By Henry Moore
Think vacationing is only for the well-to-do crowd? Think again. Anyone can travel, whether their budget is massive or microscopic. Here’s how you can book a weekend trip on a small, really small, or zero-dollar budget.
How to Get There
Transportation can be the most expensive part of your vacation. In a lot of cases, travel expenses are the “make or break” when it comes to planning a getaway. Here are some clever ways to save:
Small budget: With flexible travel dates, you can score a great deal on airfare by setting fare alerts. (Travel + Leisure explains how.) If the dates are set in stone but the destination is flexible, search for the cheapest flights from your city. Even if the least expensive option is a destination you’ve never heard of, there could be something awesome worth seeing. Need a ride once you get there? Book an economy car to save on rental fees and fuel. Use a site like Ebates to score an extra discount on rental agency fees from a company like Enterprise, and be sure to take advantage of their online specials.
Really small budget: If you can’t afford flights plus a rental car, you can still enjoy a great vacation. Choose a walkable destination or one with public transit so once you’re there, you don’t have to worry about renting a car.
Zero budget: You don’t have to go far to get away. If your travel budget is limited to a few bucks for gas, pick a destination within 2-4 hours from home, and head out for a weekend road trip. Once on the road, use an app like GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas and drive conservatively to use less fuel.
Where to Stay
A weekend trip only requires 1-2 nights of lodging, but even that can be costly. These are some ways you can make overnight accommodations fit your budget:
Small budget: When booking a hotel, shop around to find the best rates for the weekend of your trip. Sites like Hotels.com make it easy to compare prices — they even have a rewards program — and you can find additional discounts through third-party deal websites that offer cash back bonuses. You can also save by booking through a site that lets you bundle your flight, hotel stay, and even car rental. Priceline is a good option, because in addition to their already-discounted rates, you can find promo codes online and enjoy even bigger savings.
Really small budget: Airbnb stays don’t always offer the convenience and privacy of a hotel room, but the low prices tend to make up for it. If you book via a friend’s referral, you can save $20-$40 off your first booking.
Zero budget: If you’re willing to go rugged, there’s tons of free camping across the country. Free campsites have no amenities, which means you won’t have access to drinking water or bathrooms. But if you know the principles of Leave No Trace and are up for an adventure, you can find free, legal camping in US National Forests and Grasslands, on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, and along US Forest Service roads, except where it’s prohibited.
What to See
A lot of little activities can add up to a big bill. Here’s how you can cut costs on a day out:
Small budget: When you want to hit all the big tourist attractions and save money while doing it, deal websites are your best friend. Save big by booking a vacation package, use Groupon to save on local attractions, and find cash back dining offers from Coupons.com.
Really small budget: If you can’t afford the big sights but still want a taste of the local flavor, spend a day hopping around to hole-in-the-wall restaurants and pubs to enjoy small plates and drinks, and to chat with the locals. Prefer an outdoorsy vacation? For only $80, you can buy a pass from the National Park Service that gets you into more than 2,000 recreation sites across the country for a year.
Zero budget: Spent all your money on gas? Don’t worry — you’ll still have plenty of options for things to do. Check out local events calendars for street fairs, festivals, and other free events to attend. You can also tour the city’s public parks, hit a free hiking trail, or just enjoy a day strolling around the city and window shopping.
Everyone deserves to vacation, no matter their financial situation. However, spending money on travel you can’t afford isn’t the answer. When vacation is calling but you don’t have a lot to spend, use these suggestions to get away without going broke.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com