Treat yourself without cheating your budget. (Photo: Negril Treehouse Resort, by Almenia J. Photography.)
Vacations should relieve stress, not add to it, but paying for pricey flights and expensive hotels can seem more burdensome than the rat race that you’re trying to escape. Don’t let costs dissuade you from taking a much-needed break and going on an adventure. By taking a few easy steps, you can have a sunny getaway without burning through your bank account.
1. Stalk deals.
The same strategy that you use to hunt down a pair of new pumps applies to vacation shopping — relentlessly pursue sales. I have a bevy of travel apps downloaded to my phone that alert me to deals. Travelzoo, Airfarewatchdog, and Kayak are some of my faves. I also check Living Social Escapes and Groupon Getaways often. In addition to deep discounts, apps and sites like these can give you ideas for travel destinations that you may not have thought of otherwise.
2. Plan early.
While there a plenty of last-minute deals on hotels and even some on airfare, I’m too much of a scaredy-cat to leave my accommodations to chance. I may have an adventurous spirit, but I can’t take the anxiety of last-minute travel. I look for deals with long lead times to minimize blackout dates. Planning early also means that I have time to open and contribute to a dedicated vacation bank account to stash spending money for the trip. Months ahead of boarding my flight, I create a budget and start cutting down on superfluous spending. Skipping happy hours, packing brown bag lunches, and turning my bathroom into a salon means extra cash for fun in the sun.
3. Be flexible.
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. I got the idea to visit Negril, Jamaica on a random winter day scrolling through vacation deals. I was determined to find something, anything. I found an unbelievable deal at the Negril Treehouse Resort that I could not pass up. I did not set out to go to Jamaica. I set out to go to a beach — any beach — and it just so happens that the beach in Negril stretches across seven glorious miles. Don’t be discouraged if your trip dream trip to Saint-Tropez seems out of reach, check out Toronto in the meantime. Having an open mind gives you more options when it comes to traveling on a budget.
4. Give yourself an allowance.
I didn’t get an allowance as a child, I washed the dishes for free and cleaned my room because I was supposed to. As an adult, I now see the value in setting aside small amounts of money. Before you go on vacation, do some research and find out what you’ll need to spend daily. My latest vacation package included breakfast. I only needed to allot money for frozen cocktails and dinner each day (I usually don’t have time for lunch with all the napping I do on the sand). Because I planned early, I was able to research tours and activities and plan accordingly. Sticking to my daily budget was actually a liberating experience because I did not have to worry about running out of money or using my credit card. Give yourself some emergency money, though. You never know what may happen.
5. Just Say ‘No’ to souvenirs.
You don’t need any souvenirs, nor do your family members, coworkers, or friends. Take pictures and savor the moment. Screen-print tees, shot glasses, and Wish-You-Were-Here picture frames usually end up as White Elephant gifts during the holidays (sorry, but it’s true). The best gift you can give anyone, including yourself, after a getaway is your vibrant, relaxed energy — it’s the gift that keeps on giving.