Spring Break is just around the corner, and many people, myself included are welcoming the chance to get away from home and explore new places. But most of us are on a budget. We need a vacation that’s fun and that doesn’t eat up our savings because Easter’s coming up and we’ll need to fill baskets with candy eggs.
Thankfully, there are several ways to cut costs and keep under budget.
I’m assuming you’re travelling with at least one extra person,Credit: Jennifer S. Johnson because we need friends and family to have fun with, and the cheapest way to travel would be by car. Sure, you can find good deals on airline tickets, but they’re very limited as opposed to where you can go and when you can go. Cars give you more flexibility, and the cost of a tank of gas is about equal to a train or bus ticket. Except, if there are four people in the car, you can easily split the cost between you all.
Obviously, the less you drive the less gas you use and the less money you put in the tank. I recommend finding a city four to six hours away. It’s not a lot, that for sure, but it’ll still opens up so many options. From my own native Detroit I have Chicago, Pittsburg, Windsor, Toronto, Milwaukee, Columbus, Indianapolis, and Niagara Falls all within that time limit and all would provide a new, fun environment. Even if you live out West, there are still great places within a day’s travel that you could explore. The United States is so big, take advantage of our diversity!
The best lodging is cheap lodging. And you can’t get any better than free couch surfing.
Couch surfing is exactly what it sounds like, you spend the night on the couch of a host in the city you’re visiting. Very often you’re not actually on a couch and are put in spare bedroom. Couch surfers have ranged from broke college students to full families, all put up by strangers. Sure, it may sound a little iffy, but it’s not much different than hosting or being an exchange student. CouchSurfing.org has many safety features; members receive references, are vouched for, and have their location verified.
Many hosts also enjoy playing tour guide, giving you local information on what to do and how to get around the city. They’re great people who can make your trip that much more exciting and be good friends.
It’s always cheaper to cook than to go out. If you’re in a hotel that serves breakfast, make sure you eat a lot to last through the day. Make sure you hit up a local grocery store. Buy snacks to munch on through out the day, fruit and granola bars are great. And if you can’t survive off of snacks for lunch, buy sandwich fixings. If you have a fridge in your hotel room, it can store lunchmeat, otherwise go for PB&J supplies. The six or seven dollars you spend on peanut butter, jelly, and bread, can make enough lunches to last you a week. That’s much better than spending $5 every day at Subway.
Of course, you’ll have to eat out sometimes. You’re on vacation, you’re supposed to live a little. I think it’s pretty obvious to avoid restaurants out of your price range, but don’t forget to check out Groupon. While a lot of similar sites have great deals too, most of them don’t have immediate deals, coupons you can pay for and use right away.
Groupon does. They’re called Now!Deals, and most of them are offered by restaurants. They usually are 50% off deals, $40 worth of food for $20, and have to be used within a certain time period of the day. Thus, I’d recommend you look through the deals when you’re hungry, and not pre-purchase them. That way, you can pick a place based on where you are and what you’re in the mood to eat.
The best place to look for things to do will be the city’s website, as they list all events in the city and area. There’s always local shows; city theatre troupes, local bands, community orchestras. Don’t forget to check out universities in the city too, they usually have student performances or host larger attractions at reasonable prices.
Also consider a city pass. Several large cities offer them, usually around $60-$70, and they get you access to several city attractions at a discounted price. The pass can include entrance to places like museums, zoos, and historical buildings, and can be used over a period of nine days.
Don’t forget to explore free options too, like visiting city parks and just enjoying the natural flow of things where you travel too. Even the biggest of cities will have parks outside of the city limit where you can enjoy a day hike or two, so don’t feel like you have to be surrounded by skyscrapers. Plus, hiking is typically free. And if the city has a waterfront, spend a day walking along that. They’re usually very pleasant walks and well maintained. Knowing how to navigate in a new city will be helpful if you plan on spending a good deal walking.
I wish you happy travels!