Summer Travel on a Budget
Summer travel is just around the corner, and that means the roads will be filled with travelers. If traveling doesn’t seem like a reality for you due to the costs or you’re concerned about having to put everything on a credit card, look no further. You can travel, have a great time, and not break the bank.
Talk to People
Remember when your coworker came back from that amazing trip not too long ago? She showed you pictures, couldn’t stop talking about it and became the envy of everyone in the building. Where was it she went? Oh, that’s right–you were only half listening because halfway through her speech you tuned out, instead thinking about how much it must have cost. You may be surprised. Talk to friends, family, everyone you know that has ever been on a trip. Find out where they went, what they did and how much it cost. Big trips don’t always equal big bucks. And people that have been there, done that, will likely know all the ins and outs and can share that information with you.
Avoid the Crowds
If your summer travel includes a trip to a touristy area, try to go when the crowds won’t be at peak level. One of the best weeks to go, depending on school schedules, is the week before Memorial Day. Most North Mississippi schools are out by then, but be sure to check the school calendar before deciding the dates. Most places with high tourism are busy the entire summer, but if able, try to do your traveling in late May or early August, just before school starts back. And, if at all possible, avoid July 4th week like the plague! This is probably the most traveled week during the summer, but if it happens to be your only option, don’t let it deter you. You can still make the most of it using the rest of these tips.
Go Against the Grain
It’s no secret that one of the top spots during the summer is the beach. While the word summer does seem to conjure up images of sand, sun and fun, sometimes it’s best to go against the grain and travel to a different location. Remember supply and demand in Economics class? When demand is up and supply is low, that means higher prices! There are only so many hotels, condos and beach houses, and demand is high in the summer so prices are going to be steep. If, however, you can’t imagine making it to Labor Day without putting your toes in the sand at least once, try going to a less traveled beach. Everyone knows the “vacation spots,” but there are hidden gems out there that have sand just as hot, water just as clear, and will cost you less.
If you’ll be going somewhere with a lot of activities and sightseeing, you’ll want to plan ahead. Maximize your time while there. You never know how long it will be before you get back to a certain place, and you don’t want to go home with regrets because you didn’t feel like you accomplished everything. If you’re going to National Parks, museums, zoos, aquariums, etc., check the hours of operation before going. That way you can make a daily plan for each day of your trip before you ever even get on the road. By finding that out ahead of time, there will be no surprises or missing out on anything.
Spend Time Looking for Bargains
You’ve talked to friends, talked with your significant other or family about where you may be going. You’re on track for success to a low cost trip. Spend time looking for bargains. Visit the websites of places you plan to go, and sign up for weekly newsletters or emailed coupons. Check local newspapers for any kind of information that may save you money while traveling. Even while on your trip, stop in at visitor centers along the way. There are usually discount booklets.
Read reviews of places you’re considering staying, restaurants, anywhere you may be going. Expedia.com and tripadvisor.com are both good places to start. It may be hard for you to trust a stranger’s advice, but sometimes a review can mean the difference between a horrible stay and a wonderful stay. Of course all opinions are different, and all personalities are different so don’t be hasty and base a choice off one bad or one terrific review. Read several, good and bad, and pay attention to the dates the reviewer was there. Old problems may have been addressed and fixed by now. The best part about reviews? The little tidbits of information people knowingly (and sometimes unknowingly) leave behind. And you guessed it, some of those tips will help you save money.
Google is Your Friend!
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Google (or any Internet Search Engine) is your friend. You can search out places to stay, places to eat, read about places you want to go, look at pictures of those places, pretty much plan your whole vacation while sitting behind the computer screen. You can also search fun free things to do. Some places close to home are free and just as fun as traveling miles from home. Travel doesn’t have to be extravagant.
Last Minute Deals
If you are luckyenough to have scheduling flexibility, try waiting until the last minute to book something. It could work to your advantage if a hotel or vacation home is desperate to book. Sometimes any money is better than no money. However, this could also work against you, if you are set on one particular place and cant’ find a better deal at that place. Have an open mind and explore all options.
Bring Your Own Food
Part of the fun of vacation is eating at places you don’t have in your hometown. Then again, you don’t want to eat your entire vacation budget in meals. Plan for some meals out, but take some snack food, on the go breakfast items, and some lunches for those meals on which you don’t want to spend any extra money. Just make sure the kids don’t eat all the snacks before you leave for your trip!
Support the Local Businesses
Supporting local business is a big topic right now. All the North Mississippi towns are big into shopping local and helping small business owners out, so why would you do any different when out of town? If you’re staying at a hotel, ask the front desk clerk where to find some local hangouts. Even locally owned restaurants may have better prices than chain restaurants. If you have to pick up groceries while there, look for a local farmers’ market or roadside stand. Chances are you’ll meet some awesome people, too.
All in all, no matter where you decide to go or how much it costs, enjoy your trip! Don’t let anyone else tell you it’s too big of a place to go or not good enough for a summer vacation. Enjoy it, make extraordinary memories, and most of all–do what vacation is designed for, relax. Unwind and forget about all the everyday stresses of the world. They will still be here when you get back to tell your coworkers about your amazing vacation.
Rhonda Pate lives in Saltillo with husband, Jeremy, and daughter, Rain, 14. She has her summer vacation planned already–a trip to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, to see the sand and sun without ever leaving her own home state.