Travel is a huge driver of the U.S. economy. In fact, last year direct spending by domestic and international travelers in the U.S. averaged $3 billion per day. But even though traveling will cost you some major dough, it doesn’t have to put a giant dent in your personal budget.
With a little savvy planning, everyone can achieve their fun, memorable vacation dreams without blowing the budget. Here are seven expert tips to get you started.
1. Travel During the Off Season
To experience affordable luxury in popular tourist areas, budget travelers should opt to visit any number of big cities during the off season. For example, elegant hotels near Chicago’s premier shopping district on the Magnificent Mile offer steep discounts in January — you’ll pay $130 per night or less — as do the beautiful resorts in the Phoenix area in the summer. While the weather outside may not be ideal, you’re likely to turn the other cheek and still enjoy yourself in these and other big cities.
2. Get Delivery
Travelers can save on costly airline baggage fees by packing only a carry-on bag. So don’t pack extra snacks, diapers or toiletries. Instead, use Instacart and Amazon to deliver any necessities once you arrive. As a bonus, you’ll save on eating out and the cost of transportation, too.
3. Plan to Walk — A Lot!
The cost of self-parking, a rental car and/or taxi service adds up quickly. Then again, you can avoid these hefty costs by choosing a destination that offers attractions within walking distance of one another. Additionally, instead of staying at a deceptively cheaper hotel outside the city, plan to stay downtown so you can walk to nearby hotels, restaurants, shopping centers and nightlife.
4. Go Gig
Travel is much more affordable (and memorable) now that the playing field has been leveled with the gig economy. That means before booking anything, look at Airbnb for unique and spacious condos, as well as Uber or Lyft for transportation to and from the airport and hotel.
5. Eat and Drink Wisely
Eating out is one of the best parts of vacation, but it also tends to be expensive. In fact, in January 2019, dining prices at restaurants were 2.7 percent higher than in 2018. But you don’t have to deprive yourself completely just to save a few pennies. Instead, know that restaurant lunch prices are much more affordable than what you’ll find at dinner. In the evening, consider buying a bottle of wine and your favorite snack from a corner store and enjoy it from the comfort and privacy of your hotel room.
6. Apply for a Rewards Credit Card
If you have good credit, use it to score awesome rewards you can redeem for travel. For example, you’ll score 60,000 bonus points just by opening the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. You’ll also receive two points for every dollar spent on travel and dining. From there, you can redeem points directly for travel expenses through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program or a one-to-one transfer with another frequent travel program, like United Airlines or Hyatt Hotels.
7. Sign Up for Special Email Offers
When looking for and booking true budget-friendly vacations, instead of trying to find deals, let the deals come to you. For example, if you’re hoping to take an Alaska cruise vacation, Princess will send you special offers through email so you can travel in luxury without breaking the bank.
Never Overspend Again
Booking great vacations is possible for every budget by traveling during the off season, using a credit card rewards program, and taking advantage of special offers, services and discounts. With some careful planning and by taking a few extra steps, travelers can vacation in style without overspending.