We all live busy, stress-filled lives, and sometimes we’re so busy that we forget to give ourselves a break.  Research has shown that vacations can help to reduce stress, stave off burnout, strengthen bonds with loved ones, and promote overall well-being.  If you’re on a tight budget, you may feel that going on a vacation isn’t possible.  Trips can be expensive, but they don’t have to be!  Follow these 5 tips for traveling on a budget.

Choose a Unique Location

The popular travel destinations are typically more expensive, especially during peak travel times.  Instead, try finding an interesting place that’s less well-known.  The Midwest may not seem like an ideal travel spot, but there are actually quite a few awesome destinations in the Midwest.

This area is home to the Great Lakes, which are unbelievably gorgeous.  Check out Grand Marais in Minnesota (about an hour and a half south of Canada) or The UP in Michigan.

Iowa is another state you may have never considered visiting, and it’s true that much of Iowa is filled with nothing but cornfields and windmills.  However, there are a few areas of Iowa that are worth visiting – The Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa is stunning and is often referred to as the “eighth wonder of the world.”

Travel During the Off-Season

If you want to travel during spring break, winter break, or the summer, it will probably be more expensive.  For the best rates on hotels and airfare, try traveling during the less busy times of the year.  Also, hotels often offer cheaper room rates during the week rather than on weekends.  In addition to being less expensive, the non-peak times will also be less busy and crowded which will likely make your vacation more enjoyable.  It’s a win-win!

Book Cheap Flights Far in Advance

Instead of waiting until the last minute to book your flight, book a flight far in advance.  Also, choose a less expensive airline.  Spirit Airlines is a great choice – Spirit is the leader in ultra-low costs and services much of the United States, Central America, and parts of South America.

Be Flexible

You can save quite a bit of money by simply being flexible.  If you’re willing to stay in a less fancy hotel, travel during the off season, and fly with a cheaper airline, you can have a great vacation on a shoestring budget.

It might be tempting to go with the more expensive choices, but remember that “more expensive” doesn’t necessarily mean “better”.  I once stayed in a $200/night hotel (with a 50% off coupon) that had dirty rooms and terrible customer service.  I’ve stayed in $50/night hotels with cleaner rooms and much better service.

Have a “Staycation”

It’s certainly possible to have an amazing vacation at a low cost, but there are times when you might not be able to spend ANY money on trips.  If you can’t afford to go on a vacation, try having a “staycation” instead.  This may not sound very exciting, but if you’re a Type-A person who’s always on the go, a staycation might be just what you need to recharge.

Set aside an entire week or a few days to relax and find free things to do for fun.  If the weather is nice, you could go hiking, take your dog for long walks, check out a pool or lake, go for a picnic, or go for a bike ride.  Even if the weather isn’t great, you can still have fun.

You can read all those library books you never have time to read or have a board game night with family or friends.  A “staycation” is a great way to truly relax – in some ways, a “staycation” can actually be more relaxing than an actual vacation.  With a “staycation”, you don’t have to deal with the stress of planning, packing, going on long flights, and working out the logistics.

A Final Note

Vacations can greatly improve your mental and physical health, but you may feel it’s difficult (if not impossible) to go on a vacation when you’re on a tight budget.  However, you CAN have an awesome trip for a low cost!

If your financial situation requires you to not spend ANY money (I’m currently on a three year spending ban, so I don’t travel), try having a “staycation” instead.