10 travel tips to make your vacation budget go far

Thinking of a dream vacation, but not sure exactly how you’ll pay for it? You can still afford to travel, even on a budget! Whether it’s a weekend getaway close to home or a trip to a far-flung exotic locale, travelling doesn’t have to cost a small fortune.

Here are some tips to help you make the most of your vacation budget, in style:

1. Create a vacation budget fund

Set up a savings account to fund your next vacation. Start by committing to put aside a small amount each week or month. Even $25 a week will turn into over $1,300 by the end of the year, plus any interest earned. That will go a long way toward paying for a vacation, especially if more than one family member contributes to the fund!

2. Take a vacation close to home

Avoid the cost of air travel by taking a vacation close to home, like a visit to Little Limestone Lake, Pisew Falls Provincial Park or Hecla Island. Visit during the week or off-season for better deals on accommodations. And in the summertime, consider camping or RVing. For more travel ideas in Manitoba, check out travelmanitoba.com.

Staycations can also be on your radar, giving you time to explore your city or community like a tourist. It’s a great way to rediscover your hometown and support local businesses. Plus, it may be the most affordable type of vacation!

3. Use your points

If you’ve been racking up points on a credit card or other loyalty program, consider putting them to good use on your next trip, whether it’s for flights or hotel rooms. With most points programs, you’ll still have to pay the fees and taxes on your reward, so try to use your points for a bigger purchase, like a long-haul flight, where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. Check out The Points Guy for suggestions on how to maximize your points.

4. Travel off-season

Popular destinations may be prohibitively expensive during the high season, but consider travelling during the shoulder seasons or off-season—like Venice in January. With fewer tourists, you can often get deals on flights, accommodations and even attractions. Some cities host food festivals and other events during the off-season in an effort to fill those empty hotel rooms. Plus, you can see the sights without all the crowds.

5. Book flights in advance

When it comes to flights, don’t bet on getting a cheap flight closer to your departure date. Instead, most travel experts recommend booking your flight at least one month in advance of your trip for the best prices (the sweet spot is three weeks to four months, according to one study).

And travel midweek. Tuesday flights are typically cheaper than weekend flights, plus you’ll face shorter queues at the airport. You can also set up a fare alert on a site like Fare Compare, which will alert you of deals on your chosen route. If choosing a budget airline for your next vacation, make sure you understand the hidden costs (like fees for excess baggage) that can quickly add up.

6. Book last-minute getaways

It may not be the best idea to book your flight at the last minute … unless your schedule is flexible and you’re looking for a last-minute deal from sites like Sell Off Vacations and Red Tag. You can find heavily discounted rates on all-inclusive resorts and other vacation packages, but it requires a flexible travel schedule. Some of these sites will also allow you to book now and pay monthly, to keep your up-front costs at a minimum.

7. Keep accommodation costs down

Hotels often eat up the bulk of your travel budget, but there are ways to minimize the cost, such as traveling mid-week or off-season (or using points). You could also stay with people you know, rent a spare room in someone’s home with a vacation-home service like Airbnb or book a private room in a hostel (it’s cheaper than a hotel, and you don’t have to share a dorm room). 

If you’re travelling with others or with a group, consider a vacation rental where you can split costs. Plus, if it comes with a full kitchen, you can save money if you cook meals rather than dining out.

8. Use public transportation

Skip taxis and opt for local transportation instead. Take an express train or shuttle bus to and from the airport rather than an airport limo. If you’re staying in a city, buy a multi-day transit pass to explore your destination. Public transportation can also be much more affordable. 

For those who like to explore a little more, you could also consider bike shares, if available at your destination. Walking tours are a fun (and inexpensive) way to see a destination in a safe, educational and entertaining way. The Tour Guys, for example, offer pay-what-you-can walking tours in four Canadian cities.

9. Set yourself a daily vacation budget

Once you’ve deducted the cost of your flight and accommodations, figure out how much you have left for food, tickets, tipping and other travel expenses. Split that by the number of days in your trip, and you’ll come up with a daily vacation budget that won’t leave you with heaps of credit card debt upon your return. 

If you’re travelling across the border to, say, North Dakota, consider exchanging money in advance so you know exactly how much you can spend each day.

10. Avoid data roaming

These days, it’s hard to travel without being tethered to a smartphone. But data roaming charges can quickly add up, even if your carrier offers daily roaming caps. At $12 a day, a week of international roaming adds up to $84 (plus tax). 

Try to use Wi-Fi hotspots (or, better yet, go offline!). But if you need to stay connected, consider pocket Wi-Fi, which provides a secure Wi-Fi hotspot for multiple devices (so it can be an economical option if you’re travelling in a group). You can buy your own, but some airports will rent them and you pay a per-day fee.

Digital Appointment Booking

If you need to set up a savings account or plan a budget for your next vacation, our financial advisors are here for you. Whenever you’re ready, feel free to book an appointment online and we’ll be happy to assist you.

About Vawn Himmelsbach

Vawn Himmelsbach is a freelance writer and editor. She has covered technology and travel for 15 years, for media outlets such as CBCNews.ca, The Globe & Mail, Metro News, ITBusiness, PCworld Canada and Computerworld Canada. She also spent three years living abroad and working as an Asian correspondent.

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