By Danielle Spano

They say that travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer, but a dream vacation can surely hit you where it hurts — your wallet! Get packing with these great tips on how to travel on a budget.

First things first

Draft a blueprint — decide on a budget, a travel timeframe and a destination, and plan your trip in advance. Companies incentivize travelers to book early and limit last minute deals. Travel planning can take hours, and your time is valuable. Using a travel agent is one option that can help you save time and even money, as they often get deals not available to the public!

Timing is everything

Traveling during “off”, or “shoulder seasons” can save you money! Peak seasons, when the weather is perfect and when the destination’s tourism is most popular, mean higher rates. For example, Americans and Europeans alike take advantage of summer vacations across Europe, making summer months both costly and crowded. Prices (and temperatures) tend to lower during spring and fall. Wherever your dream vacation will take you, aim for just before or after the most popular travel period to shave off some dollar signs. Do your homework and look at a school calendar! If you plan to travel to a family-friendly destination, stay away from spring, summer and winter school holidays for thinner crowds and fatter savings.

Soar into savings

The savings hack of buying air on Tuesdays may have held water before, but in today’s automated environment, airfare fluctuates by the minute based on statistical data. The laws of supply and demand rule the air. It is not so much about when you book your flight, but when you fly. Less convenient or popular flight times/days are less expensive. Book weekday flights on off-hours and travel weekday to weekday (think Tuesday to Monday instead of Monday to Sunday). For international flights, talk to a travel agent who may find you consolidated air fares not available for consumers to purchase direct.

Cruise to lower fares

A cruise vacation does not have to break the bank. Cruise ships have cabins in many different categories and different levels within each category, with pricing based on location and size. Many cruise lines offer guarantee cabins at a lower rate than their counterparts in the same category. A guarantee cabin means that your exact cabin is not assigned when you book. While a guarantee cabin offers savings, you cannot pick your cabin, so you could wind up in a less preferable location. Keep an eye out for kids sail free offers. These sales allow kids to sail in the same cabin as parents, only paying minimal fees. Sometimes kids sail free offers are applicable to adults, so if you are traveling sans kids, you can squeeze an extra friend or two into your cabin and split the fare among you (warning, cruise cabins are small and adults are big!).

As with anything, you get what you pay for. Carefully consider what you may sacrifice for your savings. Travel is not a one-size fits all experience, so you may be more inclined to take a shorter vacation than to move your travel date or change your destination. Save in ways that will not affect what is important to your experience. After all, your vacation may cost money, but the memories you walk away with are free!

Tips for More Fun with your Funds

The more the merrier

Did you know that some resorts, hotels and cruise lines will give you a discount for booking multiple rooms? Invite family and friends to join the fun and the savings!

Bundle up

Purchasing travel components such as air, hotel and car rental together often yields discounts.

Drop the mic

Price dropped after you booked? You can sometimes negotiate a price reduction with the travel company!

“Stuff” happens

Travel insurance is not an unnecessary, additional charge. If you have to cancel, get hurt on your trip, lose your luggage or miss your flight, travel insurance will save you much more than you spent on the policy.