With the economy in decline and no end in sight, many people are seeing their bank accounts shrink and their travel options dry up. But tightening the belt isn't necessarily the same as not having any fun. Travel is one of the most enjoyable things of life; just because the economy is bad doesn't mean you should have to change your internet dating profile byline from "travel nut" to "too broke to leave home."
By simply planning on a smaller (less luxurious) scale and following some of the tips below, you should still be able to travel this year… and fit it easily into your budget.
1. Plan far in advance. If you try to plan a vacation only a month or two ahead of time, you're going to pay much higher fees for travel, hotels, rentals cars, etc. When you wait too long to reserve a spot at your favorite destination, you'll pay heavily for it. Start planning at least six months ahead, before all of the best deals are snapped up.
2. Wait until the last minute. Okay, this seems to be the exact opposite of the advice given above, but… it's just as valid. If you don't have the time or ability to plan ahead, think about going on a last-minute trip instead. Have your bags packed and ready to go, and watch for last-minute (cheap!) deals on travel sites and with travel agencies. The only hiccup? You have to be ready to leave immediately, and be very open about where you want to go. There won't be much choice!
3. Search for holiday apartments. A new trend in travel is the vacation or holiday apartment. These apartments are generally rented by the night or the week by their owners, and are a terrific way to save money. With vacation apartments, you get more space and amenities for less money. Plus, as most come with a full kitchen and dining area, you'll be able to save a ton of money on meals, as well. Eating out is expensive; with a holiday apartment you can really trim you budget by eating most meals in your own kitchen.
4. Go in the off season. While some locations are pretty unpleasant during the off-season (think 24-hour a day rainstorms), most places are almost as nice in the off-season as they are during the peak. The weather may be cooler, but the cities and sights empty of tourists; making them, if anything, more pleasant. As a bonus, you can get great deals shopping for off-season vacations, getting as much as 75% off the peak season rates.
5. Tune your car and your driving. If you plan to get to your destination with a car, be sure to have it tuned and looked over first. Having your car break down in the middle of nowhere is expensive and stressful. Be sure to fill up the tires to improve your gas mileage, and drive to conserve gas rather than to get there faster.
6. Allow for unusual hours. When flying to your holiday destination, you might find that some flights are cheaper when arrival or departure times are a little unusual or inconvenient. Go for them! Sure, it's a pain when you have to leave your home at 3:00 in the morning for a 5:30 a.m. flight, but your bank account will thank you. And after all, you can always sleep on the plane.
7. Skimp on the hotel. For most vacations, the point of traveling at all is, well, seeing the place itself. You don't go to Paris or San Francisco or Niagara Falls to sit in your hotel room all day. You go there to experience the city and the culture around you. Which means that the hotel is one of the first places you can look to save money. It's also the place where you will probably save the most. Plan ahead, and look at some hotels that you might otherwise pass by.
8. Don't worry about your wheels. Too many travelers are picky about what kind of car they rent on vacation. Don't be. You don't need a fast or flashy car for a trip through the wine country; you simply need something with wheels and a roof. Choosing an economy car instead of a full size can save you hundreds… and do you really need a sun roof and iPod dock for the radio?
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