The good life is pricey. So what’s a couple on a budget to do when they want a taste of paradise? The fancy all-inclusives will never tell, but that’s where I come in. Over the years, I’ve become somewhat of a budget traveler. Whenever Andrew and I go on vacation, we’re always discovering new ways to avoid the traps of overpriced travelling. I’ve listed our top hacks for planning a vacation on a budget.
Don’t always go for the most popular destination. Places like Hawaii, Aruba, Cancun and Punta Cana are super pricey. They’re considered luxury destinations with elegant resorts and beaches, making these spots more elite and expensive. But in reality, it’s all image and branding.
You can discover the same island beauty at other lesser-known islands and you get the same tropical experience! Puerto Plata in Dominican, Culebra in Puerto Rico and Montego Bay in Jamaica are stunning options. If you’re seeking all-inclusive, these resorts are both affordable and fabulous.
Why not go with other couples? When you purchase a group package at an all-inclusive resort, you’re getting a way better deal.You can find group rates through Sunwing Vacations, Expedia.ca and many others. Use your deal-finding skills to scope out the best options. In this case, it’s the more the merrier-- more laughs, memories and money in your pocket.
Skip the hotel
If you’re not booking an all-inclusive resort, avoid the fancy hotels. With these big hotel chains, you’re basically paying extra for pretty wall paintings, designer toilet paper and maids who leave a mint on your pillow. Sure it’s nice, but is it worth it? Nope.
When Andrew and I traveled Europe, we did our research to find affordable accommodations. You can consider Airbnb, timeshares, villas or even a private beach hut. You’ll get all the perks of an island vacation, but on budget.
Homemade meals & local chefs
For trips that are not all-inclusive, try planning homemade meals. You can buy produce from the local market to cook yummy island dishes.
Or if cooking isn’t your idea of vacation fun, you can always hire local chefs. Their rates are cheap because they work independently. They might be moms or fishermen, but they live nearby and will come over and create amazing meals using fresh ingredients from the land. You can seek them out by asking the locals or checking reviews on TripAdvisor.
Leaving the resort or villa can get expensive. You’ve got to budget for the cab fair, equipment, tips and then the excursion itself-- it really adds up! To skim the cost, you can arrange cheap excursions with the local tour companies or independent guides instead of booking through the hotel. When you buy an excursion package through your hotel, they inflate the price so they can take a bigger cut.
Avoid this scam and just arrange your own private excursion. To find a guide, you'll usually find them advertising along the beach or in populated tourist areas. Or you can do your research beforehand to find online reviews of reliable local guides. And you don't need a guide but just a driver, don’t pay the entire fee upfront. To guarantee the driver takes you back, make an agreement to pay the other half when the driver returns.