Vacations are the ultimate pick-me-up, whether they are planned in the midst of a long, dark winter or during the hopeful months of spring and summer.
Don’t let a tight budget keep you from planning a getaway. There are ways to do it for less that won’t diminish your experience. Some of these 14 money-saving travel ideas can make your trip even better.
1. Be flexible on travel dates
One of the best ways to save money on travel is to go when prices are lowest. Use airline and airfare search sites with flexible schedule booking features that let you see the best price within a window of dates.
And if you really want to save, consider booking in January or September, according to Hipmunk.
2. Consider nearby airports
You’ll often find lower airfares if your ticket search includes smaller, regional airports in addition to your primary destination airport.
For example, when flying to Los Angeles, consider searching for flights landing in Burbank, Ontario or Long Beach, California, as well as Los Angeles International. The extra distance may not matter much if you are planning to rent a car.
3. Travel offseason
Going cheap means making compromises, but they’re not insurmountable. One compromise is to try your planned destination at a less popular time.
Ski resorts may be cheaper in spring and fall, for example, when ski season is over. Go in the spring, and you can hike and bike the slopes before the summer tourists arrive. European capitals are cheaper to visit in winter. Who cares about the sun anyway, when you can soak in art, architecture, music and great food at lower prices?
4. Travel in ‘shoulder’ season
Cheaper than high season but costlier than offseason, shoulder season comprises the times in between, usually early spring and late autumn. During these times the weather is better and prices are lower, but not as low as in the offseason.
5. Keep shopping after booking your airfare
The U.S. Transportation Department requires foreign and domestic airlines to refund your ticket at no charge if you cancel within 24 hours of a purchase or offer a 24-hour hold period that allows you to cancel fee-free. So if you keep shopping and find a better fare, you can cancel that first ticket without a penalty.
Note: Airlines are not required to offer both a refund and a hold period, so be sure to understand the rules before you book a flight. Either way, you can nail down a good price and keep shopping for a better deal.
6. Pack light
Want to save an easy $25 to $50? Don’t check a bag. Pack a few changes of quick-drying clothes in a carry-on, including a travel-sized bottle of your favorite liquid detergent so you can wash items and hang them to dry overnight.
7. Stay in a national park
You can get a sweet deal on a vacation by visiting a national park on certain days in the U.S. and by checking into national park accommodations at international destinations, too. (The photo above is of Nechisar National Park near Arba Minch, Ethiopia.)