Life & Travel

Here's How To Enjoy A Summer Vacay Without Breaking The Bank

If you're sticking to a budget this summer but want to have the usual fun in the sun, you don't necessarily have to skimp on what you want to enjoy. In fact, you wouldn't be alone with the smart move of saving those coins since, according to a recent survey, a large percentage of your peers are doing the same.

And if we want to talk specific numbers, almost 21% of respondents surveyed plan to spend $500 to $999 for their next summer vacation, while almost 27% plan to spend upwards of $2,000. Whether your budget is close to, more, or less, try these simple tips to create the perfect budget for your travel adventure in the coming months:

1. Keep it real with yourself about what you can actually afford and maximize that sum, no matter how small or large the amount.

Oftentimes, we might be influenced via social media to invest in grand luxurious vacations (as 50% of people under 40 "use social media as a source" for travel inspiration), but if you can't afford a 20-day jaunt around Europe, there are still many other good options to consider based on your budget. Once you've set a number, figure out how you can stretch your dollars or save on some aspect of your trip.

For example, if you're going to be exploring a city (or two) for most of the daytime hours during your trip, why splurge on a luxury hotel? Find vacation rentals that offer luxury touches (via the decor or extras offered during your stay) or use perks offered via credit cards, memberships, sites like LivingSocial, or hotel loyalty programs.

If a luxury stay is your thing, join a Facebook or other online group on their trip or link up with your girls or favorite family members, instead of going solo. You can split the costs, take advantage of payment plans, and really maximize how you're spending money on your vacation.

When settling on a number based on what you can afford in consideration of your income, living expenses, and debt, be sure to include a limit on how much you'll spend on each aspect of the trip---including boundaries on actual cash you'll spend while there---and stick to it.

2. Do your research on your dream destination and watch how and where the locals eat, enjoy their leisure time, or spend their money.

One thing I've learned after practically moving to a place where I was once just a tourist is that watching how the locals live can save you time and money when planning a vacation. Follow a few travel creatives and professionals in that locality and take note of the areas, attractions, and other aspects of your trip that might align with the content they share. Typically locals not only know the spots that are off the beaten path, but they also know where and how to save a few coins while having fun in their communities.

It's great to follow and be inspired by U.S.-based travelers, but some are simply following trends that are, to be frank, quite expensive to keep up with, or they're sharing content via all-expenses-paid opportunities to market a place or experience in exchange for their influence or audience.

Travel enthusiasts, tour companies, and other professionals actually based where you want to vacation can offer clues as to how to have a good time without breaking the bank, and even if their content doesn't specifically force-feed you cookie-cutter itineraries, you can still take note of the places they visit on a regular day (or the nearby destinations where they vacation) and do a little online digging for yourself to create an affordable itinerary that works for you.

I've found off-the-beaten-path beaches, rivers, and entertainment options that are not swamped with tourists (and thus, are less pricey but just as spectacular, if not more) by doing this---simply vacationing as the locals do.

LeoPatrizi/Getty Images

3. Skip the DIY approach, and book via a travel agent or consultant.

This is one of the best ways to stay on budget when planning a vacation, since, at the onset, it's something you establish with the professional in order for them to be able to do their job. Once you've locked in how much you're willing to spend, they can use their savvy to fill in the blanks with amazing experiences that you might not be aware exists and use their contacts, experience, and industry know-how to get you deals to make your dream trip a reality.

If you can find an agent who works from commissions, you've hit the jackpot, but sometimes, even if you have to pay a service or planning fee, it can be worth it depending on the scope and length of your vacation. The best way to find a reputable travel agent is through referrals from family, friends, or online travel groups or by ensuring they have the proper certifications and asking lots of questions before agreeing to work with them. If they work for a reputable, well-known agency, that's even better.

Source: RgStudio/Getty Images

4. Ignore the negative hype and simply book your trip for the off-season.

Just because it's so-called "low season" in a destination doesn't mean it's not a great opportunity for the best summer vacation of your life. With global warming and so many other factors shifting what affects a good time during vacation, be open to visiting a destination that might not have made the list of top summer spots but suits your needs just as well.

For example, you can travel to places like Cabo San Lucas during "low season" and still have a lot of fun while the tourist rush has slowed, hotels offer lower room rates, and more options are activities and excursions available to book at competitive prices. While it might be a bit chilly at night, you can still enjoy poolside cocktails, beach club day parties, and cultural experiences during the day and wear light layers at night for phenomenal sunsets and other evening activities. Flights are typically cheaper as well during some low seasons depending on where you're flying to and from.

Staycations are also a great idea when it's not peak season since you can enjoy the paradise that's just a city or state away without others crowding the roads, beaches, and other attractions because they've traveled out of town to do so.

You don't have to give up your desire to enjoy the summer vacation you deserve just because you're sticking to a budget. With these tips, there are so many options to make the most of your hard-earned dollars without compromising on quality and experience.

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