Spring Break, AKA the only motivation getting us through this semester, is just around the corner. If you have big ideas for this vacation but no idea how to execute them, read on! It’s easy to have a trip planned in your mind, but having the money and energy to follow through can be much more difficult. I’ve had my fair share of planning trips with a minimal budget, and I’ve learned a few tips on how to do it. Whether it’s a weekend trip to Nashville or an entire week at the beach, these helpful hints can help your dream Spring Break become a reality.
Find a Group
The best tip for traveling on a budget is to go with as many people as possible. An ideal number would be six to eight people total. This might seem like a lot of people to keep up with for a relaxing vacation, but it will help tremendously when creating a budget. If there are more people, the total cost can be divided equally between several people.
It may seem slightly inconvenient to travel with so many people, but the entire group can separate into smaller groups for activities during the week. For example, half the group might want to go deep sea fishing early in the morning while the other group sleeps in. You shouldn’t force the entire group to stay together because it’s all about compromise.
If you’re still wondering if going in a large group is worth it, I can give you an example of a week-long trip I went on with seven of my friends. We found a vacation home in Florida that sleeps 6, but we brought a cot and used a couch as an extra bed. We crammed eight people into a rental that averages $110 a night. With four people, this would be $30 a night per person. That’s still pretty cheap, but with eight people it’s much cheaper. It comes out to about $14 a night per person for a total of $96 for an entire week at the beach. That’s not too bad, right? Plus, gas and food can be split between eight people easily.
Set a Budget
Before you make reservations, be sure to set a budget. Be sure that the people in your group won’t back out of the trip at the last second because this can destroy your budget or possibly the entire vacation. Have a group discussion about how much money each person is willing to pay. The important part of this step is to be realistic. Don’t say you have an unlimited budget when you actually struggle to pay your rent. On the other side of that, don’t say your budget is $30 because that’s completely unrealistic for a week-long vacation. Find a happy-medium between all the group members.
As you make the budget, it’s helpful to write out every aspect of the trip. Save some wiggle room for potential car problems, tolls, medication, snacks or whatever else you can think of. The group should still be realistic in planning the extra parts of the budget. If anything does happen unexpectedly during the trip, work together to pay for it accordingly.
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Find a Place
The most important part of planning your trip is to find the perfect place to stay. Whether you decide to stay in a hotel or a rental, make sure you do your research. Look at multiple websites, reviews and options. Your goal should be to find the cheapest option without sacrificing quality. Most likely, you won’t be able to find a luxurious vacation home with granite countertops and a theater room for your price range. Settle for something with lots of sleeping arrangements and in a nice location.
Unless you have a specific city or area your group wants to visit, sometimes it can be easier to find the hotel or rental first. If your group decides on visiting a beach in Florida, there are several smaller, lesser-known areas that have cheaper places to stay than big cities like Miami or Panama City Beach. Search for great deals in an area close to a big city in case you want to take a day trip somewhere exciting. For example, searching “beach towns near Destin, FL” will give you cheaper options than actually staying in Destin.
Reserving a rental or hotel will most likely be the biggest chunk of your budget. Do your research as soon as possible for a better chance of availability. Start contacting the owners of the vacation rentals about any questions or concerns you have early because it could take a while for them to answer. One problem you may run into is an age requirement. This can be difficult to avoid for many companies or owners, so be prepared to deal with it.
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Buy Some Groceries
Another large chunk of your budget might be going toward buying food. Food should be one of the last factors in your total budget because it’s so flexible. While driving, plan your stops at cheap fast food places or just pack some sandwiches and snacks in the car. When you arrive at your destination, you should go grocery shopping soon after. Make a list of simple, cheap meals that you can buy the groceries for. Don’t buy the food for the entire week because you might end up with more food than you need. Buy a few meals at a time rather than doing one huge grocery trip. Split the cost of the food between the entire group.
There are several meals that are simple and cheap, and I’m sure most college students are familiar with them. Buy Ramen, sandwich meat, pasta and other meals that won’t break the budget. Search online for some meal ideas. It might not be gourmet vacation food, but eating cheap for a week will help lower the cost of the trip.
Try to limit the amount of times you eat at restaurants because that food will be much more expensive than making it yourself. Keep track of how much the group has spent on grocery shopping. At the end of the week, if you’ve spent much less money than anticipated, treat yourself to a large meal on the last night. If you do eat out, try splitting meals because they are often large servings.