Have you taken a vacation this year? If the answer is no, what held you back? For most Americans, it comes down to budgeting and feeling like you can never quite afford a getaway. 

A trip away is supposed to be fun, not another financial hassle. Just because your friends post beautiful photos of their voyages on Instagram and Facebook doesn’t mean they paid huge sums to travel. You, too, can become a savvy, budget-friendly traveler by following these tips.

Travel in the Off-Season

At certain times of year, such as in December around the holidays, it’s possible to score major deals on vacations that might have cost double or even triple in the summer. For instance, in the wintertime, everyone wants to escape the cold and hit the beach. If you want to travel somewhere chilly, like Canada, you can probably do it for much less.

Find Hotel Alternatives

Hotels are luxurious and all-inclusive, but they also often cost hundreds of dollars a night. The longer your trip, the more you’re shelling out for lodging.

Luckily, there are so many more options available. You can use Airbnb or a similar services to rent a spare room at someone’s home for the duration of your trip. Hostels, although more cramped, are another affordable option that many thrifty travelers love.

Make Your Own Meals

If you’re staying in someone’s home, you might have access to a full kitchen. That makes it all the easier for you to cook for yourself. You can still go out to dinner or try street food, but save that for a special occasion once or twice on your trip.

Instead, visit a local grocery store and pick up some new, interesting ingredients. This way, you get the flavors of your vacation destination, but without the huge price tag that often comes with dining out.

Shop Around for Flights

Rather than heading directly to each airline’s website and doing your search, use flight comparison sites like Kayak.com or Google.com/flights. These sites compile offerings from all the major and discount airlines, allowing you to compare flight times, legs of the trip, and cost all in one place. Shop around and compare quotes, keeping in mind that Tuesday is generally seen as the best day to book airline travel, and you can often score better deals if you wait until closer to your trip rather than booking many months in advance. Many travel experts agree you should book 25 days in advance, but not further out than 150 days to score the best deals.  

Setup Alerts to Get the Best Travel Deals 

When shopping around for flights, hotels, and other packages, most travel sites will allow you to setup “travel alerts”. Simply search the flight you are looking for (New York to Rome for instance) and add in your dates. Then ask to be “alerted” when the price drops. Airfarewatchdog, Google.com/flights, Orbitz, Travelocity, and most other major travel search engines all have this feature, making it much easier to score the best deal with little to know effort on your part. 

If you really want to treat yourself to a vacation this year, you can make it happen without blowing your budget. All you need is some patience, flexibility and an open mind.

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