5 tips for planning a budget-friendly vacation

hands on map
You know where you want to go – now, how to budget for it? | Photo via Pexels

After a year of staying at home, a single post-COVID-vaccine vacation might not be enough to quench your travel lust –– but the cost of all those aspirational travel expenses may feel limiting. 💰

Enter: 5 ways to plan a budget-friendly vacation, with help from the budgeting pros at Greenville Federal Credit Union whether you’re just back from spring break and ready to plan your next family getaway or starting to think about your first vaccinated adventure.

1. Make it a #RoadTrip. 🚙

  • It’s both cheaper and more COVID-conscious to drive than it is to fly, especially if your destination is less than 8 hours away. (Read: When you don’t need to stop + stay in a hotel room.) This list of the 15 Best Cheap Summer Vacations includes Surfside Beach, SC, Williamsburg, VA  + Daytona, FL all under a 7-hour drive from GVL.
  • #ProTip: Frequent travelers should consider signing up for a travel-specific credit card. The Visa Signature card offers triple points on travel expenses – not just on flights, but on gas and hotels for stops along the way.

2. To Airbnb or not to Airbnb? 🛏️

  • Depending on your destination + the number of people you’re traveling with, renting a vacation home through Homeaway, Vrbo or Airbnb might be more affordable (and relaxing) than a hotel. And opting to stay in a home or condo means avoiding crowded lobbies, hallways + elevators.
  • If you’re a frequent traveler (for work or play), consider becoming a member of a travel rewards program (like Expedia Rewards, which is free), which can get you access to deeply-discounted hotel rooms (and now some privately-owned homestays, similar to Airbnbs).

3. Plan ahead to find ways to save. 🎟️

  • Take some time before your trip to budget — i.e. map out an approximate sum of money you plan to spend each day on meals, transportation (i.e. subway fare, cabs + Ubers/Lyfts) and planned activities.
  • If you’re splurging on an expensive Airbnb but also paying down a car or personal loan, look into Skip-a-Pay, Greenville Federal Credit Union members’ service for skipping a loan payment on a select month when your budget may be strained. 
  • Look into prices for everywhere you plan on going to find deals and discounts in advance instead of paying more in the moment (#ProTip: museums offer free admission on certain days of the week). Bonus: Greenville Federal Credit Union offers discounted tickets to several nearby destinations exclusively for their members.
  • Working remotely? Schedule a work sesh or two into your trip so you can use less PTO, which means more money in your paycheck. 

4. Hit the grocery store. 🛒

  • Meals in restaurants can be the highlights of a vacation, but you can seriously save – and make those special meals more special – by stocking up on items for easy (and healthy) breakfasts + lunches, like fruit, cereal + sandwich supplies.
  • #ProTip: Grab snacks from the grocery store before hitting the road – you’ll likely find cheaper prices there than at a convenience store or vending machine.

5. Get campy. ⛺

  • Planning a longer trip, but weary of flying? Consider renting an RV — a major trend right now. It’s comfier than a car and serves as a built-in place to sleep so you don’t have to stop at hotels along the way.
  • By making the journey itself part of the fun of your trip, the destination isn’t as important. Map out a route with small-town stops, and worry less about paying big bucks when you get to wherever you’re going.
  • Renting a space at a campground can be seriously cheaper than booking a room. If renting an RV, park it there. If traveling by car, pack your camping gear for an in-tents overnight stay.

Good news for those who want a little extra help with budgeting: Greenville Federal Credit Union offers My Budget Manager on its online + mobile banking platforms to make budgeting your trip a breeze. Learn more here.