Best Tips for Taking a Vacation on a Budget
So you are finally deciding to take a trip. You are about to go to that vacation you are dreaming about for so many years now. You choose the destination you would like to see and start reading about it in a guidebook or on the internet.
And then you calculate and recalculate the budget you have to work with. Asking yourself, How much will the trip cost? Can you afford this vacation? How much money will you need for visiting all the tourist attractions you have planned?
But, in the end, the math you plan does not add up to what the internet says you’ll need for those dreamy places.
Luckily, this article will teach you how to budget for the holiday you dream about, so you can finally take that so wished vacation. Keep on reading to find everything about vacations on a budget and the best destinations to travel to with affordable costs.
Tips For Planning a Vacation on a Budget
Some would say vacation and budget seem like opposite terms. “There is little chance for someone to reach an exotic place with little money”. Does this statement sounds familiar?
However, the reality is far from what you think. Finally taking a vacation on a budget is fun, carefree, and a dream come true. As soon as you keep in mind some tricks.
If you want to worry less about overdrawing a checking account or Borrowing money for one vacation a year, or just enjoy more during the family vacation, here is how you can plan a maximum budget for your next destination:
Set The Maximum Budget
The very first thing you should do when planning a vacation is to set a maximum amount of money you can afford to spend. It’s true, some places are much more expensive than others.
But once you have a budget in your mind, you will know what destinations to avoid. Start with a budget, then plan the details.
Set the maximum you afford to pay based on:
- Monthly budget;
- Annual income;
- Possible savings.
Choose the Destination
The usual mistake people make is to choose the vacation destination based on some cheap airfare sites. So they buy the airplane ticket, without making doing math about the future costs they will face.
They may wind up in a destination where the airfare was cheap, but the accommodation and food are expensive.
As such, the best advice here is to check some travel site planning and get ideas about the most budget-friendly trips under a specific amount of money. Such as Best Places to Travel offseason. Don’t forget about other hidden travel fees as well.
Consider the Big Expenses
So once you have chosen the destination, it’s time for planning about transportation, hotels, possible vacation packages, and so on. Get a feel about what expenses you will encounter. The usual ones are:
- Travel to and from the final destination;
- Accommodation, whether we stay at a guest home, hotel, or resort;
- Transportation within the destination.
Add The Little Costs
So many people forget about the smaller things they need to spend their money on. It’s true, there are very few expenses. However, they add up to be a considerable amount of money. So, please consider:
- Special gear;
- Administrative costs (new passport, visas maybe, etc);
- Souvenirs and other gifts;
- Meals, whether you cook them indoor or you dine out;
- Entertainment (shows, tickets, local parties);
- Public transportation, car rentals;
- Pet-kennel while you are gone.
Document About Possible Savings
You may know that some vacation expenses might be higher than regular monthly expenses you normally spend.
So, once you figure out the budget for that dreamy holiday, you can start saving some money. For instance, you can stop the going out dinners this month and put that money in your vacation budget savings collection.
Track Your Spendings during Travel
It might seem odd to some, but tracking the spendings during your travel is always a wise idea. This will help you to know if the budget you set was enough if you have underestimated the expenses and how much money you can still spend in the future days.
Coming up with a realistic travel budget takes time and experience. This is the only way you will know if you can take that dream trip, how you should look at a vacation on a budget, as well as how you can cut some expenses.
The Top 10 Places to Visit while on a Budget
Now that you have an idea about setting a realistic budget for your holiday, how to save money, and the possible extra expenses, it’s time for the fun part. Here is everything to know about our favorite destination to travel on a budget.
Keep an eye on the top affordable activities here, as well as some tips and tricks on how to save lots of money, even in exotic, luxurious places.
Needless to say that Cancun is one of the most beautiful paradises people dream about. Right in the Caribbean, Cancun might be usually associated with those luxurious resorts only rich people can stay at.
This is a cliche, trust us. Cancun should be a whole different experience, as it is a cheaper destination you might expect, and also an authentic one. You just need to know some tips about a vacation on a budget in Cancun.
Spoiler Alert: The best things in Cancun are nearly free. Sounds good?
Here is how you can save lots of money when visiting Cancun:
Go to the beach
This is what you came for, right? Cancun is famous for the most stunning beaches, with perfect white sand and turquoise waters. Coming here is like being in one of the Pinterest pictures we all daydream about being in.
Coming here costs a two-way bus ticket, less than a dollar per day. Swim, get tanned, snorkel, and play sports in this paradise. Best beaches: Playa Marlin, Playa Delfines, Playa Langosta, or Playa Forum.
Bike Along with Kukulkan Area
Are you a very active spirit, even on vacation? We recommend you renting a bike and wandering around Kukulcan Boulevard. There is nothing more relaxing and refreshing than biking in the morning or in the afternoon. Best part? It costs very little.
Take Instagram photos at Plaza Bonita
If you love to have a colorful Instagram feed, then you should not miss the Plaza Bonita, translated as “Pretty Plaza”. You can spot the colorful staircases, the vivid murals, and all those photogenic blue buildings.
Visit Museo Maya de Cancun
As you might know already, Mayans have played an important role during Cancun history. As such, you need to visit Museo Maya de Cancun. And it costs only $4.
Watch the Breathtaking Sunset View at Plaza La Isla
One of the best things to do in Cancun is watching the dazzling sunset over the ocean. And yes, that is free of charge. You just simply need to walk over and admire a landscape to remember.
Enjoy a Night Out with Free Drinks
One of the most famous places to party in Cancun is Coco Bongo. The shows here are spectacular, and the open bars have the craziest cocktails. The entrance price is low, as well as the drinks.
2) Cabo San Lucas
Right at the tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, you will find this fishing village, named Cabo San Lucas. The natural beauty here is undeniable, as well as the all-inclusive accommodations here.
However, if you look for a vacation on a budget in Cabo San Lucas, we would recommend you come around the low season.
The spring break is usually the most expensive time of the year, so choose to come during the off-season (May and June).
Here are some of the budget-friendly activities to do in Cabo San Lucas:
Take advantage of free attractions. You can visit the Museum of Natural History or the Estuary of San Jose del Cabo. The second attraction is a desert oasis, next to the San Jose
Try Local Cuisine
If you are looking for the most authentic, yet inexpensive experience in Cabo San Lucas, try the local cuisine. Tacos Guss and Las tres Islas are the best places to go to.
Choose a hotel in the Main Town
You should avoid the beach area when it comes to accommodation and consider a cheaper, yet comfortable hotel in the town center. The famous beaches won’t be that far and you will avoid the hefty bill on the main beach strip.
Negotiate with the locals
It is nothing new that you can receive better prices for food, souvenirs, or snacks if you try to negotiate with the locals. Bartering is a common practice all over Mexico.
Cabo San Lucas is one of the best places to shop if you are looking for discounted prices for fresh fruits or souvenirs. Locals are used to going back and forth to agree on a price for you.
Visit the Art Walk
If you come to Cabo between November and June, then you will have the great opportunity to visit Art Walk Cabo San Lucas. This is a nice event that takes place every Thursday. You will see lots of artists playing music, and have fun without spending too much money.
When you say Jamaica, you probably think about the birthplace of reggae, the beautiful beaches, Jamaican rum, as well as the luxurious all-inclusive hotels and resorts. Last but not least, you think about how much money you need to save to afford a vacation in this place like heaven.
However, not so many people think about traveling to Jamaica as a backpacker. What if we told you that you could enjoy this amazing Caribbean island without spending a fortune?
Indeed, Jamaica doesn’t have a rich culture for backpackers, however, this is the perfect destination on a budget.
Jamaica Vacation On A budget. Tips:
Don’t Travel by Chartered Taxis
These types of taxis are the most expensive, maybe ten times more expensive than the regular ones. Look for other means of transportation when traveling in Jamaica.
If you don’t want to spend a fortune during the holiday in Jamaica, look for some good offers from May through November. This is the off-season in Jamaica, and also the period of time when everything is 50% cheaper than during the peak season.
Sure, you might need the umbrella with you, but do some rain showers scare you? Moreover, the rain usually lasts a couple of hours, maybe less.
Top On Budget Places To Visit in Jamaica
- Bob Marley Museum: This emblematic place is located in the house where Bob Marley used to live and record his music until his death. The entrance is $20, but it is totally worth it.
- Reach Falls: These are by far the most breathtaking waterfalls in Jamaica. The entrance is only $10. There is actually no entrance fee if you choose the local entrance. However, if you look for a local guide, you need to pay.
- Green Grotto Caves: Jamaica has thousands of caves you can visit, a unique experience with crystal clear lakes.
- Blue Mountains: Visit the highest peak in Jamaica and enjoy the most popular hiking trails in the country.
- Blue Lagoon: Do you want to see the mystical blue water of Jamaica? Visit Blue Lagoon and enjoy the mixture of fresh and seawater.
- Hot Hangout Tip: Rick’s Cafe: If you find yourself in West End, Negril, hang out in one of the most popular spots for locals and for tourists. Adventurous Day time: Take your bathing suit try out the cliff diving. Romantic Evening: One of the best sunsets on the entire Island.
4) The Dominican Republic
One of the most colorful Spanish-speaking countries is the Dominican Republic, a place with perfect beaches, perfect for those who are dreaming about an experience in paradise.
The Dominican Republic celebrates nature, it is a vibrant, yet energetic place, the perfect getaway to the DR and also for Americans.
However, for most people, traveling to the Dominican Republic means an expensive experience.
Here are some tips to make your stay in the Dominican Republic more affordable:
Stay in Santo Domingo
If you don’t want to spend a fortune on accommodation, we would recommend you to stay in Santo Domingo, which is the first major European settlement in the New World.
Hang Out With Locals
Usually, the most touristic restaurants and bars have really high prices, and we can understand it. However, if you want to save some money, hang out with the locals at the authentic bars. These are everywhere, almost at any block corner.
Take the Less Glamorous Routes
Ok, it’s true, there is no way out of the most glorious beaches. However, you can save lots of money if you go to the beach by an Expreso Bavaro Bus, which costs only $10. So don’t rent any cars when you can take a more affordable route.
5) National Parks
If you love being in the middle of nature, then you should definitely visit the National Parks when traveling. However, usually, the entrance fees are kind of expensive.
Tips you can use during a National Park vacation on a budget:
Enjoy The Perks of The Fee-Free Day
Most of the National Park Service offers lots of free days during the course of the year. For instance, there are free days during Martin Luther King Jr. Day or National Public Lands Day or Veterans Day, and so on. You just need to make take note to when they are and then take advantage of it.
Travel with a Group
Not only you will save lots of money on gas when you travel in a group, but the entrance fees will be much more affordable. As you might already know, most of the national parks will charge per vehicle, not per person, which is very cool for your budget.
Rather than booking a hotel room, you can choose camping out, especially during the high season. Camping is by far the cheapest option, I highly recommend booking in advance to make sure that the campgrounds are not full when you arrive.
Try to make a reservation, just to be sure. Another smart option is to rent a cabin or a campground. Another option is to stay at a location outside of the park.
Look For Discounts
Most of the national parks offer better prices to AAA members, veterans, students, seniors, military personnel, or people with disabilities. If you are in one of these categories, make sure to specify when buying the tickets.
Consider an Annual Pass
If you are one of those avid travelers that plan lots of holidays in the national parks during the year, then you must have an annual pass. It will save you so much money for a whole year. Some of them even include the parking spot.
6) St. Augustine Florida
The fact that St. Augustine can be visited with a very little budget might delight those who appreciate a delightful walk all through North American history. Don’t miss Boston, Montreal, or Philadelphia.
Here are the best spots you can visit without spending too much money.
Don’t miss visiting Castillo de San Marcos, the stone fortification made out of a rare stone called coquina.
For those who are looking for a vacation on a budget, then they should have a glimpse of the Spanish soldier in Colonial Florida. Visiting the fort is all free, so you won’t spend any money on this activity.
Alcazar Hotel/ Lightner Museum
Alcazar was the second most luxurious hotel that was built in St Augustine. If you are looking for a budget-friendly method to visit this place, we would recommend you check out the front garden of the Lightner Museum.
If you want to see a little bit of the inside of the hotel, you can visit the Alcazar Cafe.
Pena Peck House
This is the city’s best-preserved Spanish home. You need to visit it, as it was built around 1750.
7) Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Are you planning to travel to Gatlinburg, Tennessee but don’t know if you can afford it?
Here are some tips for a vacation on a budget in Gatlinburg, Tennessee:
Stroll Through Downtown City
It will cost you so little to do this activity. It is a feast for your eyes to enjoy the Downtown Gatlinburg and also the Smoky Mountain spirit. The attractions in downtown are perfect for a casual walk, while you can enjoy the authentic spirit of the area.
Explore the National Park
One of the best spots to visit in Gatlinburg is the Great Smoky Mountains, National Park. This is actually the most visited National Parks in America. We all know that the best things in life are free, so is the visit to this National Park.
There are also some free ranger-led programs, within the national park, where you have lots of guided hikes, music, different demonstrations, and so on.
Check The Free Museums
One of the best things to do without spending too much money is visiting the museum with free entrance. Some of them are Sugarlands Visitor Center, with lots of exhibits about natural history.
Enjoy The Free Samples
If you are over 21 years old, then take advantage of the local distilleries and wineries in downtown. Not only can you get served some free samples of wine, but you will also learn a lot about the history of local beverages.
Book A Cabin
Some of the biggest costs in any vacation are those on accommodation. As such, if you want to save some money, try to book a cabin for your stay. This is the best way to take a trip on a certain budget.
8) Nags Head, North Carolina
This is one of the most popular vacation spots in North Carolina. I’d even go as far as saying the entire east coast. I have a lot of fond memories and it’s one of my favorite places to go. And it’s also a great option for a vacation on a budget. And there are so many things to do while you travel in the Outer Banks, that it is no wonder that so many people are orienting themselves to this area.
These are some of the best things to do without spending too much money in Nags Head:
- Corolla is the most remote point when it comes to Outer Banks. This place is perfect for those who love nature. The Currituck National Wildlife Refuge hosts some of the unique wild horses from Corolla.
- Lounge on the beaches of Corolla. You can either rent a bike or just walk off the Resort. Don’t miss the beautiful views once being here.
- Water Sports are also very popular in this area. Enjoy the great beaches, as well as the outdoor activities here.
- Duch Jazz Festival: every October, the town hosts this great event, which gathers people all around the world. The town is very easy to navigate during the festival, so you will be able to enjoy all the spots here, by foot or by bike.
9) Gettysburg, PA
Especially if you travel with the whole family, you already know how big the expenses will be. Even a short vacation with kids can drain your wallet, especially if you don’t do your research.
Fortunately, Gettysburg, PA has lots of budget-friendly options for you. As soon as you visit Gettysburg, you can truly have a vacation on a budget.
Here are some best budget-conscious activities to have in your itinerary to Gettysburg:
There are a considerable number of free options once arriving in Gettysburg. There is nothing more budget-friendly than free activities. Here are some of them:
- Gettysburg’s Summer Interpretive Programs: Here we talk about some free tours that run all summer long. These tours include Battlefield in a Box, Meade’s Headquarters Open House, or Pickett’s Charge hike.
- Soldier’s National Cemetery: Another great free option is visiting Soldier’s National Cemetery, where you can pay your respect to all the heroes who lost their lives for the country’s liberty.
- Visit the great museums: there are some amazing museums to visit in Gettysburg for free. Some of them feature expensive private collections, even artifacts from different wars and emblematic moments in history.
Tip: If you enjoy shopping. People come from hours away for The Outlet Shoppes at Gettysburg. They are located right off the highway, just 3 miles from Downtown Gettysburg
10) Niagara Falls, New York
Visiting Niagara Falls has never been so affordable. It’s enough to consider these tips for a vacation on a budget:
First of all, save money by traveling off-season. If you avoid the peak period, you will enjoy lots of free and low-cost activities.
Pack Your Own Snacks
Most of the people spend a lot of money on lunch and drinks. Why not bring your own snacks and spend that money on some cool souvenirs instead? Food tends to be very pricey around the touristy Niagara.
For instance, you can stock up on little picnic food, like crackers, fruits, cheese, or granola bars.
Plan To Come during Summertime
Summertime is the best time to visit Niagara Falls. If you go during the months of June or September, you will get the best weather and escape all those crowds and lines, as well as the expensive hotel prices. However, during the winter the prices are very low.
Visit Best Attractions around Niagara Falls
Once you plan your vacation on a budget to Niagara Falls, take your family or the loved one to the botanical gardens, right in the center of nature. Or just simply plan a hiking day, as there are lots of trails in that area.
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As you can see, there are so many breathtaking locations to travel even when you are on a strict budget. You just need to give it extra thought and plan the trip around the amount you can afford to spend.
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