With everything online nowadays, it can be easy to suffer from FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Boot up your social media accounts and you might be hit with a barrage of pictures from friends traveling the world. Whether they’re backpacking across Europe, sightseeing ancient monasteries in Asia, or exploring South American jungles, it’s hard not to feel some travel envy. However, for those of us with responsibilities such as kids and mortgages, dropping everything to jet-set around the world isn’t in the cards – or in our budget.
You may think it’s impossible to experience extravagant trips within a reasonable budget. However, this assumption is not correct in every scenario. In fact, some aspects of travel are cheaper today than they have been for a long time. All that’s required is careful planning, savvy solutions, flexibility, and thinking beyond big ticket travel destinations. Soon, you could be the one posting enviable pictures from your next adventure.
1. Define Your Priorities
Before you start leafing through brochures or browsing online, you first have to define your travel priorities. If you’re not willing to accept anything but a top-shelf experience, you’re probably going to have to save up before you splurge. On the other hand, if your main priorities are to experience a different culture, learn more about history, or even just take a few days to relax, you can likely accomplish such goals inexpensively.
Start out by defining your vacation priorities. Common ones include:
- Experiencing a unique culture
- Rest and relaxation
- Trying new cuisines
Once you define what’s important to your travel experience, focus on how to best achieve it!
For instance, if you’re looking for immersive cultural experiences, skip the hotels and resorts and opt instead for hostels and local markets over restaurants. Shopping in markets is a great way to encounter local environments and unusual foods and ingredients. For rest and relaxation, research minimalist options that let you experience nature in a more raw way. When picking your destination, do extensive online research about affordable alternatives to highly touristic places. Defining what you want out of the experience can align your expectations.
2. Set a Travel Budget
Booking travel without any set budget in mind can be dangerous. Cheap fares and online hotel reviews can be tempting, but you could easily end up overspending without realizing it. By looking over your current personal budget and taking your savings, fixed expenses, and variable costs into consideration, you can see where you have a little wiggle room (if any) for a vacation. The average American family spends $1,200 on travel, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Many travel sites now allow you to set your budget and restrict costly search results from appearing. A tool such as the KAYAK Explore module asks you to input your location and what you’d like to pay, and then shows you destinations that fit the bill. For cheaper accommodation and airfare options, check out apps like Skyscanner (affordable flights) as well as AirBnB and Hostel World for budget-friendly alternatives to hotels.
3. Travel During the Off-Season
If you’ve got a flexible schedule, you can save a lot simply by traveling during the off-season, especially spring and fall, commonly known as the shoulder seasons. And, as an added bonus, you can benefit from less crowded attractions. Tourist seasons vary by destination, but generally speaking, traveling during the summer months or during holiday breaks means paying more for airfare, gas, and accommodations. In general, some of the best times to travel are early in the year and early autumn. Tropical destinations, on the other hand, can be more crowded during January and February, when vacationers are looking for respite from the cold. Kid-friendly places are usually busier when school’s out. And while winter may seem like an ideal time to travel, watch out for holiday-related price spikes at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
4. Plan Shorter Trips
Whether you’re traveling for relaxation, immersion, or exploration, you don’t need to jet off for weeks at a time to get the experience you want. Shorter travel blocks offer the same benefits as longer vacations, and they can cost much less! Plenty of shorter trips can help you recharge, explore different areas, and experience something new – even if it’s within your home state. Check out your state capital, visit a nearby state park or campground, or go to a museum or local Theme Park. As an added bonus, planning shorter, closer-to-home trips means you can drive instead of fly, saving the money you would have spent on airfare.
Contact Your Credit Union for Help Budgeting Your Adventure
Travel envy is practically unavoidable these days. However, with careful planning and lots of research, you can go from imagining a travel experience to posting pictures of your wonderful adventures. And more importantly than uploading photos, you can have an experience you’ll never forget! Curious about more ways you can save on travel? Contact Your Credit Union today and let us help you budget for your next adventure.