Vacationing on a budget

in , , by Katie Margaret, December 14, 2013

One thing that my husband and I have always had in common is that we love going on vacations. Who doesn't? We love going to new places, especially when it's a warm tropical place. In the past 5 years, we have been together, we have gone on a lot of really nice vacations together. We really value that time away, so we plan and save for trips. Our goal is to go on a big trip twice a year. Since we are always looking for ways to save money, we, of course, plan our vacations around a budget.

For example, we just got back from a 4-night cruise in the Caribbean to Key West and Cozumel. It was relaxing and fun, everything a vacation should be. We had a budget of $1,000, which is not an easy number to stick to. We had a lot of unexpected expenses pop up on the trip, but we still ended up staying within our budget when everything was all said and done. Here's how we did it...

Cruise- Cruises are the best vacation for the money in my opinion. Personally, I like to know that all my meals are already paid for when I go on vacation. I don't like that feeling of not knowing how much I will be spending on food when I'm on vacation. Cruise ships are great because your food is included. I also love how there is entertainment every night and throughout the day. The best part of a cruise ship is that you get to go to a new place every day. I want to be able to go to as many places in my life as I can, so for me, a cruise is perfect for that. The price you pay for a cruise vacation is well worth it. Like I said, we had a $1,000 budget to stick to, so we had to chose to go on a sorter cruise this time to save on money. We paid $139 per person. After taxes and gratuity, it came out to be somewhere around $518 for the both of us. You really can't beat that price!

Cruise ship from one of our Bahama cruises

Flights- I can't really help out that much in this category, because we fly for free :) This helps out tremendously because flying is such a huge expense when you go on vacations. I can, however, say that one of our extra expenses on this trip was due to flying. We fly standby, so we had to leave 2 days before our cruise because the flight loads were so high all weekend. It forced us to have to pay for 2 nights in a hotel. We weren't thinking when we were planning our vacation week that we would be traveling the weekend after Thanksgiving. We were only looking at the cruise prices. Plane tickets are higher and also, as we found out, hotel prices are higher too. We both agreed that flying anytime around a holiday is not a good idea. If you're looking to save money on a vacation, do not go during a holiday! I wish I could offer more help with finding deals on flying, but at the same time I know that there are lots of great ways that you can find airline deals. Everyone is looking to save money when it comes to flying. My best advice is just to shop around and look for the best times, be flexible with your schedule and plan ahead.

Alcohol- One thing I enjoy on vacation is sitting in the sun with a cold beer in my hand, just like the Corona commercials. The problem on a cruise ship is that alcohol is not included, but this has never been a problem for us. We always plan and set a limit for how many drinks we can have on the entire trip. This works well for us. You can spread them out however you want. On the ship, I would advise staying away from the Pina Coladas or fancy mixed drinks. Stick to beer and wine on the boat and you can stay around $5 per drink. When you're off the ship at port, there are always local places you can try that offer special. We always like to try a local beer from the area we are in.

Port Activities- One of my favorite parts of a cruise is stopping at new ports. I love getting off the boat and seeing a new place. The cruise lines will try to sell you all sorts of excursions. They all look great, but they are usually very pricy. Our favorite thing to do when we are at a new port is to get a cheap taxi ride to the nearest beach. Not all ports have this available, so it doesn't hurt to do some research before you book a cruise to find out what cheap options the ports have to offer. One of our favorite stops so far on our cruise vacations has been Nassau, Bahamas. You can take a taxi or boat over to Paradise Island for only a few bucks and the beach is beautiful! We found a little beach bar there that sells Kalik beer, The Bahamas beer, and conch fritters. 

The view from Beach Bar on Paradise Island, Nassau, Bahamas
The one thing that you have to remember is that, just because you set a budget, doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice anything. You can still have a very fun and relaxing vacation without breaking your wallet. Pick a vacation that is affordable for you and set a realistic budget that you can stick to. Remember to do your research for the best deals and plan ahead. Have a great trip!

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