Planning a vacation is never easy. You may be stockpiling paid days off, waiting for the perfect opportunity to book a getaway. There’s only one problem with your lavish trip, though: the hefty price tag. Your dream vacation to Morocco or Spain may be a lot more expensive than you expect. Before letting those vacation days go to waste, consider your other options. If you know where to look, there are plenty of budget-friendly choices.
Here are some popular ideas to get you started.
Book Your Trip During the Off-Season
Most popular destinations have a tourist season. It may coincide with their warmer months, annual events or other festivities. The tourist season is usually the most expensive time to visit. There may be costly flights and limited choices on where to stay.
You may also have to fight crowds of people everywhere you go. Rather than visiting when everyone else does, try booking your trip during the off-season. You may slash costs and skip the long lines at restaurants, museums and other attractions—which could be a lot more enjoyable.
Always Watch for Travel Deals
It takes patience to find the best travel sales. Websites like The Flight Deal or Scott’s Cheap Flights are key to scoring an affordable international flight. To stay up-to-date on deals, subscribe to their newsletter or follow them on social media.
You can also browse search engines like Google Flights to find bargains. Keep an eye on websites like Booking.com or Hotels.com for cheap places to stay. If those don’t work, consider home-sharing platforms such as Airbnb or VRBO.
Experiment with Travel Hacking
If you are responsible with credit cards, you may be able to pay for your trip with travel rewards. This process, called “travel hacking,” is earning points and miles for everyday spending. You may also rack up rewards if you travel for work.
Start by making a list of your current points and miles. There may be enough to cover your flight, hotel or rental car. If not, you can make a strategic decision about your next move.
Depending on where you want to go, it may be easy to score enough points through a new credit card’s bonus offer. But if you can’t pay off the balance in full by the end of the month, don’t mess around with travel hacking.
In addition to credit cards, some of your summer essentials may be considered an eligible HSA reimbursement. If you’re packing things like prescription sunglasses, sunscreen, and a first aid kit, consider using your HSA contributions to help pay for them.
Stay someplace with a kitchen and cook your own meals
Another perk of choosing a home vs. a hotel may be kitchen access. Instead of eating out for every meal, stock up on groceries. Try limiting your restaurant visits to once per day. It could save a lot. Plus, it might be fun to shop at the local Farmer’s Market. You could prepare a couple of meals with seasonal ingredients you can’t find back home.
The key to an affordable vacation? Plan ahead.
Planning ahead isn’t as sexy as a last-minute getaway, but it may be the best way to make your dream vacation happen. By doing some research—and picking an affordable spot—you can figure out how much the trip will cost. Then, you can choose a timeframe. To meet your goals, set up automatic savings every month. Before you know it, you may have enough to cover the trip. By the time your vacation arrives, you may enjoy it more knowing you didn’t swipe your credit card to pay for it.
Disclaimer: the content presented in this article are for informational purposes only, and is not, and must not be considered tax, investment, legal, accounting or financial planning advice, nor a recommendation as to a specific course of action. Investors should consult all available information, including fund prospectuses, and consult with appropriate tax, investment, accounting, legal, and accounting professionals, as appropriate, before making any investment or utilizing any financial planning strategy.