My hubby and I are probably a bit too well-known for budgeting and being thrifty, penny-pinchers or cheapskates, depending on who you’re talking to. After fighting our way out of $70k of debt during the last three years, we now finally are debt free!
But even though our monthly payments are gone, we still are limited by finances. If anything, getting out of debt taught us how to be more conscientious when it comes to finances, saving and being frugal. We’ve had to make plenty of compromises and do without along the way, but one thing we’ve never had to give up entirely is our love of travel. We still manage to fit in a couple of vacations throughout the year, while still saving up for a down payment for a house, keeping our emergency fund well-funded and putting money away for retirement.
How My Family Travels on a Budget …
The key to traveling while on a budget is compromise. We still travel, but we’ve found ways to travel that cost less out of pocket. As much as I would love to stay in a fancy all-inclusive resort, doing so would mean I only would able to afford one trip a year instead of one every month.
Accommodation is often one of the most expensive aspects of travel. There are plenty of great options with alternative sites such as couchsurfing.com, but with a family of young kids, the risk factor is just a bit too high for me to feel comfortable. Also, cramming into a hostel room with 10+ other people is, again, just too risky for our family.
One way we’ve slashed our overnight prices is by camping. As much as possible, we bring a tent and get a campsite for a fraction of the cost of a hotel room. Sure, the maid service isn’t there and the bathrooms are shared with an entire campground, but for only $20 a night we can afford to do a lot more other things on our trip. If we’re really in a pinch, or traveling in sparsely populated areas, we have a blow-up air mattress in the back of our huge Suburban. We throw down a few seats and, voila! We have a bed in the back of our car whenever we need it. Sharing a bed with a toddler can get a bit cramped, but for a night or two of free accommodation, we’re not too picky.
On some vacations, we have been known to spring for a room at Motel 6. They’re cheap, affordable, and plenty of them are getting revamped and are actually quite comparable to the Best Westerns down the street that cost twice as much.
Length of Stay
Between paid vacation time, tight budgets and extra jobs, we haven’t always been able to afford full-blown vacations. In those times, weekend trips away have been a great substitute that still help us get the feel and experience of a vacation without having to pay for an entire week’s worth of expenses. Nearly everyone lives within driving distance of some sort of weekend getaway, and for a shorter trip, you often can pack almost enough groceries to get you through the entire trip, and that really can cut down on food expenses. If you feel like you can’t afford to travel, just try taking a weekend away. You’d be amazed at how much fuller your life is, and how much fuller your bank account is as well!
Travel in the Off-Season
Recently, my hubby and I found non-stop plane tickets from California to Copenhagen for less than $200 a person. Copenhagen may not seem like a dream winter destination, but on the other hand, our entire family will be able to enjoy a trip to Europe for less than $1,000. By bundling up and traveling in the off-season, we easily will be saving thousands of dollars compared to traveling during summer, when prices soar and my husband would need to take time off of work.
If you’re looking at traveling somewhere specific, try researching to find prime vacation times and travel during the off-season. Not only will prices be cheaper, but you’ll also have fewer crowds to contend with. We live in Lake Tahoe, where summer and winter tourist crowds make getting around a hassle and drive prices up through the roof. But spring and fall are much less crowded, even though there are plenty of weeks where visitors still could enjoy the same seasonal amenities as in the off-season.
If you think traveling is not affordable, think outside the box! Just applying these few points can help save you hundreds and even thousands of dollars, and help people on even the tightest of budgets fit travel into their lives while still being financially sound.
What about you? Do you have any budget travel tips?
Bryn Wied is a travel blogger and writer at Trekeffect, as well as an outdoor enthusiast and serious travelholic. She explores every inch of the globe in her Sanuk flip-flops with her favorite travel buddy/hubby Matt. Matt and Bryn live in California where they blog, surf, snowboard and raise kids in between road trips and camping adventures.
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