Have you always wanted to see Mount Rushmore or the Grand Canyon? Maybe a trip to San Francisco or New York City is on your traveling bucket list, but you just haven't made it happen yet. We all know taking a vacation can be expensive, but don't let the numbers keep you from taking your dream trip. There are a bunch of ways you can cut those costs to hit any budget.
Find Deals on Flights
Being flexible on flight dates and times can save you hundreds of dollars on plane tickets. Generally speaking, tickets will be cheaper if you're flying in the middle of the week. The same goes for flying on a holiday since many people will be traveling in the days before or after, not on the holiday itself. Finally, consider joining a frequent flyer program. I've gotten several free flights through Southwest thanks to their Rapid Rewards program, and I don't travel that much.
Save on Accommodations
Lodging is one of the biggest expenses of your trip. Keep an eye out for package deals on sites like Priceline and Travelocity. Sometimes you can get a good deal by bundling your flight, hotel, and rental car (if you need one).
Make sure you don't count out booking directly from the hotel's website, though. If you're booking in advance it's often cheaper to cut out the middleman and go right to the source. However, if it's a last-minute thing you'll want to check those third party sites. Hotels will use them to help get rooms rented out at a discount rate just so they're filled for the night.
Rewards programs are another thing to keep in mind. You can use a rewards credit card or sign up for a certain hotel's reward points program if they have one. Racking up those points could earn you some free night stays.
Don't limit yourself to traditional hotels, either. Sites like Airbnb or VRBO offer good options for different types of stays. If you're looking for something even cheaper, there's always the good old couch-surfing at a friend's house if you've got on in the area you'll be visiting.
Make sure to do some research about your destination before booking the trip. You'll be able to plan your visit around "free days" where some museums, national parks, zoos, and the like will offer free admission. If you're in the service, look for places that offer a military discount.
You should also try to cut down on your travel expenses by doing routine maintenance. If you're road-tripping it to your destination, check your car's tires for the proper air pressure, don't speed, and don't pack too much luggage. It's going to help you save a little on gas money (after all, every penny counts).
Look Into Cheaper Transportation Options
While you're looking for those deals on things to do at your vacation spot, think about how you'll be getting to each location. Try to pick things that you can walk to from your hotel. The fewer times you have to call Uber or a Taxi the better. Walking also can give you a better feel of the area you're in. One of my friends and I visited Arlington National Cemetery and walked all the way back to Union Station where she lived. It was an incredibly long walk, but I got to see D.C. in a way I never had before.
Keep other means of transportation in mind, too. In some places you can rent a bike or use public transportation. If there's a good bus or subway system where you're going, see if it will be cheaper to buy a day or week pass instead of paying your fares for each trip. A lot of the time you can come out ahead using those passes.
The best way to save money on food is to go for a meal that is not dinner. Lunch or even brunch can be great options, especially because you will sometimes have leftovers that you can eat for dinner. You can also try going off the beaten path to avoid the more touristy restaurants. You could end up finding something much better than what's on the main drag, and it probably won't be as expensive.