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How To Plan A Vacation on a Budget

Vacations are supposed to be relaxing and stress free. Ironically, booking and planning a vacation can be anything but stress free, especially when you’re trying to do it on a budget. For that reason, we want to share some tips and tricks that we’ve learned along the way to help you plan your next vacation without breaking the bank. Many of these tips and tricks build on each other, so the more of them that you can implement, the more money you can save. We’ve personally used all of these tips to save ourselves thousands of dollars over the past few years of travelling. And remember, the more that you can plan ahead, the more relaxing your time on vacation will be. Now, let’s dive in!

Plan your trip during the shoulder season

Out of all of the tips and tricks for planning a vacation on a budget this is easily the most impactful way to reduce cost. If you’re wondering what the “Shoulder Season” is, it is simply the time period between the “Peak Season” and “Off Season”. These time frames will vary depending on your destination, but you can easily find the shoulder season for any destination with a quick Google search. During the shoulder season there will be less crowds and lodging and flights will be less expensive, but there are some potential trade offs. The weather might not be as desirable as it is during the peak season and certain attractions may be operating on a limited schedule, but if you’re like us and don’t mind taking a small chance in order to save some big money, then the shoulder season is for you! We’ve used this method for almost all of our trips, and we’ve had amazing experiences. Back in 2018 for our Quebec City trip we got roundtrip flights from Nashville and a hotel for 6 nights for just under $1,000 by taking advantage bundle deals (which we’ll talk about later), and the 4 week shoulder season between New Years and their Winter Carnaval celebration... and did we mention that we had an AMAZING time! And back in 2017 we were able to book our July honeymoon trip staying at an oceanfront beach resort in Barbados for 8 nights with roundtrip flights from Orlando for less than $3,000. More recently, in 2019 we were able to book roundtrip flights direct from Nashville to London for just over $1,000 total for both of us. And while some of these prices might not seem “budget” friendly, we could have easily spent 50-100% more had we planned to travel during the peak season.

Have flexible dates

This tip is another one that can pay off big. Sometimes, just being willing to shift dates around by a few days can be the difference of hundreds or thousands of dollars. This was the case for our Barbados Honeymoon trip. Of course we wanted to fly out the day after our wedding, but by waiting another 2 days, we were able to save nearly $500 dollars which allowed us to stay an extra night.

Have a flexible destination

When we were planning our winter trip back in 2018, all we knew was that we wanted to go to a winter wonderland and get a real winter experience. Beyond that, we didn’t care where we went. Going into the planning with this flexibility allowed us to explore all of our options, and we ultimately landed on Quebec City, which is still one of our favorite trips we’ve ever taken. Had we been set on going to a specific destination, we easily could have spent thousands of dollars more.

Google flights

Google Flights is one of our go-to tools and is how we booked our London flight last year. If you aren’t familiar with Google Flights or how to use Google Flights, it’s super easy. All you have to do is go to Google and type in “Google Flights” and the first search result will be Google Flights. Once you’ve clicked on the Google Flights link you’ll enter your departure city and destination, then click on the departure date and a calendar will come up with flight prices listed by day. Being able to see flight prices laid out on the calendar allows you to see what days flights are least expensive. And if you have flexible dates like we talked about earlier, you can shift your plans around by a day or two and save some big money. You can also sign up to get notifications for when prices change for a specific flight. We did this with our Nashville to London flight and got notified the day after we booked that the price nearly doubled!