It’s that time of year. College students are getting time off, and families are taking a break from the daily grind. Yes, it’s spring break. But that doesn’t mean you have to break your budget. Here are five ways to get the vacation you want without spending money you don’t have.
Pick a nearby destination
Staycations have been all the rage for a while now, but there’s definitely a happy medium between traveling to Hawaii and staying home. If you are one of the lucky ones living in a warm part of the country, chances are there’s a beach or two within driving distance. It may not be the vacation of a lifetime, but folks in Central Texas can drive to Galveston for a great three-day getaway. North Carolinians have Myrtle Beach and Seattleites have Vancouver, Canada, to the north, or Portland, Oregon, to the south. And if you live in the Northeast, you can visit the Jersey Shore for a beach vacation or get a nice change of scenery in upstate New York towns like Woodstock or New Paltz. It’s a chance to get away from the big city and revel in nature.
Stay on your own coast
It’s tempting to want to take a vacation across the country, but the time it’ll take to get there—not to mention the jet lag you will incur as a result—almost makes it not worth the trip. Instead, think about all the destinations on your own coast. And if you’re looking to really game the system, follow the advice of the Frugal Travel Guy, and go where the cheap fares are. The destination might not be your first choice, but it might be the cheapest.
Think about Mexico
Yes, there’s a travel warning in Mexico, so you’ll have to be a little more careful here. But as the State Department says on its website, millions of tourists travel to Mexico each year without incident. Whether you are single, married or traveling with a family, Mexico can offer every type of spring break experience you’d ever want. While the flight might cost you more money up front (hopefully you’ve been saving your pennies), crossing the border is enticing for one major reason: American dollars go much further than they do in a similar destination like Miami. One American dollar is the equivalent to 12 Mexican pesos, which means booking a resort, going out to dinner and taking part in tourist activities will be far cheaper once you get there.
Don’t stay in a hotel
Renting a hotel room can be a nice luxury, but if you want greater bang for your buck, avoid hotels and rent a vacation home through VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner), VacationRentals.com or Homeaway.com. These are traditional renting sites where owners of second homes lease their properties. (Save even more money by using VRBO coupons and Homeaway coupons.)
Another more experimental option is AirBnB.com. With it, you sublet a room or property directly from a renter or owner, and they may be there during your stay. AirBnB will hold your payment until 24 hours after you check in, and after your vacation, you and the owner can post reviews of your experience.
While not ideal for families, this option can be a boon to singles, especially those who are traveling in a foreign country and want a host to show them how the locals live. Be aware, though, that some cities like San Francisco and New York have outlawed renters from using their apartments as quasi hotel rooms; however many are doing it anyway. (Get AirBnB.com coupons and discount gift cards.)
Besides saving money on a place to stay, there are other benefits, including access to a kitchen (a good way to save on food and drinks) and, if you’re lucky, the convenience of a washer and dryer (a way to save on luggage fees by packing fewer clothes).
Alternately, you might consider apartment and house swapping. For a monthly fee, you can sign up to be a member of sites like Homeforswap.com or Homexchange.com, or you can opt to freestyle via Craigslist. This way, not a penny is spent besides a cleaning fee. But you’ll have to rely on the honor system to make sure there are no damages or theft of property.
Stay off the beaten path
Sure, we all want six-star vacation accommodations, but we don’t want six-star prices. If you’re willing to stay a little out of the way, you can save big-time. Take Las Vegas, for instance. A few friends and I were looking at hotels that were about half a block off the Strip. That half a block meant a saving at least $75 per night. It wasn’t as centrally located and didn’t have a casino, but those are everywhere in Vegas.
If you’re still intent on staying at a top-end hotel without the top-end price, check BiddingTraveler.com for the best price on your hotel; then head over to Priceline.com and make a bid, following these instructions. Good luck, and happy trails!