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Flying high on a low budget: Seven ways to afford your dream trip

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With the proper preparation and determination, you can embark on the vacation of your dreams without breaking the bank. Start by setting a budget and earning some extra cash when you can.

After a year of economic hardship and a seemingly never-ending rise in prices, embarking on your dream trip might seem out of reach. Whether you yearn for a week of sunbathing in the Bahamas or an adventurous trek in the Amazon, traveling sounds pricey. But ask any experienced traveler, and they’ll tell you that seeing the world while sticking to a budget is more than possible. With travel hacks like searching for flights during the off-season and keeping an eye on price predictors, you can indulge in your wanderlust to your heart’s content. 

Your dream trip is waiting for you. Here are seven ways to make it happen on a budget.

Look for coupons
Most travel booking sites offer discount codes on purchases, and finding them is usually a simple online search away. For the best coupons, download free apps and search coupon sites like Offers Club. Simply filtering your destination will give you access to hundreds of codes that will save you cash on flights, hotels, and excursions.

Should you choose to partner with a travel agency, ask about available coupons during booking. Some agencies will even let you enter a contest to win discounts worth hundreds of dollars. For the best money-saving results, be sure to search for deals before making any purchase. You’d be surprised at how many coupons are available at the click of a button. 

Plan smarter
Traveling on a budget is all about planning. You can save serious cash by booking hotels and flights at the optimum time. Travel prices fluctuate depending on the season, day, and even time of booking. For flights, the best time to book is typically 70 days before your trip. To save up to 60% on expenses, aim to book your flight on Tuesday around midnight. 

However, when it comes to lodging, booking until closer to departure is a time-tested money-saving strategy. Hotels tend to drop prices closer to the date when they experience cancellations or vacancies. Of course, waiting to book at the last minute is a game of chance–but rolling the dice might just save you some big bucks. 

Think like a local
It’s easy to blow money on fancy excursions and tourist-centered activities. Ditch the frill and plan your vacation around local favorites. Hike to a lookout and bring food for an inexpensive picnic. 

If you’re a frequent flyer looking to cut back on travel costs, research famous landmarks and design your own walking tour. For a unique experience that won’t blow the budget, ask a local where they like to eat and hang out. Opting for the path less traveled will make your trip more affordable and allow you to experience a one-of-a-kind adventure. 

Don’t forget about food
Of course, chef-prepared meals at Michelin-star restaurants make for a delicious dinner, but you can also prepare your own tasty dishes for a fraction of the price. Ready to roll up your sleeves and add a kitchen-chic, stain-resistant apron to your carry-on luggage? When booking a hotel or Airbnb, make sure to find lodging with a kitchen. Even having access to a fridge and microwave allows you to prepare your own meals. 

When shopping for food, seek out local farmer’s markets and Costcos, where you can purchase fresh items at a low cost. You’ll probably spend a few meals dining out, so try and think like a local when choosing a restaurant. Areas with heavy tourism tend to raise prices, so even walking a few blocks out of the neighborhood gives you access to locally-owned and affordable establishments. Keep an eye out for daily specials and happy hours, and always consider taking home big dinners for a left-overs lunch.

Set a budget
Saving up for a trip sets you up for success right from the beginning. Set up separate savings accounts that you automatically transfer into a few times a month. Set a goal that is a few hundred over your intended budget, just in case of an accident or emergency. 

Once you’ve reached your savings goal, it’s time to lay out a budget. A whopping portion of your budget will be spent on travel and lodging, but don’t forget about smaller expenses looming around every airport terminal and tourist hotspot. 

Factor in expenses like paying for a taxi from the airport and purchasing international WiFi. Budgeting for a trip looks different for every traveler, especially those adventuring with a partner or family. The key to intelligent budgeting is self-restraint, and it won’t be easy. But as you stash away money, remember the trip of your dreams that will soon become a reality. 

Make money on the side
Creating a detailed budget won’t help much if you don’t have the money to fund it. Once you have your heart set on a trip, look for other ways to earn cash on the side. Host a garage sale and list items you don’t need on popular marketplaces. Pick up a side hustle that turns your skills or interest into cash in your pocket, or consider researching smart investment opportunities that offer high interest in a quick turnaround time. If possible, you should also rent out your home while away to make money while traveling. 

Work while you play
Sure kicking back on an extended vacation sounds like a dream, but finding adventure-friendly employment is the biggest travel hack of all. Apply for remote positions like teaching English or working as a copy editor. Work-from-home careers allow you to set your hours so you can explore when you see fit. You can also find opportunities that ask you to work in exchange for room and board. Using your skills and knowledge, you can help a host for a set number of hours and save considerable money on travel expenses. 

Final thoughts
With the proper preparation and determination, you can embark on the vacation of your dreams without breaking the bank. Start by setting a budget and earning some extra cash when you can. Use coupons toward booking, and make sure to search for flights and hotels at the optimum money-saving times. The adventure of a lifetime is waiting for you, and with travel hacks at your side, affording the trip is well within your reach.

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