Home Blog Budget Vacation Basics: How to Relax Without Breaking the Bank

Budget Vacation Basics: How to Relax Without Breaking the Bank

budget vacation

It’s been a long two years with limited access to safe travel options, but wanderlusters can finally rejoice because the world is starting to reopen for tourism once again. When a recent poll from Destination Analytics asked Americans to summarize their feelings about travel in 2022, many said, “fun,” “hopeful,” “awesome,” “excited” or “optimistic.” In fact, 33 percent of surveyed Americans want to take more leisure trips in the near future.

But whether you plan to travel for the holidays to see out of town relatives, you’re dreaming of a bucket list getaway in 2022, or you just have some leftover PTO to use from work, it’s no secret that vacations can be hard on the bank account. From transportation and accommodations to dining and entertainment, there are numerous costs to factor in.

However, before you scrap the whole idea of a vacation due to budget constraints, know that it is possible to travel on the cheap. Here are some ways to plan a relaxing, enjoyable and cost-effective trip—no matter where on the map you head off to!

Road Trip

While flying is much quicker and often more convenient than driving, the cost of plane tickets can be a major drain on the budget—especially when traveling as a couple or family. That’s where road trips come to the rescue. Sure, you’ll have to spend money on gas, but there’s no need to splurge on airport parking, meals in the terminal, and a car rental or public transit at your destination—not to mention, the price of airfare itself. Epoch Clemson offers the following affordable strategies to make your next road trip even more budget-friendly:

  • Figure out your priorities: Make a travel itinerary and cost breakdown before you hit the road. This will help you determine which aspects of the vacation are most important, so you’ll know where to allocate most of your finances. Is there a particular hotel you want to book, certain activities you want to do or a five-star restaurant you want to eat at? Prioritize those items in the budget, then scale back in other areas.
  • Keep the car road-ready: Use some practical tricks to conserve fuel on the road, so you won’t have to pull into a gas station as frequently. For example, be sure to inflate all four tires before the trip, and do your best to pack light, since less weight in the vehicle means less wasted fuel. After reaching your destination, explore the area on foot as much as possible, so you don’t have to refill the tank while on vacation.
  • Don’t forget the snacks: Bring your own food on the trip, rather than spending money at a drive-through. While it’s easy and convenient to stop at all those fast food exits on the highway, it can also be quite expensive. Plan to load a cooler with non-perishable meals and snacks that can be eaten in the car—this is a healthier option too.
  • Find free entertainment: Look for events in your chosen destination which are free to the public. Many cities have arts and craft fairs, live outdoor music, free museum days, self-guide tours and other entertainment that will cost nothing out of pocket (or a nominal donation-based fee at most). Take advantage of these local activities.

Group Travel

If you feel comfortable and safe vacationing with a handful of friends or family members, then group travel is another affordable option to consider. When you split the cost of a vacation between a few people, it’s easier to find transportation, excursions and accommodations within your budget. Not to mention, since the finances will be evenly distributed, you might be able to spring for a more expensive destination. Here’s how to make a group vacation a fun, efficient and stress-free experience for everyone on the trip:

  • Understand the group dynamic: Whether you’re traveling with friends, relatives or another family, it’s important to think about how different personalities and preferences will mesh together. These dynamics will factor into certain logistics such as where to stay, which group activities to plan and how long to make the trip.
  • Use shared itinerary building apps: When planning out entertainment and excursions for the vacation, mobile apps such as TripIt allow you to create a travel itinerary and then share it with the whole group, so you can all collaborate on ideas.
  • Allocate and track the finances: Calculate the total cost breakdown of your trip in advance, then communicate as a group to determine the portion that everyone owes upfront. It’s also smart to discuss which expenses each person will be responsible for on their own while traveling, such as meals and public transportation.  
  • Look for group travel discounts: Some airlines (such as Delta, United or Southwest) offer discount rates and flexible travel options on group tickets purchased at the same time. Amtrak also has a Share Fare booking incentive that can take as much as 45 percent off the cost of group rail travel. In addition, check out websites such as Groupon for discount group entertainment, dining and other tourism activities.


If traveling isn’t possible for you right now due to safety concerns or financial constraints, don’t overlook the benefits of planning a staycation. After two years of limited access to public events and spaces, there’s a ton of exploring you can do close to home. In fact, many Americans will use their holiday PTO in 2021 to book a relaxing staycation at a hotel or Airbnb in the next town or city over. This allows for just enough distance to have a change in scenery and take in the local haunts or seasonal festivities of another zip code, while spending less than you would on a vacation. Below are some tips for the ultimate staycation:

  • Spend extra on the accommodations: Because a staycation ought to feel just as special as an actual trip, don’t cut corners on the hotel or Airbnb. Choose a property with onsite amenities (like a resort pool, fitness center and spa services) that’s also in close proximity local restaurants, museums, parks and other hotspots.
  • Diverge from that usual daily routine: Even though you’re still close to home, this is a chance to take a breather from the pace of daily life. So be intentional about breaking from your normal routine. Sleep in late, grab a latte from a downtown coffee sh
  • op, then find a nearby hiking trail, museum or art gallery, farmer’s market, shopping district, indie bookstore or whatever sounds enjoyable and appealing to you.
  • Make a point to unplug from devices: Sure, you might need a smartphone to help you navigate the area, but aside from directions or other necessities, put that mobile device away. Rather than posting on social media, checking emails or responding to texts, disconnect from technology and immerse yourself in the moment.

Relaxation Doesn’t Have to Stretch Your Budget

If you are in need of a vacation, whether it’s a plane ride across the country or an hour drive out of town, these cost-effective hacks are perfect for budget travel. 2022 is the year to unleash that wanderlust spirit once again, so start packing—the open road awaits!

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