Vacations on a Budget

It's about that time of year when all manner of advertisements trumpeting budget vacation ideas become too loud to ignore. After months of working hard, you may be eager to get away for a while. There are countless vacation options, including many on the cheap. Here are a few ways to both plan and enjoy a budget vacation without going broke.

Stay in a nearby town.

Rates for a hotel in the heart of town (or city) always come at a premium. But budget vacation ideas call for looking in surrounding towns where you may land on a plum discount. Chances are you'll be within striking distance of the target vacation spot and can get there via public transport.

To rent or not to rent a car.

Public transportation is one ginormous money-saving budget vacation idea. If you're visiting a major city, or any area with reliable public transportation, consider ditching the rental car in favor of a weekly pass to ride the train, bus, or whatever public transit is available. Aside from the wallet- and environment-friendly benefits, you'll often get closer to the attractions you want to see and won't mar your vacation by worrying about parking.

Research daily deals in your destination city.

Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial offer excellent suggestions for activities and events in the locale you're visiting, as well as money-saving budget vacation ideas. You'll find deals on everything from restaurant meals to tickets to concerts, amusement parks, and famous attractions.

Ask the locals.

A good rule of thumb is to ask the locals in whatever area you're visiting about attractions you can add to your list of budget vacation ideas. Work up the nerve to chat and the rewards will be high. Local residents typically have plenty of cost-effective suggestions for dinner, lodging, and popular things to do while you're in town.

Be flexible about travel days.

It's common practice for airfare and hotels to adjust prices to reflect supply and demand, especially around major holidays. Plan a vacation that doesn't overlap with any of the much desired travel days, or consider staying an extra day or two to avoid the highest fares. Do your homework before booking to see if this is a worthwhile budget vacation idea.

Go during the off-season.

The list of budget vacation ideas inevitably includes a recommendation to plan your trip for less popular travel periods. We're certainly not suggesting that you book a vacation to coincide with hurricane season, but the best times to go may be at the edges of peak season. The weather is usually still good and events still abound, but these transition moments give you the opportunity to enjoy your dream vacation without the high price tag -- or the jostling crowds.