How to Plan Your Vacation on a Budget

Learn how to plan your vacation on a budget with our step by step guide! Save money on airfare, lodging, and attractions! #budgettravel #budgetvacation #traveltipsThere are lots of ways to save money when planning a vacation. No matter where you want to travel, there are tips you can use to plan your vacation on a budget.

One of the biggest ways to save is to plan early. It’s not too early to plan a vacation for spring break or even for when school gets out for the summer.

The earlier you plan, the more options you have for accommodations, air or train fare, or even choices if you plan on renting a car.

I recently planned a vacation for my upcoming wedding anniversary. It took me a while, but I feel that I got the best deal for what I was looking for.


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Plan Your Vacation — Step 1: Choose Your Location(s)

The first thing I do when planning a vacation is to decide where to go.

To decide where to go, I looked at the places that Spirit Airlines flies. Even with their baggage charges, they are usually the cheapest airline in my area.

I had been hoping to go somewhere out west (I live in the Midwest), so I narrowed it down to two choices: San Diego, California and Seattle, Washington.

There were other locations that I looked at, but I chose these two because of the things to do in these two cities.

San Diego has a lot of great things to do with nearby amusement parks, beaches, and of course the zoo.

Seattle has the Space Needle, beaches, and lots of museums.

I ended up choosing Seattle because San Diego’s attractions come with really high prices. Some of Seattle’s attractions also have high prices, but their CityPASS offers a better deal on multiple attractions.


Plan Your Vacation — Step 2: Choose Your Mode of Transportation

After you decide where to go, you can choose how you plan to get there.

If you’re thinking about driving or riding a train to your destination, then you will have to consider how many days you have available for your vacation. Driving time can cut into your vacation days, but it can be a great option if you have a big family or have multiple places that you can stop on the way to your destination.


  • saves a lot of time
  • can travel to far away places more easily
  • no rest stops necessary
  • can be expensive
  • harder to fly with younger children
Riding a Train
  • saves some time
  • no one has to focus on driving
  • no rest stops necessary
  • still takes longer than flying
  • can be more expensive than driving
  • you don’t get to choose your stops
  • usually the cheapest option
  • can stop anywhere you like on the way
  • takes a long time
  • someone always has to be awake to drive
  • rest stops are necessary

Choosing Your Flights

I wanted to fly and not drive to Seattle because we only have 5 days for the trip. Neither of us usually work on the weekend, so we are leaving on a Thursday and returning on a Monday. That means that we only have to use 3 or 4 days of vacation from work.

After I decided where to go, I began looking at flights.

It takes me a while to check for flights because there are four major airports within two hours of driving time where I live.

I have to look at what airlines fly out of each airport and on which days. Also, I look to see which days have the cheapest flights.

Depending on the airline, some days are cheaper than others.

Another thing I look at are the times of the flights. Since I only have 5 days, I wanted the departure day to leave as early as possible and the returning day to leave as late as possible. That gives me more time to do things in Seattle.

It took me about a week to figure all of that out (I worked on it every day for about 1-2 hours).

You can use tools like Google Flights to help you, but it doesn’t always include all the possible airports and airlines.

Another thing that you can do is see if any airlines are having any special deals on places that you are looking to travel to.


Plan Your Vacation — Step 3: Choose Housing

The next thing I looked at was where to stay.

There are some small islands to stay on near Seattle. I thought that would be fun until I looked at ferry prices. Since I would be going to a lot of the attractions in Seattle, it would be too expensive to take the ferry every time.

I also looked at vacation rental houses in the area and at hotels.

The houses I looked at through places like VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) and through realities in the area.

Other sites that have rentals include Airbnb and HomeAway, but I have not used either of these platforms.

I looked at hotels through places like Expedia, Travelocity,, and Priceline.

Tip: Earn cashback at these travel sites with Rakuten. You can sign up for free!


Things to Consider

Many of the hotels in the Seattle area charge for parking. Many of the condos that are for rent in the area have NO parking, and you are on your own to find some.

I considered all of that when looking at prices.

Another thing to check is what size bed there is (or beds if you have a family).

Since it is just going to be my husband and me, we decided on a hotel near the attractions we wish to visit.

We will have to pay to park at the hotel, but many of the attractions we wish to visit are within walking distance.

Also, if we drove to the attractions, a lot of them charge for parking as well.


Plan Your Vacation — Step 4: Book Your Flights & Accommodations

You can choose to purchase your tickets and book your housing separately, or you can get a deal by combining them.

Since we are staying at a hotel and flying, we decided to use and Priceline together since they offered the best deal.

It still allowed me to pick the exact flights I wanted, and we added on a rental car.

AAA is another tool you can use to save money on travel. 


Plan Your Vacation — Step 5: Find Things to Do

You will likely have some type of idea of things you want to do at your destination. If you do a little more digging, you can usually find some other things to do that might not be as well-known, but are still a lot of fun.

We already know that there are multiple attractions that we want to visit in Seattle. We will be using CityPASS to get a lower rate for the museums and some other attractions that we want to visit.

The CityPASS for Seattle allows you to choose five attractions to visit for a lower rate.

Learn more about CityPASS and all the cities they offer deals for in our post: Save Money on Museums and Other Big City Attractions.

One other thing I look for ahead of time is locations of squished penny machines since that is a souvenir that I get every time I travel.

See other budget-friendly souvenirs you can get:

Five Cheap Souvenirs to Collect

7 More Souvenir Ideas When You’re On a Budget


Plan Your Vacation — Step 6: Look for Places to Eat

One thing I will do soon that I haven’t done yet is to look to see what restaurants are in the area and how much they cost.

If you are trying to save money, you can write down all the places that have affordable food that have good reviews.

You can also make some of your own food to save money.

We will have a kitchenette in our hotel room and continental breakfast, so that will save us some money.


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How do you plan your vacations?

Learn how to plan your vacation on a budget with our step by step guide! Save money on airfare, lodging, and attractions! #budgettravel #budgetvacation #traveltips

These are some of the best ways to save money when planning a vacation. It does take time and effort, but in the long run, you will be glad you did it.


Related posts:

4 Ways to Save Money on Your Next Trip to the Museum

How to Save Money at the Zoo

Learn how to plan your vacation on a budget with our step by step guide! Save money on airfare, lodging, and attractions! #budgettravel #budgetvacation #traveltips
Learn how to plan your vacation on a budget with our step by step guide! Save money on airfare, lodging, and attractions! #budgettravel #budgetvacation #traveltips
Learn how to plan your vacation on a budget with our step by step guide! Save money on airfare, lodging, and attractions! #budgettravel #budgetvacation #traveltips
Learn how to plan your vacation on a budget with our step by step guide! Save money on airfare, lodging, and attractions! #budgettravel #budgetvacation #traveltips

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