Last week I shared how to travel on a teacher salary and student loan budget, today we’re talking about what happens when you actually get to your destination. There’s nothing worse than cutting corners and saving all of this money on your flight and lodging accommodations to then go and blow so much money on the activities that you could be saving money on too!

In just four weeks I’ll be on my first trip to the LA/ San Diego area and you know what I’m doing now (besides typing this up for you) planning on where I want to eat, what I want to do, and how much travel is necessary between each. Why? Because I want to capitalize on the experience without spending a large amount that I’ll have to pay off when I get back from vacation. So what am I doing? Here are some tips you can follow too to help plan your vacation activities on a budget.

How To Plan Vacation Activities On A Budget

1. Call Ahead: Research is always key in saving a buck or two so if you know there are places you definitely want to hit on your trip to a particular area RESEARCH! Once you’ve done your due diligence in researching the area call up and ask if they are running any deals, promotions, sales or have any days where activities are free. I know that I love seeing sights and attending museums. Tons of museums offer days or particular times when it is free to attend. I’m writing those all down on days that I will be there so I can schedule accordingly to maximize the experience with out paying for it.

2. Get A Map: I learned last year when I went to Vegas that traveling from Point A to Point B can be very pricey. And since you cant really haggle a taxi fare, get a map of the location you are staying in and plan! Figure out what it is you want to do while you’re on vacation and see how close they are to one another. Can you walk from once place to another then maybe you should plan to do those activities together instead of taking several taxi rides to similar areas. Same goes for eating. If you know you are doing an activity try to find some place to eat that is near by (the Around Me App will be your best friend)

3. Look for coupons/deals/discounts/reward points: I am always looking up coupons, discount codes,…etc even when I am not on vacation so you know I’m doing it times 10 when I am away. Groupon especially has deals that they can pull up based on your location so why not take advantage! Also look into purchasing things in advance (tickets to shows, amusement parks, museums…etc) and see if you get a cheaper rate by doing. Best of all if it is a chain or franchise try and see if you can use your reward points or if this place even has a reward system.

4. Opt for local vs Fine dining:  This might be just a personal thing for me but I don’t go all out in eating when I am on vacation. Especially because I am super picky and have pretty strict diet restraints for myself, I don’t allow myself to go food crazy. Food is a significant chunk of the vacation budget of course… you have to eat! But instead of eating at the hotel, find local places. Best of all if your hotel has free breakfast take advantage because while it is the most important meal of the day it can cut into your budget significantly. Eat how the local people eat and you will see you save yourself some coin and might find you enjoy the random deliciousness of a hole in the wall vs a 5 star restaurant.

5. Set a daily allowance: I am the queen of the daily allowance whether I am on vacation or not, but especially when I’m on vacation. You know why? Because you are going to have to come back to real life with real bills at some point and though we don’t want to think about that while on vacation, nothing can ruin a good experience like a call from Sallie Mae. So set your overall budget and keep it in mind. You then want to pull that out in cash (if you are more responsible use your credit card) and separate the total into a daily alottment. You take that envelope with your allowance in it wherever you go and that is all you allow yourself to spend. (you can keep your credit card with you in case of emergencies). What I prefer to do (because I hate walking around with cash) is to just bring one credit card with me on vacation and track my spending daily on that (I use mobile banking from my phone so it makes it pretty simple). Once I’ve spent my limit the credit card goes away until the next day.

6. Take advantage: Take advantage of your preparation. Don’t think you’re being too formulaic. Instead search for coupons, deals, discounts, reward points , map out…etc. Do it to make your experience the best possible experience for yourself. Take advantage of the environment, the locals…etc. The world is at your disposal and if used correctly you will always come out victorious.

Hope these tips were helpful! Stay tuned next week as I discuss what I’m wearing/ shopping and how I’m spending in preparation for my first trip to LA. If you have any local LA or San Diego spots you think I should visit please feel free to leave them in the comment box below! I’m open to all types of ideas!

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