So, you’ve decided that taking an affordable last minute vacation is something you can pull off this year. Maybe you found a way to scrimp and save last month to splurge on a quick weekend getaway or a family member invited you for a week at their beach rental.
Whatever the reason, congratulations! Studies show vacations are critical to our physical and mental health. They can be a great way to reconnect with family, loved ones and ourselves.
But now that you have the days off, you have a new task at hand — planning an affordable last minute vacation without the benefits of weeks of pre-planning to nab the best deals.
Never fear. Your spur of the moment trip doesn’t have to ruin your budget.
Six tips for building an affordable last minute vacation
Make it a family and friend affair
Inviting along other family members or friends means you can split the cost on a vacation rental, save on gas if you travel together and even cut ticket fees at museums or theme parks if your group is big enough to earn a group rate. Bonus if you are a parent: Bringing along another family with kids means your own children have built-in vacation playmates. Start asking around!
Be creative with your housing options
Instead of booking the cheapest hotel that comes up in your Google search, for your affordable last minute vacation consider trying out Priceline’s Name Your Own Price service. It lets you choose the price, area and star level of hotels where you are headed. Or, consider services such as Airbnb, where you might be able to rent a condo, apartment or home for less money than a hotel.
Bonus: When you rent an entire apartment or house, you will get access to a kitchen, which means you can save even more money by eating most meals in, not out. Frugal for Less offers some tips for saving money on Airbnb.
It can cost as little as $10 a night to pitch a tent at a U.S. National Park. Camping is an incredibly frugal option for budget travelers, especially if you already own the gear or can borrow some from a friend. Last year, we shared five tips for making your next camping trip affordable.
Map out your activities before you go
You won’t have months to research every possible activity, but even an hour or so online will give you a good understanding of what your destination has to offer. Maybe there’s an amusement park that your kids really want to go to or a museum that you’ve always wanted to explore.
Before you go, make the hard decisions about which activities you’ll have the time and money for — and which ones you’ll need to skip. Get the rest of your family or group on board so nobody tries to guilt trip you into going somewhere you can’t afford while you’re away.
Consider your food costs
Just like your activities, map out your vacation food strategy before you go — and set expectations with the rest of your group. Will you be preparing most of your meals from your rental? Will you be packing picnic lunches each day, so you can splurge at dinner? Are there restaurants with kids eat free deals or happy hour specials where you’re headed?
A quick online search could turn up some great deals. And packing food and drinks from home, including water bottles — reusable or disposable — can save you big money when you’re away.
Expect the unexpected
Just about every vacation budget needs a little bit of wiggle room. You might need to pay for parking. Maybe you forgot your sunscreen or your baby’s diapers. Or maybe your child catches an ear infection — and you have to buy medicine and cover the co-pay for a trip to urgent care. As you decide how much you can spend for your affordable last minute vacation, be sure to include a little extra padding in the budget to ensure you can handle it all without worry.
Finally, relax! Enjoy all of the fruits of your labor, and spend your vacation knowing that you’ve earned your time off.
The CESI Team is committed to helping you reach your financial goals. If debt keeps you from living the life you dream of, contact us for a free debt analysis today and get started on the road to a brighter future!