Even if you’re already on a budget, you can easily enjoy a much-needed weekend vacation without falling into debt. With a little planning and flexibility, you can obtain last-minute hotel deals, cheaper gas prices, discounted restaurant meals and free or low-cost entertainment.
For instance, smartphone apps like Groupon can help you to find daily deals in your area for activities like mini golf, brewery or winery tours, water parks and more. Additionally, purchasing gift cards at a discounted rate can help you to save money on restaurant expenses. For more tips on how you can spend wisely during a weekend getaway, review the sections below.
1. Plan Your Trip Details
To keep yourself from overspending on a weekend vacation, be sure to plan for your getaway as much as possible. Choose your destination, research the cheapest route and print or save your driving directions to your mobile device in advance. Even if you typically use your GPS or smartphone as a navigation system, you’ll reduce your risk of incurring data overage charges if you look up your route and print or download your directions before you leave.
Through the web version of Google Maps, for instance, you can choose your starting and ending point or add other destinations if you plan to stop at a restaurant, beach, historical monument or scenic overlook along the way. After you’ve gathered this information, you may send the directions to your phone, email them to yourself, or print them. If you use the Google Maps smartphone app, however, you may also choose to download an offline version of the map.
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Moreover, websites such as Roadtrippers can be used to help you plan for your weekend getaway, especially if you’ll be traveling by vehicle. To use the website, you simply need to enter your starting and ending point and your estimated travel dates. Once you provide this information, the website will calculate your total travel time and fuel costs.
Plus, you can even search for available hotel rooms or campsites near your destination, add stops along the way, and search for nearby points of interest. Once you’ve created your trip, you can save your plans by creating a free account or logging in through Facebook.
2. Look For Cheaper Gas Prices
If you use Roadtrippers to assist you in planning your weekend getaway, the website will calculate your estimated fuel costs. However, downloading the GasBuddy or iExit smartphone apps can help you to find the cheapest gas prices along the way. Since gas stations tend to raise their prices on Thursday afternoons, you’ll spend even less on fuel costs if you fill your gas tank earlier in the week rather than filling up right before you leave on Friday evening.
Moreover, some gas stations charge you less if you pay with cash rather than by debit or credit card. While you may only save a dollar or two at the gas pump, you could put these savings toward a restaurant meal or a fun family activity.
3. Look For Discounted Accommodations
While you should plan for your weekend getaway as much as possible, booking your accommodations at the last minute has its benefits. By doing so, you can often find discounted hotel rooms from top-rated names. This is a great option especial if you work from home and can be flexible with vacation days.
To obtain discounted accommodations, however, you’ll need to contact the hotel directly to see if they have any available rooms with last-minute cancellations. If they do, they may offer you a deep discount for booking your stay.
If you can’t wait until the last minute to book your weekend getaway, use booking websites such as Hotwire, Travelocity, Kayak, Priceline or Expedia to look for deals on hotels. If you book your stay from Saturday through Monday rather than Friday through Sunday, you’ll likely obtain an even better deal.
4. Cut Back On Food Costs
Unless you’re careful, you could end up spending more on food and beverages than anything else during your weekend away. While trying a new restaurant or two may be half the fun of taking a trip, there are several ways to cut back on your food expenses. To reduce food costs during your trip, you can try:
- Using gift cards to pay for snacks and meals. Before your trip, use websites such as Gift Card Granny to purchase restaurant gift cards at discounted prices.
- Avoiding bottled water or other bottled beverages. Instead, bring a reusable water bottle and refill it with water as needed. If you’re looking for something other than water, purchase a fountain drink, as they tend to be more cost-effective. Or, bring a cooler with ice and pack it full of your favorite beverages.
- Packing your own snacks. If you stop for snacks along the way, you may overspend on junk food. However, packing your snacks in advance can help you to save money and eat more nutritiously. Instead, bring a cooler and fill it with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, sliced cheese and crackers, pretzels, mixed fruits and pre-cut vegetables.
- Only going out for dinner. While you may be tempted to dine out for every meal, you’ll save money if you pack a pre-made breakfast and lunch and only go out for dinner. For breakfast, have a bowl of cereal, an apple with peanut butter or a granola bar, and eat a pre-made sandwich or pasta salad for lunch. If your pre-made meals won’t last in the cooler for more than one day, stop at a local grocery store for additional items or purchase food from a street vendor. In most cases, you’ll spend less than you would at a restaurant.
- Cutting back on alcohol. If you drink alcohol, cut back on expenses by enjoying a bottle of wine or champagne in your hotel room instead of going out for a drink. If you do order a drink while you’re out, stick with house beer or wine, or only order drinks during happy hour.
5. Look For Free Or Cheap Entertainment
With smartphone apps such as Groupon, finding daily deals on activities and entertainment has never been easier. For instance, you can use Groupon to search for deals on family activities, festivals, comedy clubs, concerts, museums and more. Additionally, you can save money during your weekend getaway by visiting no-cover art museums, local parks and bars or restaurants that provide guests with free music and entertainment.
To find free entertainment near your destination, conduct a simple Google search for “free entertainment in [city]” or “cheap things to do in [city]”. As another option, check community calendars near your destination for a list of free or low-cost events in the area.
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