Vacation on a Budget
Travel is something that has always been important to me. Since our early 20’s, my husband Mark and I have made our way around the globe, trying to schedule at least one international trip each year.
After our slightly failed African adventure in 2008 (I got malaria 10 days into our 4 month journey from Tanzania to South Africa and we had to return home), travel has been a little less frequent.
Now, with a baby on the way, both Mark and I have been anxious to get one more trip under our belts before our worlds are “forever changed”.
Trouble is we don’t have much money allotted for a vacation. In fact, in a desperate moment a few weeks back I quizzed Mark: “Pick one, never travelling again, or having kids?” (A question I probably should have asked BEFORE we got pregnant). I was relieved when he answered that he’d rather have a family, but that we should still plan a trip.
Cheap travel always conjures up images of dirty beds, stinky buses and shady people. We’ve never been a five star couple and we’ve always travelled with a budget in mind but this trip was unique. It was relatively last minute and we wanted to try to plan a Caribbean vacation for 10 days for less than $2,500.
We started by looking for the cheapest flights we could find. We found two tickets to Aruba for $1,450 combined (we’ve paid nearly that much for one ticket to the Cayman Islands). We booked them immediately!
Then we started scouring the internet for privately-owned villas that we could rent on the cheap. And, this is where the true savings began! We wound up finding a beautiful guesthouse walking distance from the beach for $675, for 9 nights on VRBO.com.
Travel and accommodations are generally the most expensive considerations on a trip, so if you can save big on one or both of those, you’ll be in pretty good shape.
Our total was $2,125 for flights and accommodations. And we have a little to spare for a car rental for a few days and food to prepare using the villa’s included kitchen. Since I’m pregnant we didn’t need anything for a drinking budget and we don’t have any excursions planned. I was hoping to horseback ride on the beach again, but apparently that is not recommended while with child.
So, what I’ve discovered, in order to make a thrifty, last minute trip a success, is to keep the following in mind:
- Be flexible with your location. It’s exciting to spin the global and see where your finger lands. If you have your heart set on somewhere specific it will be a lot more challenging to plan a last minute trip. You might need to allow time to watch for seat sales and deals (or to build up those frequent flyer points).
- Consider staying in a privately-owned condo. There are some great deals to be had even at the last minute but you have to do your research. Make sure to read up on the area (do you need a car? is it safe?). Sometimes the postings can be misleading, so make sure to ask a lot of questions. Also be sure to talk to the owner. A phone call can go a long way in helping you decide if they are a fit for you. It’s sometimes hard to get a sense about people through email. Another advantage to a privately rented home, is the owner should be able to help you discover activities that are off the beaten track. Avoiding tourist traps will save you money and offer-up a more authentic and memorable travel experience.
- Another cheap alternative is to consider a house swap. You can search your local Used site’s House Swaps category for interesting opportunities from around the world.
- If you’re on a tight budget, consider what the “must-haves” are for your vacation. If heading out for dinner and a pina colada every night is important, you’ll have to shuffle that money from another area. For us, our must-haves are simple: a BBQ on the patio and a beach within walking distance.
In 5 sleeps, we’ll be soaking up the glorious sun in Aruba!