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Tips for Traveling on a Budget in 2022

Tips for Traveling on a Budget
Emma Diehl
Emma DiehlUpdated October 21, 2022
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
After two years of staying close to home, travel is on the rise. And most travelers are planning big vacations to make up for lost time.According to one survey, 73% of Americans plan to take a trip before the end of 2022. Over half of them say they will take a road trip, and 30% will fly to their destination.The good news is, by using some smart budget travel tips, it’s possible to have an epic vacation without overspending. Read on to learn about:
  • Budget travel
  • Average vacation spending
  • Tips to travel for less

Traveling on a Budget

When you’re on vacation, you want to treat yourself and not worry about the cost. Making a budget for your trip and sticking to it can be tough. In the long run, however, budget travel can save you a lot of money. And if you do it right, you can still have a great time — and avoid stretching yourself financially. A little planning upfront can help you get the best deals and avoid unnecessary expenses. 

Average Vacation Cost 

The average cost of a one-week vacation in the U.S., including hotel, food, transportation, and entertainment, is $1,571 per person. An international trip costs on average $3,580 per person. Vacations taken to celebrate special occasions may be more expensive. For instance, the average honeymoon cost can be significantly more.Travel expenses vary based on destination, transportation, accommodations, the number of people traveling, and the length of the trip. A shorter vacation, such as four or five days away, can be more affordable. That’s something to keep in mind when budgeting for the cost of a babymoon, for example.

Budget-Friendly Traveling Tips

Creating a travel budget will help you save money on your vacation. And by planning ahead, you’ll be able to map out your itinerary, which will make your trip less stressful overall. Here’s how to travel on a budget. 

Book Flights and Hotel in Advance

Booking accommodations and travel in advance can help cut down on costs. The trick is to book early, but not too early. Buying airline tickets as early as possible can be just as expensive as booking at the last minute. Typically, the best time to purchase airfare for domestic travel is one to three months before your trip; for international travel, it’s two to eight months in advance. However, if your trip is scheduled for a peak travel time, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, you’ll find more affordable flights by booking earlier. If you have a rewards credit card, you may be able to redeem your points for travel, which you can put toward your flight and hotel. You can also set price alerts on Google Flights, which may help you find a less expensive flight.When shopping for hotels, try booking a couple of weeks in advance rather than making reservations months ahead of time. According to a recent study, more than 50% of the time, booking a room 15 days before a trip was cheaper than booking four months in advance. However, if you have your heart set on a particular hotel, or if your travel dates are not flexible, you may want to make your reservations earlier to get the place you want, when you need it, at the best price.

Look for Cheaper Deals in Nearby Cities

If you’re willing to fly into a smaller airport and stay outside the city center you can typically get less expensive airfare, accommodations, and meals.For example, consider flying to an airport the next town over. Or rent a house or an Airbnb in an outlying area instead of downtown. As a bonus, you’ll likely have a kitchen so you can save even more money by eating some of your meals in.

Travel With a Group

Traveling alone has its perks, but it often comes with a higher price tag. Solo travelers have to cover expenses on their own, including meals, transportation, and accommodations. Traveling in a group helps lower costs. You can split some of your expenses, such as hotel rooms and rental cars. On a road trip, you can all pitch in to pay for gas.

Plan to Make and Pack Your Meals

When it comes to budget family travel, making some of your meals, rather than eating in restaurants all the time, can result in significant savings. Eating out is a major travel expense. Restaurants charge about a 300% markup on the dishes they serve; add that up for a family and you’re looking at a big bill. To cut down on costs, pack snacks and lunch to bring with you on a road trip or when you’re out sightseeing. If you’re staying at a hotel, buy breakfast items at the grocery store and eat in the room. Check restaurant menus for prices before walking into a restaurant. A little advance preparation can help you cut down on spending. 

Travel During the Off-Season 

Traveling to a destination during peak season means more tourists, bigger crowds, and higher prices. Airline tickets are more expensive at this time, and finding affordable accommodations can be challenging. Going on vacation during the off-season, such as late fall and winter (aside from the holidays) can translate to savings. You’ll get better deals on airfare and hotels, and restaurants and attractions may offer specials then as well. Also worth considering for budget travel: the “shoulder season,” which is the time right before and right after the peak season at your destination. The weather is still good, but the prices will be lower because there is less demand then.

Financing Options for Vacations 

Even when you follow all the budget travel tips, vacations can still be expensive. However, there are ways to finance your trip that can help you cover the costs without emptying your bank account. Options include: 

Credit Cards

Putting your vacation on a credit card may be a smart way to travel, especially if you take advantage of offers such as: 
  • Travel reward points. A signup bonus with a travel credit card might net you  significantly discounted or free travel. But keep in mind that rewards cards often come with high annual memberships, meaning even “free” travel isn’t completely free.
  • 0% APR credit cards. Some promotional credit cards offer at least six months of interest-free promotional financing. If you can pay off the cost of your vacation before the end of the promotional period, you won’t owe any interest. 
And, of course, you can put the cost of your vacation on a credit card you already have. To avoid interest charges, pay the bill in full when it's due. 

Personal Savings

With enough time and planning, you may be able to save up to pay the full cost of your vacation in cash. Simply set up a savings goal of a certain amount per month. Put the money in a high-interest savings account, and keep adding to it until you have enough for your trip.Even if you save just a small amount every month, it will help offset the cost of the vacation. 

Personal Loans 

Here’s what you need to know about understanding personal loans: The loans can be used for a variety of different purposes. You get a lump sum of money that you pay back with interest in regular installments over time. When you’re planning a big trip, there are vacation loans available. These loans provide you with funds to spend on anything related to your trip. Vacation loans are a type of personal loan. They often have a lower interest rate than credit cards, with repayment terms between one and seven years. A vacation loan can help make your dream trip possible. Just be sure to have a plan in place for paying back the loan on time to help make your getaway truly stress-free.

The Takeaway

Learning how to travel on a budget takes some thought, planning, and research, but it can save you a lot of money. And if budgeting only gets you so far, there are ways to finance your vacation to help cover the costs. If you’re exploring the idea of a vacation loan, Lantern by SoFi can help you compare personal loan rates quickly and conveniently. Just fill out one simple form and you’ll get offers from multiple lenders in a matter of minutes.   A vacation loan may only be a click away with Lantern.
Photo credit: iStock/Adene Sanchez
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About the Author

Emma Diehl

Emma Diehl

Emma Diehl is a nationally-published journalist with expertise in finance, real estate, and technology. Her work has appeared on NPR, The Huffington Post, Technical.ly, and numerous local publications. When she's not covering the world of personal finance with SoFi, she's probably rollerblading or planning her next meal.
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