©iStockphoto.com/maridav Image by: ©iStockphoto.com/maridav
Gail MacDonald, a travel consultant at Carlson Wagonlit Travel, offers some expert advice on how to plan a budget-friendly summer vacation so you don't have to worry about your bank account while you're trying to get away from it all.
1. Pick the right destination
Late summer is a notoriously expensive time to travel, so choose your destination wisely. There are some places known for offering cheaper vacations than others.
"Cuba is still the most economical destination, and the weather is pretty good there in the summertime. Greece is another destination that is affordable and very rich in culture," says MacDonald.
Whether you want to just kick back on a sunny beach or take in as much local culture as possible, weigh your options so you can make the thriftiest choice. You may need to make some compromises, but that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice an amazing experience.
2. Find a package deal
Travelling is one instance where putting all of your eggs in one basket can work in your favour. Purchasing your flights, hotel, cruise or car rentals all together will save you money, planning time and effort.
"You just get good value for your money when things are put together as a package," says MacDonald. "Transat Holidays has some very interesting packages with good prices. They also have one-week stays in main cities in Europe, like Paris, London, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Berlin, Amsterdam and Rome. These places are rich in culture and history and can be affordable."
Do your research to investigate what kinds of packages are available this summer. You may find you get even more bang for your buck than you imagined.
Page 1 of 2 -- Tired of expensive hotel bills whenever you travel? Discover some creative and cheaper alternatives to hotels on page 2. 3. Find creative alternatives to expensive hotels
As long as you don't mind sacrificing the room service and spa treatments, you can save a ton of cash by skipping the hotel. It's not as difficult as you might think to find creative and cost-effective accommodation.
"Small apartments are a great alternative. They allow you to find and prepare your own meals and also really give you that immersion into the culture," says MacDonald.
Renting an apartment will not only chop your accommodation and food bill, but you'll get to live like a local for the duration of your trip.
Small apartments are charming, private and self-contained, so everything you need will be right at your fingertips. Check out airbnb.com, roomorama.com and vrbo.com to start your search.
4. Pick your sightseeing strategies carefully
You don't need to splurge on an expensive group tour to see the best sights. A bus tour is a great way to take in the culture at your own pace and you can stop wherever you want. Make it easy by allowing someone else to navigate the streets for you.
"There are hop-on hop-off tours where you pay one price and the bus makes regular stops and gives you a commentary in your own language so you know what you're seeing. You can hop off and then later hop back on the next bus that comes around," says MacDonald.
Almost every major city has a hop-on hop-off tour, including New York City, London, Paris and Toronto, just to name a few. They're a comfortable, safe and easy way to window shop for sites you want to spend more time at later. And you don't have to worry about waiting for the rest of the group.
5. Do your research on money grabs
Be aware that what might be considered a great deal for some may be totally unnecessary for you, and vice versa. This is why it's important to do your own research, to have a clear vision of what you want from your vacation and to go with your gut.
"Each individual has their own comfort level as to how independent they want to be, so what might seem like a money grab to one individual may be well worth the cost to another," says MacDonald. "When dealing with a travel professional you have a better chance of getting the best value for you dollar."
If you're looking to personalize your trip to make it fit your budget and your wants, consider booking an appointment with a travel agent so you can tell a pro exactly what you want. Navigating websites can be tricky, especially when you're trying to be cautious and avoid overspending on things you don't need.
Most important of all is that your vacation is safe and fun, and that you and your partner are not worrying about your finances while you're away. Planning a trip can be just as fun as the trip itself if you take the time to plan it well in advance so you can gain a clear vision of what you want and not miss out on any great deals.
Page 2 of 2