Spring Break is coming and for many of us that means some fun travel is ahead. I will be headed off to an all-inclusive vacation for two in the Dominican Republic (property listed below) for a relaxing, if shortish, 5 day vaca on the company dime.
And that got me thinking. Whether you’re heading to the DR for an all-inclusive, sticking closer to home for a long weekend or heading out on the open road trip with friends or the fam, there are some really easy ways you can Spring Break without breaking your budget.
Plan Your Meals Out, Before You Go
After lodging and travel, the next biggest expense on a vacation is usually meals–especially for those of us who are foodies. While true, being on a budget while on vaca does not meal you have to either starve, eat junk food or deprive yourself of the sips and bites you love.
The best way to enjoy your vacation food AND go easy on your wallet is to decide ahead of which meals (how many each day, for example) you are going to eat out. Prior to going, research local popular restaurants, pubs, bistros and cafes. Then schedule, as much as you can, which meals you’ll eat out and where. I think you’ll find that you can splurge more on that one ‘wow’ meal a day, and the whole experience will feel a lot more posh than if you were eating basic ho-hum stuff at restaurants every day.
Book Lodging with Kitchen Options
It used to be that going on vacation meant staying at a traditional hotel-motel. If you were lucky, you might get a fridge or microwave in your room. Today we have almost as many lodging and room options as destinations: VRBO, Air BnB, guest houses, rooms in private residences, apartments, entire homes (including home swaps) and more. Once you find what’s right for your budget, make sure you at LEAST have a microwave and fridge so you can fill in meals, snacks and late-night munching. This will save you a TON of money because we all know that if you are hungry at midnight and there is nothing in your room, you WILL be tempted to order room service (or at least pizza delivery)! Instead, plan a head a bit. Once you hit town, go to a local grocery store (Google it!) and stock up on grocery foods and beverages that you will enjoy…after all you’re trying to save a bit, but it IS a vacation.
Find Hotels With Comp Breakfast
It’s not always possible–especially if your travel destination is off the beaten path–but booking lodging with a complimentary breakfast can really help defray costs. This is usually only the case if you have a family, but can also be a good deal for singles and couples. But only if you enjoy what they serve. I happen to have a membership with La Quinta Inns and Suites, which is very convenient for me when I travel (free) with my Puggle Henry up and down the West Coast. But I enjoy their rooms and the ‘continental plus’ breakfast service the hotel chain offers. If that weren’t the case, I would not book with them, regardless of how ‘cheap’ the room was because the hotel offered breakfast.
Consider the All-Inclusive Option
It might be too late for THIS year, but keep this in mind for a future Spring Break trip or heck, an anytime trip in the future: all-inclusive resorts. All-inclusive resorts allow guests to eat and drink as much as they want their entire stay and almost always offer guests pool, beach, sports and other recreation options. Many properties also offer on-site amenity upgrades for guests who stay 4 or more nights. These upgrades might include spa credits, golf, surfing, local tours, wine tasting events, dining upgrades, exclusive cocktail parties and more.
Here are some of the world’s most budget-friendly all-inclusive options, in order of what I think are least posh to the most:
Riu Palace Pacifico (Mexico), Samba Vallarta (Mexico), Royal Solaris Los Cabos (Mexico), Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Punta Cana (Dominican Republic), El Cozumeleno (Mexico), Grand Palladium Resort and Spa (Jamaica), Gran Caribe (Mexico), Solmar Resort (Mexico), St. James Club Morgan Bay (St. Lucia) and Majestic Colonial Punta Cana (Mexico).
It might not be your thing, but if the all-inclusive vacation interests you, research these above properties to see which might fit your trip. Some are more luxe or (conversely) budget-friendly than others. And some are more suited for families..it just depends on what you’re looking for.
Check Travel and Hotel Site Rates
Look, the travel industry is highly competitive. Hotels want you staying in their beds, restaurants reserving their table and airlines booking their flights. They would also prefer you book DIRECTLY with them, rather than their having to pay a third party a commission. So it often pays to contact the airline or hotel directly and let them know another rate you found. They will usually match that. As well there are some great ‘aggregate’ sites that take several published rates and organize them for you. For flights, there are several great ones: CheapOAir, SeatGuru, Expedia/Travelocity, Hipmunk, Google.com/flights, Skyscanner, Momondo, Trivago and Kayak. For nailing down eateries that fit your jam and yoru budget Yelp and (my favorite) Trip Advisor are often a great help. For Trip Advisor you can ask the community specific questions, too, so you can make informed decisions on where to eat and stay. Pretty cool.
Last-Minute Lodging and Travel Deals
Waiting until the last minute is NOT within everyone’s comfort zone. It’s honestly not mine. But if you have a stomach for it, try delaying your booking and then check prices day by day leading up to your trip. October tends to be a great month to book travel and so is March. The site Travelzoo has an entire section dedicated to last minute travel deals–but mostly hotels and not airline tickets. So be savvy, but don’t cut it too close or else you will get dinged on flights or not get the seats you want, etc.
One of my favorite aggregate sites (as mentioned above) is Kayak. If you search www.kayakcom/explore you can find the cheapest month, day and time to travel to a specific destination. You could also reverse engineer your trip planning by searching a specific time and see which destinations are the most affordable. If your schedule is more open, you can search “flex month.” It will show you the prices to fly between those 2 cities of your choice for any day during a given month. And finally, there are several free and helpful features on that site to plan the trip itself once you nailed down your flight such as: maps, city guides, flight routes, trains to and from cities and local activities. Pretty neato.
In any case, I would love to hear your travel ‘hacks’: ways that you move around this gorgeous planet, eating and drinking according to your vibe and your billfold and having the time of your life. To me, the best posh-on-a-budget travel secrets are ones that are shared with friends.