4 Ways to Save on Summer Travel

With summer right around the corner, many of us are dreaming of white sand beaches and luxurious resorts, but if an international getaway is not in your budget this year, fear not, because we’ve got the scoop on ways you can unwind without breaking the bank.

1. Plan a staycation

You don’t have to leave town to get away! You make think you’ve seen all your town has to offer, but think again! There are always hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Pick up a local newspaper or community magazine to find out what restaurants or exhibits are new in town, like Marisa Pieper a student at Arizona State University who decided to explore downtown Phoenix with a friend. She recommends keeping an open mind and being up for whatever may come your way.

“Both of us have never really explored downtown Phoenix and we thought it would be fun to know the ins and outs. So go explore the city you live in!” Marisa says.

Become a tourist in your city and check out your town's official visitor site for activity ideas. Yelp, Facebook and Instagram are also great ways to discover new places. Browse popular hashtags or local foodie pages, and don’t forget to search offline too! Hit up a local museum or tourist attraction and ask an employee for recommendations of things to do.

Maybe there’s a flea market being held or a local theater is hosting an indie movie day? You won't know unless you ask, so don’t be afraid to get out there, strike up a conversation and be ready for an adventure.

2. Visit a national park

Get outside and enjoy what mother nature has to offer! Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon are wonderful, but there are more than 50 other national parks across the country waiting for you explore. If great outdoors are calling but a national park is out of reach, try visiting a local or state park in your town.

Sarah Kaner, University of Texas alum, is now based in Arizona which a #budgettravel goldmine of being home to more than a dozen natural monuments and parks.

“I always look into road-tripping options that are available close to where I'm living, Sarah says “I'm also a HUGE fan of visiting national parks and I try to visit one every summer.”

There are free entrance days scheduled throughout the year so be sure to check NPS.gov and mark your calendars.

Related: Travel on a student budget: Get rich, spending money

3. Try house-sitting or a work exchange

After airfare, lodging may be the most expensive part of planning a trip, but have you considering a house swap? That’s right, sites like House Exchange and Couch Surfing allow you to find a place to stay in exchange for pet-sitting or watering plants. You could also do an even exchange and trade spaces with someone looking to visit your neck of the woods. If you’re not tied down to a job right now and are looking for something long-term, consider a volunteering abroad or enrolling in Work Away, which allows you to trade your skills and services for a temporary place to stay. Always wanted to learn to surf in Hawaii? You can look for a Work Away on a local farm!

University of Florida grad Michelle Neely says pet-sitting is the best of both worlds when you want to explore somewhere new but have a tight budget.

“You can hang out with other people’s dogs, explore a new part of town and essentially stay at an Airbnb that you get paid to stay at! You can save money for an actual vacation,” Michelle says.

Like any person-to-person exchange site, such as Craigslist or Airbnb, be sure to keep your wits about you when deciding to stay in another person’s home. Safety should be your number one priority, and if something seems sketchy or there aren’t many positive reviews, steer clear! Do not let a “good deal” impair your judgment or put you in a potentially dangerous situation.

Related: How to travel on a budget

4. Use a travel planner

You’re probably thinking how could you afford a travel agency with a limited budget, but there’s an app for that! Seriously, sites like Jauntaroo and Budget Your Trip help you create an your ideal itinerary based on the costs of travel and activities in your desired location.

If you’re feeling spontaneous, check out Pack Up And Go! It’s a surprise travel agency that specializes in planning your perfect trip based on your budget and interests. The catch is you don’t know where you’re going until the day of!  No need to fear though as transportation, lodging and all activities are reserved for you. After submitting a survey with your interests and your preferred travel dates, the agency will send you your departure info, local weather forecast and recommended items to bring. A few days before your trip you’ll receive an envelope with your city guide and recommendations, but you can open it on the way there (wink).

If you're not able to get away for a weekend, apps like All Events and DoStuff help you find last-minute events nearby. Fill that hole in your schedule with a Gilmore Girls pop-up or local crafts fair.

Remember, it is possible to try new things and have a good time on a limited budget. You don’t need to be in a luxury hotel on the ‘gram to prove you had an amazing vacation. Adventure awaits in all of your surroundings, you just have to look! Happy travels.