It’s not just airplanes that touch the sky these days. Airfares do too. According to a travel trend report by Kayak, flight prices in the US have risen dramatically in 2023 when compared to the year before.
While international airfares saw a 29% increase, that number was 52% (!!!) for domestic flights.
So, our fellow wanderlust enthusiasts, if you’re ready to travel the world but not ready to break the bank (yet), you’ve come to the right place. 😊
In this blog, we will provide you with all the tips and tricks on how to travel on a tight budget.
Whether you're a student looking to explore the world, a professional hoping to take a break from the daily grind, or just someone who wants to see what's out there, CAA has got you covered.
Here are 6 tips to embark on a budget-friendly vacation.
1. Set a realistic budget
The first step is to set a realistic budget for your trip.
This doesn’t mean blindly throwing out a number and hoping for the best. Sure, we all dream of five-star hotels and Michelin-star restaurants, but the reality is that most of us have to stick to a budget.
Take a good look at your finances and figure out what you can realistically afford. Then add a little bit extra for unexpected expenses, because let's face it, those always seem to pop up.
There are plenty of ways to cut costs without completely depriving yourself of fun.
Start by saving money before your trip, whether it's by cutting back on unnecessary expenses or picking up some side gigs to boost your income. Every little bit helps.
2. Look for affordable transportation options
Once you've set your budget, it's time to start thinking about travel expenses.
People often forget about transportation costs, which can really add up if you're not careful. But lucky for you, there are plenty of affordable transportation options out there.
Let's start with the big one – airfare. The cost of flights can eat up a big chunk of your travel budget, but don’t worry. There are a few tricks to finding flight deals.
- First, try being flexible with your travel dates. Flying on weekdays instead of weekends can save you some serious cash.
- Second, sign up for email alerts from airlines and travel deal websites so you can snag a deal as soon as it pops up.
- Third, don't forget to compare prices across different airlines and booking sites to ensure you're getting the best deal.
- And lastly, if you want to have all the heavy lifting done for you, get in touch with one of our trusted CAA Travel Consultants, who’ll ensure that you get the best deal.
Moving on, you can also save a lot of money on ground transportation.
Once you arrive at your destination, you'll need to figure out how to get around town. Instead of shelling out for taxis, consider using public transportation.
Many cities have affordable options like buses, subways, and trains that can take you just about anywhere you need to go.
Another option is to use your CAA membership and get discounts on rental cars. Being a member allows you to enjoy at least a 5% or more discount on Alamo and Enterprise, and up to 20% on National cars.
And if you're feeling adventurous, why not rent a bike, walk, or try hitchhiking? Just kidding. Don’t do that last one. But biking or walking is okay and could help you save money and get some exercise too.
3. Save money on accommodation
Unless you’re planning on taking a staycation where you’re going to be spending most of your time indoors at the location you’re staying, you can get creative and save money on sleeping arrangements.
First, consider staying in hostels. Sure, the idea of sharing a room with strangers might not sound glamorous, but trust us, it's a great way to meet other travelers and save some cash.
Plus, many hostels also offer private rooms for those who still want a bit of privacy.
If you're not into hostels, don't worry. There are plenty of other budget-friendly options out there as well. Just be sure to do your research and take safety precautions.
For families looking for a bit of a different experience, Couchsurfing can be very rewarding. It is a hospitality exchange network that connects travelers with locals who offer free accommodations.
While it may not be for everyone, Couchsurfing is a great way to save money on lodging and experience a destination from a local's perspective. Plus, you may make some new friends in the process.
If you're planning a road trip or visiting a destination with outdoor activities, camping can be a budget-friendly option as well. It allows you to enjoy the great outdoors while saving money on lodging.
Vacation rentals, such as apartments or homes, can also be a great option for budget travelers, especially those traveling with a group or family. They offer more space and privacy than a hotel room and often come with a kitchen, which can help you save money on meals (more on that later).
In addition to these, there are other ways to find hotel deals and discounts as well:
- Booking your hotel room in advance can help you save money, especially if you're traveling during peak season. Many hotels offer early bird discounts or non-refundable rates.
- Keep an eye out for discounts on travel websites that offer discounted rates on hotels. You can often find last-minute deals or flash sales here.
- Many hotel chains offer loyalty programs that can help you save money. As a CAA member, you can save as high as 15% on your hotel stays. You can also opt to sign up for their loyalty programs to earn points or rewards that can be redeemed for free nights or other benefits.
4. Save money on food and drinks
As much as we all love to indulge in fancy meals and drinks while on vacation, it's important to keep an eye on your food and drink expenses when traveling on a tight budget.
Luckily, there are a few easy ways to save money on food and drinks without sacrificing much.
One of the best ways to save money on food while traveling is to eat local and street food. Forget those fancy Michelin-star restaurants because real culinary treasures can be found on the street.
We’re kidding, of course. But, in all fairness, not only is street food often cheaper than dining in a restaurant, but it's also a great way to experience the local cuisine and culture.
If you're staying in a place with a kitchen, consider shopping at a grocery store and cooking your own meals. We know what you're thinking. "Cook my own meals on vacation? Are you crazy?"
But trust us, shopping at a local grocery store and whipping up some tasty dishes in your vacation kitchen can be a fun and affordable way to eat, laugh, and spend quality time with family.
Plus, if you mess up the recipe, you can always blame it on foreign ingredients. 🙃
You can also make use of your CAA membership if you’re travelling domestically. As part of the CAA Rewards® program, you can use your membership and save some money on various restaurants.
Now we do understand that you might be tempted to splurge on a fancy meal or two. After all, you are on vacation. So, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just ensure that you don’t spend all your money at once.
5. Make the most of free or low-cost activities
Just because you're trying to save some money doesn't mean you have to miss out on all the fun. There are plenty of free or low-cost activities that will help you experience the local culture.
Nature is the ultimate budget-friendly destination. Not only is it free, but it also provides endless opportunities for adventure and exploration.
From hiking in national parks to lounging on the beach, nature has something for everyone. So, get your hiking boots on, pack a picnic, and get ready to embrace the great outdoors.
When it comes to budget travel, every discount counts. So, don't be afraid to scour the internet for promotions or ask locals for any insider tips on deals or discounts.
You can also try flashing your CAA membership card or a student ID (if you have one) and you never know what kind of secret discounts you might uncover.
6. Take help from a travel consultant
Using a travel consultant to plan and book your vacation can be a good thing for various reasons. But from a budget perspective, they can help travellers save as much as $452 on average per trip.
That’s because travel consultants have solid supplier partnerships with travel companies that allow them to get access to the best deals, discounts, and offers that are currently active in the market.
In fact, there are times when travel consultants can see deals that aren’t visible to the public. As is evident from this story about how a CAA Travel Consultant helped a member save $1,500 on a trip.
There’s also the case of hidden costs and charges. Often when booking hotels and flights, one might miss out on noticing these subtle charges that can end up being a small fortune.
Therefore, even if you must pay a travel consultant a small service fee, booking through them gives you the peace of mind that you’ll always get the best price and save money in the long run.
In conclusion, budget travel doesn't have to mean sacrificing comfort or experiences.
With the help of technology and resources like travel reward programs, you can save money and still have a great time. Just remember to do your research, compare prices, and be open to new ideas.