Want to go on an adventure, but don't want to break the bank? Taking a break from the stress of school isn't just fun — it's an important part of achieving a healthy work/life balance. But the last thing you want to do is eat ramen noodles for the rest of the semester because you overspent.
So, what can you do? Here are some tips for planning a fun getaway where you'll be able to relax and not go over budget.
Decide on your travel budget
Before you plan your trip, you need to figure out how much money you have to work with. Look at the money that will be coming in via support from parents, jobs or student loans in the next few months. How much do you spend on necessities every month? How much of that is flexible? How much can you put towards travel without making your budget too tight for the rest of the semester?
Once you have a number, don't be tempted to add to it or overspend in order to keep up with friends who have a larger budget for travel. Find ways to work within it by getting creative about where you go or how you pay for necessities while on vacation. Or consider taking on a side hustle to help pay for the additional expenses.
Start planning early for cheap flights and more
The best way to keep your travel costs in check is to plan ahead. If you're planning on flying somewhere or booking a hotel, you're more likely to get a deal if you book it sooner rather than later.
As soon as you know where you want to go, sign up for travel price alerts. Google allows you to keep track of fluctuations in prices for things like plane tickets.1
Also, be sure to use the science of booking travel to your advantage. According to the travel site Skyscanner, when you are looking for cheap flights, the best time to book a flight is two to three weeks in advance for domestic travel and five to six months in advance for international travel.2 January and February are the best months to book flights and you might even get extra savings if you book at 5:00 AM on a Tuesday.
That said, you can sometimes get really good deals at the last minute if you're flexible about where you want to go and which days you're willing to leave. Most travel sites have great deals on cheap flights for last minute travel.
You should also plan ahead how you want to spend your time during your trip to find cool cheap or free things that you can do. For example, some museums have days when they offer free entrance. Similarly, some popular restaurants will have nights where they offer food or drink specials. Knowing these things in advance will save you money.
Just because some of your friends are flying off to far-flung destinations doesn't mean you have to. Consider traveling by car, bus or train to a destination that is within a few hours of where you live. Getting a cabin in the woods or going skiing nearby can be just as much fun as sitting on a beach all day. You might not get a tan, but you'll have lots of great stories to tell when you return.
If you've got a really limited budget, consider having a staycation and doing all the things you don't usually have the time or money to do in the city you live in.
Split travel expenses with friends
Whether you are backpacking across Europe or planning on staying closer to home, traveling with friends isn't just more fun and more likely to lead to epic Instagram photos, it is also more cost effective. Whether you book a hotel, cottage or an Airbnb, being able to split the cost with a bunch of friends will help significantly. You can also share the cost of things like cabs to the airport, gas if you're going on a road trip, parking, food, and other expenses.
Travel agencies and resorts will also sometimes give deals if you book a large number of trips with them. In fact, you can sometimes get a free trip if you're able to sign up a certain number of other students to go to a particular resort or destination.
The lesson? The more friends you can recruit, the less expensive your trip is likely to be.
DIY travel hacks
Once you get to your travel destination, focus on ways to decrease your costs. Head to the grocery store and get staples for breakfast, snacks, and lunch that you can eat in your room. Things like muffins, cereal, chips, fruit, and sandwich ingredients are easy to make and most hotel rooms have a fridge to keep things cool. Do this with drinks too. If your destination has a kitchen, you can also take turns making dinner with your friends. Check out local street food to take in some culture without overspending.
Finally, look for ways to have fun without spending money. Bring fun games along to play, look for low cost or free things to do like hiking or hanging out on the beach. Host a dance party in your hotel room. Find DIY ways to have a great time.
Budget travel is just as fun
Just because you have a budget doesn't mean you can't have an amazing time on your next trip. In fact, having a limited budget can help you get more creative and lead to an even better time. Just make sure that you know how much you can spend every day so that you aren't tempted to spend more.
If you follow these tips, you'll be able to come back rested and relaxed – rather than worried you spent too much!
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