Can’t Afford a Cool Trip? Think Again.
Written by Trevor Korpi
I may be biased because of the author of this guest post is my boyfriend, but I love it. A lot of people use the excuse that they “can’t afford” traveling. That is BS, my friends. Read all about why.
This is when my girlfriend was screaming at me.
Lately, I have been spending more and more of my free time and money on traveling. In the last two years, I have been to Nashville, Chicago, Minneapolis (multiple times), all over Wisconsin, San Diego and Los Angeles, and a 5,000 mile road trip out west that took my girlfriend and I across 14 states, including sights such as: Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, Denver and the Rocky Mountains, Arches National Park, the Grand Canyon, and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Personally, I think my travels have been pretty badass. But many people seem to think that I must make a ton of money to enjoy sweet trips while still being able to pay the bills. Let me make this clear: I do not make a ton of money. Many people are better off than I am financially…but I believe I am smart with how I spend my money. Regardless of how much money you make, or what your financial situation is, I believe that there is a way for anyone to take a vacation they will never forget. Here is how….
LOOK for deals. Do your research.
This does not mean look for 1 hour on a Wednesday night and then give up because you can’t find anything. I literally spend weeks, sometimes even months researching a trip. I typically spend more time researching road trips than trips involving flights. (Road trips end up being longer and it takes a little more time to figure out the logistics of the entire trip.) For trips involving flights, I prefer to use Expedia. I have tried other travel booking sights, but I feel Expedia is the easiest to use for me, and it almost has the lowest prices. However, before I ever book anything, I always look at options other than booking sights. In the spring of 2014, I found a travel package through US Airways, which included round trip flight for 2 from Minneapolis-St. Paul to San Diego, and 4 nights at a 3 star hotel just a few blocks from Mission Beach. Try looking at the same trip but flying from different airports in your region. Is it worth the gas money to drive to an airport a few hours away, with cheaper flights to your destination, than it is to fly out of a closer airport? It all depends on where you are going. Last spring it was cheaper to drive to an airport 4 hours away than it was to fly out of any of the closer airports to home. For a trip I have booked for this spring, it is cheaper to fly out of a closer airport than it would be to travel to Minneapolis again. Flight prices also fluctuate depending on the day and time you are looking at them, and what days of the week you are flying. You need to be smart about this. You need to take your time. You have time. Make the best of it.
You do not need the presidential suite in a 5 star hotel
If you don’t have that much money, don’t try to act like it on vacation. If you spend the majority of your budget on a nice hotel, you are not going to actually enjoy the place you are visiting. Plus, when you are on vacation, you should be out sightseeing, hiking, laying on the beach, doing anything except sitting at your hotel. You should only be at your hotel to sleep and shower (both optional). Also, try to find a hotel with free continental breakfast. It will save you a meal expense for the day. While on our trip out west last summer, my girlfriend and I spent 4 nights in Denver. We stayed at a hotel for $40 a night. It was by far one of the most sketchy hotels I have ever stayed at, but who cares? We were gone before sunrise and back after sunset every day. We had extra money to see everything we wanted to see in the greater Denver area. We have stayed in many hotels that are 2 stars or less, and we have yet to get raped, murdered, bedbugs, or any diseases. Fancy and expensive hotels are not for people like me. If you are on a budget as well, then they are not for you.
Our campsite at the Grand Canyon.
Screw the hotel, try camping
While at the Grand Canyon, my girlfriend and I camped (in a tent). Sure, it might not be as comfortable as a bed, but once again, who cares? It only cost $18 a night, and you get the chance to see some cool things. While sitting at our campsite, we watched a gray fox chase down a squirrel and maul it (at least I though it was cool). No matter where you are in America, there will be camping somewhere nearby. Grow a pair and get out of the hotel. You will save money and make some great memories. Camping is especially helpful on road trips.
Plan, plan, plan
If you just want to lay on a beach and do nothing on your vacation, then you can probably skip this paragraph. If you want to see as much as you can and get the most out of your trip…do not skip. Now I love random road trips/getaways. They can lead to very good times, but can also end up disappointing you in the end. My girlfriend and I went on a random road trip to Nashville almost two years ago. We did not plan anything out except where we were staying (cheap, crappy hotel, but within walking distance to many attractions). The first thing we did when we got checked into the hotel was realize that we had no idea what in the hell to do. She was not 21 yet, so having a few at all of the honky-tonks was not an option. We ended up spending one entire day just driving down to Alabama and Georgia, because we couldn’t think of anything else to do. We still got to see and do some things that we enjoyed, but we both agree that we would do things differently if we went again. Part of our failure was the fact that we probably just weren’t adventurous enough at that time. The other part is that we didn’t plan anything out and got caught off guard by it. We ended up doing things like driving all over the southern U.S. for no reason, and wasting money that we could have been spending on worthwhile things. Another thing that I have learned is that when you plan, you often find deals on all sorts of things at your destination. I have recently booked a trip to New York City, and by planning early I have found discount deals on things like the City Pass. There are a number of cities in the US that have their own “City Pass”. You pay X amount of dollars for a card, and then you can use the card to get into certain attractions in that city at no cost on site. I don’t know what it’s like in cities other than New York, but I can tell it will end up saving us a lot of money on our trip. The Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, NBC Studio Tours, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Madison Square Garden Tour, Radio City Music Hall, and a Yankee Stadium tour are just a few of the attractions included with the pass. Finding things like this can save you a lot of money on your trip.
Stay away from dining out
Okay, so you’re on vacation and want to try some authentic eateries from the place you are visiting. You can, and you should. But be careful, eating out can rack up your expenses in a hurry. Choose just a couple of places that you really want to try. Pack snacks and beverages ahead of a road trip and bring them along in a cooler. Find a grocery store and get your food there once at your destination. Hotels with stoves are very helpful. For campers, campfires make great places to heat up some food. $50 can get you and one other person a meal at a restaurant, or it can get you a week’s worth of food from the grocery store.
Why not now?
Personally, I couldn’t think of a better time to plan and take a trip. With gas prices being as low as they are, a road trip is a very cheap option. It seems to me that plane tickets are very low right now. Gas prices won’t stay low forever, so take advantage of it and plan your trip now! I hear a lot of people talk about how they don’t want to spend their money on a trip, however, I have never heard anybody say they regret spending money on a trip. It seems like it is always worth it. Good luck and safe travels!