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Vacationing on a budget: questions to answer before you go

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Tips for budget travellers

Being spontaneous, while still having a plan, but also sticking to a budget, is a lot to balance. Calculating costs ahead of time will help ease the budgeting process. Use these tips while you build your itinerary so you still have freedom to make random stops and go on unplanned adventures.

 

Are you flying or driving?

Deciding whether to fly or drive can be tough. I bounce between Google and Skiplagged to find the cheapest flights. Skiplagged pre-inputs promo codes so you never miss a sale, and they also show hidden flight options. Which means, you buy a two or three leg ticket and only take the first or second flight. One time I was trying to get home to Phoenix from Newark, NJ. I ended up buying a flight to Cabo. It was cheaper to stop in Phoenix on the way to Mexico than to just buy a direct flight.

Drivers, see how much gas is going to cost with a mileage calculator. Once you get there, parking might be hectic. I can’t help you find a space, but being able to find your car later is equally important. Drop a pin so you can wander around without worrying about how you’ll get back.

 

What are your sleeping arrangements?

There are tons of sites to find discounted hotels. I use Priceline, but I’ve heard booking.com is really great. Anyone on a really tight budget, check out Airbnb or the Couchsurfing site.

Another cool thing I found, but have never personally used, is Camp in my Garden. You can pay a small fee to camp in someone’s backyard. But camping for free is even easier than you’d think. Whether you’re desperate and take a spot on the side of the road, or you’re adventurous and make your own path into the woods, you’re allowed to camp free anywhere in a National Forest.

If you can’t drive the whole way in a day, you’ll have to stop and sleep. Save a little money and camp. Bring gear if it’s convenient, but non-campers (or if you’re tight for space), just sleep in the car and use a pool floatie as an air mattress.

 

When can you budget on the way there and back?

Don’t assume you have to spend money because you’re away from home. Pack snacks for the plane ride (and in the car, of course). You can’t bring drinks through airport security but you can bring an empty water bottle. If you need some flavor bring a propel packet.

Don’t use up all your data. Reserve by using Google Maps offline tool. Download music before you leave. You can even do it for free, legally. Try out ListenToYoutube. Take any Youtube video URL and download the audio directly into your iTunes library. Find free wifi along the way with this WiFi Map app. Or better yet, turn off your phone and play some fun road trip games!

Search for the cheapest gas stations along your route in Google Maps, or Gas Buddy. A lot of frequent roadtrippers use a gas card. Learn more about different companies and which card will give you the biggest return.

 

Some other tricks…

Buy empty 3oz containers and refill them with your toiletries from home. Check your airline’s baggage fee policy before packing. With that said, choose your “personal item” wisely.

Find clean bathrooms on the road with SitOrSquat. Another pit stop tip: truck stations tend to offer cleaner restrooms, more services, and are open later than most gas stations.

Plan smart, but plan loosely. You never know what you’ll find along the way, so leave time to explore. It’s supposed to be fun, don’t stress too much about details, but make every decision last-minute and your wallet will pay for it, literally.

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