Benefiting You

How to take a last-minute vacation on a budget

Going on summer vacation is a rite of passage for many families. School is out, and more destinations are open, making it a popular time to travel. AAA reports 35% of families went on vacation in 2017 — and it stands to reason many of those vacations took place in the summer.

Vacations are also expensive, especially if they’re not planned. This can pose a problem if you haven’t planned a trip but still have the itch to travel. But it’s possible to take a last-minute vacation on a budget if you’re wise and follow a few simple tips.

Here’s how to satisfy your desire to be spontaneous without scrimping on the fun.

Know when to travel
Taking a last-minute vacation does limit you, but it also provides opportunity if you have a flexible schedule. If you plan to fly to your destination, keep in mind summer is the most expensive time to fly, according to Business Insider.

It makes sense to take advantage of weekends to avoid using too many vacation days. However, it may be cheaper to fly during the week. “You can save hundreds of dollars on hotels and flights just by shifting your itinerary by one day,” says Sara Skirboll, savings expert at RetailMeNot. “The best fares and rates generally are reserved for midweek travel.”

If your schedule and vacation days allow for it, you may save significant money by picking a Tuesday or Wednesday to travel. Want to keep your costs even lower? Consider traveling to a destination you can get to by car and plan your lodging for midweek.

Use the right apps.
Money-saving apps are a great way to save money on everyday items. Don’t overlook those apps when it comes to planning a last-minute vacation. Many of those same apps allow you to save on a variety of things that can be used for a vacation: gas, restaurants, amusement parks, event tickets and more.

Here are just a few examples of money-saving apps to check out:

  • Ibotta
  • GasBuddy
  • Groupon
  • LivingSocial
  • RetailMeNot

Some of these apps even offer deals for last-minute vacations. Again, if you have flexibility, apps such as Groupon or LivingSocial offer deals targeted at last-minute travelers looking for a trip idea that won’t break their budget.

Be flexible.
Flexibility is key when it comes to planning a last-minute vacation on a budget. Traveling last-minute can be expensive in certain circumstances, but being flexible will help you avoid many extra costs.

Remember, travel is a competitive business. This can be used to your advantage to save money. “By being flexible with your travel plans, you’ll be able to get the most for your money by comparing costs of various travel options,” Skirboll says. “A lot of destinations are fighting for business, so keep your eyes peeled for savings opportunities rather than setting your heart on one particular location.”

Sites such as Expedia and Orbitz let you compare pricing at multiple hotels to find the best deal. You may even want to consider calling certain destinations and asking for the best deal they can offer.

Don’t overlook easy ways to save.
Going on vacation adds a lot of costs, but it doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun. Here are some easy ways to save more money that won’t diminish the memories:

  • Stay local. Only go somewhere you can get to with a tank of gas.
  • Take your own snacks.
  • Stay in a hotel room that has a kitchen.
  • Rent a house instead of staying in a hotel.

Don’t overlook freebies when it comes to your vacation.

“One of the most commonly overlooked booking promotions for vacation destinations is bonuses or freebie deals, such as receiving a free night with a required minimum stay, resort bonus cash or activities,” says Natasha Rachel Smith, travel expert at TopCashBack. “Keep an eye out for these sales when booking your trip to get the most bang for your buck. You’d be amazed at how much you can save on a last-minute vacation when you look for deals, use rewards and take advantage of freebies.”

Take a staycation if there’s no other option.
If you’re unable to take a last-minute vacation because it won’t fit in your budget, consider a staycation. It may not have the glamour of going somewhere new or exotic, but it can still provide lifelong memories.

The key with a staycation is to not work during your time off. Be purposeful about avoiding work during your staycation and focus on enjoying time with your family. Go places you’ve always wanted to visit, whether it’s a local attraction or restaurant. Eliminating lodging and travel costs will provide the funds necessary to enjoy your time off and still have a vacation experience.

Taking a last-minute vacation on a budget can be a challenge, but with some creativity and flexibility, you can create lifelong memories for a fraction of the cost.

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