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How to Vacation on a Budget

According to Reader’s Digest, one of the cheapest months to travel is February. With the holidays in the rearview mirror and spring not yet upon us, it’s a perfect time to get away. That said, there are numerous ways to have a fun and memorable vacation without breaking the bank. Below is a list of suggestions on how to do so.

Choose the flight, not the destination

Although this may seem like an untraditional way to book a vacation, picking a flight before a destination is a surefire way to save big bucks on travel. Flight websites like Google Flights allow you to browse the cheapest domestic and international flight destinations based on your desired travel timeframe. If you’re not dead set on a specific destination and are just looking to get away, this is definitely the way to travel. For domestic flights, it’s recommended to book at least a month in advance; for international flights, two months in advance. If you want to travel to a specific destination, consider flying to or from a nearby alternative airport, as you may be able to save a few hundred dollars on airfare. You can also set up airfare alerts on websites like Hopper and Trip.com to be notified of ticket deals

Be flexible

If you want to save money while traveling, you have to be flexible. One of the easiest ways to do so is by limiting the number of “touristy” things you do while on vacation. Try to keep all bucket list items to five or fewer per vacation, and accept that in most travel scenarios, you won’t get to do or see everything you want to. Instead of traveling with a jam-packed itinerary, utilize spontaneity to your advantage. You may find that you not only save money but experience a new destination that not all tourists know about. Similarly, being flexible with where you eat can save you a decent chunk of change. Instead of eating out for every meal, consider packing some of your meals and having a picnic! If you’re staying in a hotel, be sure to ask if they offer free breakfast services. It’s also wise to ask locals for suggestions on eateries that don’t break the bank.

Travel in the offseason

If you have a specific destination in mind, one of the best ways to travel is by doing so in the offseason. You’ll not only save money on airfare and lodging, but you’ll beat the tourist crowd. Also, traveling in the middle of the week is an excellent way to save money on airfare. Statistically, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are the cheapest days to travel, while the weekends are the most expensive. The same can be said about lodging, as most people tend to stay in hotels over the weekend. When booking a flight or hotel, it's wise to purchase travel insurance with it. While it does cost a little extra, it can save you money in the event of an illness or emergency that requires you to cancel your trip. 

Stay for less

While hotels are often the preferred choice when traveling, there are less expensive lodging options. Airbnb is one of the most popular lodging alternatives in the modern day. Your possibilities are nearly limitless with Airbnb, from single-room stays to entire island homes, and everything in between. In many instances, Airbnb’s are cheaper than traditional hotel rooms. For young travelers in larger cities, hostels are also a great option. While they’re a fun way to meet other travelers, they’re also relatively inexpensive. A timeless way to stay while on vacation is by camping. Although not ideal for all travel destinations, camping is a cheap (and sometimes free) way to crash for the night while connecting with nature. Just be sure to follow your campsite’s rules. Further, if you have friends or family who live in your travel destination, consider staying with them. 

Let’s travel!

There are a number of travel destinations that are fun, memorable, and cheap. If you want to travel somewhat regionally, consider a trip to St. Augustine, Florida. In St. Augustine, accommodations are decently priced, and many attractions are free or low-cost. Asheville, North Carolina is also a fairly priced travel destination, nestled in the Smoky Mountains. It’s a perfect spot for both indoor and outdoor people, as it bolsters unique breweries, interesting museums, and excellent hiking trails. A stone’s throw away, Gatlinburg, Tennessee is an affordable travel destination people of all ages can enjoy. From ski lifts to moonshine, and everything in between, Gatlinburg has it all. For those looking to escape the southeast for a while, consider a trip to New Mexico. Its rich culture, natural beauty, and delicious food make it a gem among overlooked travel destinations. If the desert isn’t your speed, Maine is just as beautiful. For those itching to travel internationally, Mexico, Laos, and India are affordable yet fun travel destinations.

While everyone loves a great vacation, everyone also loves saving money. Although these two don’t often mix, there are ways to see the world without seeing an empty wallet. If you’re looking to get away for a while, now is the perfect time to do so!

Need a little extra cash to take the vacation of your dreams? Gulf Winds can help you out. 


Hunter Morrison

Hunter Morrison

Hunter has freelanced for various print and radio publications across Northwest Florida, including The Bay Beacon, Navarre Press, Inweekly, Crestview News Bulletin, and WUWF. He was also the Editor in Chief of the University of West Florida’s student newspaper, The Voyager. In 2023, Hunter moved to Kenai, Alaska to take up a news reporting position with KDLL Public Radio. For fun, Hunter enjoys cross-country skiing, hiking, photography, thrifting, traveling, and looking for the best Thai food around. 

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