or family that live in or near places you'd like to visit? Go visit them! Maybe you've got a cousin outside of Miami or an aunt in Seattle. Plan to visit these people and tack on some touristy things to do around them. They may even know of some cool places to see and visit since they are local. Take advantage of not having to pay for lodging/some meals and do things you may never do on a vacation like get a massage or see a show! Just make sure you take your host/hostess out for a nice dinner as a thank you.

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