How to Plan a Vacation on a Budget: 15 Cheap Trip Ideas


For anyone who loves to travel, the desire for adventure only gets stronger with every trip. Unfortunately, vacations are often a costly undertaking and may sometimes seem out of reach. But if you learn how to plan a vacation on a budget, it could be a lot easier than you think.

You can have an amazing vacation without breaking the bank. It’s all about good research and smart planning. In this guide, we go through some key steps on how to plan an affordable vacation without compromising on quality. Read on to find out how to achieve this delicate balance.

Prepare Early

Taking a spontaneous holiday is a lot of fun, but it can also be very expensive. It calls for last-minute bookings of accommodations and air fare, as well as other unexpected expenses. Planning ahead does not necessarily mean having a rigid itinerary for every single activity. It means knowing exactly where you are going, how long you will spend and how much it will cost.

Define Vacation Priorities

One of the biggest mistakes when planning a cheap vacation is compromising on things you hold dear. The whole point of taking a holiday is to indulge yourself. But this means different things to different people. Prioritize the things you consider important. Make sure everything about the planning process revolves around this. Some priorities to take into consideration include:

  • Food and wine
  • Cultural experiences like art and architecture
  • Archeological sites
  • Wonders of nature

Defining your personal priorities will help you determine what you want out of the experience. Plan everything else based on this.

Have a Budget

How much will you spend on vacation? This is one of the most important aspects of preparation. It will help you factor in all important expenses such as travel, accommodation, food and activities. Once you have the figures, it becomes easier to identify areas on which you can cut costs.

Consider All-Inclusive Packages

In the long run, an all-inclusive package could be cheaper than planning your own trip. Tour companies, resorts and cruise lines often have incredible all-inclusive offers to popular destinations. Not having to pay for activities, meals and commutes can add up to significant savings. It is also a convenient option for family vacations. You will not need to worry about keeping kids entertained or planning your itinerary.

Make Advance Bookings

One of the easiest ways to plan a cheap vacation is by making early bookings. Did you know you can book a flight as early as a year before your planned trip? Take advantage of early bird deals by hotels and airlines. As an exception, some cruise companies give amazing last-minute deals. Be on the lookout for such offers.

Use Customer Loyalty Points

Traveling on airline miles and hotel points is a great way to cut costs. But in order to master the ins and outs of how to plan a vacation on a budget, you have to do it right. In most cases, you will require more points for hotel stays and flights during peak season. Time your trips well to avoid periods of high demand. Take advantage of promotions such as discounted rates of redemption and transfer bonuses.

Note that the option of using loyalty points for bookings normally fluctuates. Awards are either available long in advance or at the last minute. Keep an eye out for this.

Research Strategic Bookings  

Play around with seasons, days of the week and dates when booking flights and accommodation. Peak season prices differ remarkably from off-peak prices. The dates around popular holidays typically attract higher rates.

Save for the Trip

Avoid using your credit card for vacations. Start saving up for the trip early. It will serve as motivation when you take extra shifts and juggle multiple jobs. Put up a picture of the destination on your desk at work to keep you inspired and focused.

Choose Your Destination

Before you start figuring out how to plan a vacation on a budget, think about your choice of destination. Some of the world’s best places to visit are expensive. But there are plenty of affordable alternatives with great things to see and do. If you have to travel to popular destinations, go against the trend. This will mean fewer crowds.

Choose Alternative Accommodation

Hotels are the go-to accommodation option for many. But they can be the most expensive too. Some viable alternatives include homestays, hostels and even Couchsurfing. The latter is a great option for culture buffs as it gives you an authentic experience. You could also plan vacations in places where you have friends or family.

Slash Food Expenses


When staying at a hotel, choose a package that includes meals. It is often cheaper than paying for every meal. At a homestay, cook some meals for yourself instead of eating out. If you love eating out, explore options like street foods or eat at local markets. Watching the food preparation process is a major bonus with this option. When going out to parks and museums, bring snacks and drinks.

Take Advantage of Freebies and Avoid Unnecessary Costs

Discounts and freebies make a big difference when traveling on a budget. Consider some tips:

  • Take a sleeper train or a bus instead of a flight to save on accommodation. If you have to travel by air, consider an overnight flight.
  • Look for hotel or homestay deals on popular booking website. Contact the provider directly to check for an even better deal.
  • Ask hotels if they offer free breakfast or snacks
  • Find out if there are options for free parking
  • For solo trips, save on baggage charges by carrying only hand luggage.
  • Avoid mini bars at hotels since item prices are typically marked up

For more tricks and tips on how to get discounts and freebies when traveling for cheap, read this in-depth guide.

How to Plan a Vacation on a Budget – Affordable Activities

With good research and some creativity, you will discover plenty of free things to do on vacation:

  • Take a walk instead of calling a cab
  • Visit the beach and local parks
  • Carry a picnic blanket and snacks when you go out
  • Enjoy self-guided tours
  • If you plan to drive to any destination, research the most scenic routes and turn it into a road trip
  • Find out if your destination has a bike share program
  • Search for free events like dance parties and farmers’ markets
  • Check if historical sites and museums have a free entry option on certain days or at specific times

Pack Everything You Need

Take time to pack for your vacation to ensure you have everything you need. Doing so will reduce the need to shop for easy to forget items like swimsuits and sandals. Regardless of weather conditions, always pack for the unexpected. Bring a set of warm clothes to your tropical vacation just in case.

Be Adaptable

Applying the above pointers when planning a budget vacation may call for sacrifice. If you are going to the Maasai Mara off-peak, it may mean missing the Wildebeest Migration. But you will still get to see the Big Five and enjoy a cultural immersion experience. You will not have to deal with overcrowding and the entry fee will be a fraction of the peak figure. Focus on the perks

how to Plan an Unforgettable Budget Vacation

Considering these tips on how to plan a vacation on a budget will help you turn that dream vacation into a reality. Plan early, stay focused on the goal and save consistently to make it happen. Remember that a cheap vacation does not mean compromising on what you love. Have a list of priorities to guide your planning and stick to it. Happy traveling!

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