Planning a major vacay is hard in general, but when it comes to traveling in peak season, it can get even more difficult. Between increased flight fares and finding the ideal dreamy destination, the costs can add up quickly. Here are some tips and tricks to live lavishly out of town without breaking the bank.

mexico city center

1. Choose your city wisely. Location is important when it comes to being on a budget. According to travel site Kayak, cities like Denver, Myrtle Beach, Las Vegas, and Boston are easy on the wallet. Trendy international cities can also be surprisingly affordable — even though Mexico City is gaining in popularity, average flights from the US are only around $268 roundtrip. And CheapTickets’ Vacation Value Finder will also let you narrow your search down to destinations by budget and what type of vacation you want to take. For example, looking for a warm, relaxing beach trip? Punta Cana has hotels starting at $85/night.

woman at airport

2. Track flights. If you’re not yet familiar with Google Flights, it’s time to familiarize yourself. The search tool allows you to choose your ideal travel dates and get email notifications if the price fluctuates. It also shows you what dates and locations are cheapest to fly to in the next six months. If you’re a frequent budget traveler, there are email subscriptions like Dollar Flight Club (which can save you up to $500 on your next international flights) and Scott’s Cheap Flights, where you simply input your departure airport and the best deals for worldwide travel will be sent straight to your inbox. These newsletters are especially great for last-minute bookings or if you have flexible dates of travel. Easy, right?

friends traveling together

3. Get all your friends in on it. The same way buying bulk is cheaper, inviting all your close (and not-so-close) friends on your trip can cut costs. With a group, you can swap the hotel for a bigger luxe rental through Airbnb, VRBO, or HomeAway and still keep everyone’s nightly total costs down. Plus, you’ll get to stay in entire French cottages, alpaca farms, and other jaw-dropping accommodations all over the world.

friends sharing meals

4. Plan your meals. Yelp will be your best friend while out of town — set your filters (“$”, “near me”, “open now”, and “top rated” are good to start) and read all the reviews. This is how hidden gems are found! Ask people back home for recommendations before you take off and keep a note in your phone of all the places to try, so you don’t end up wandering the streets hungry and settling for the nearest and most expensive tourist trap. You can also book a rental with a kitchen, stock up on local groceries, and cook a few nights in. If you want to spoil yourself to a fancy meal, make reservations in advance, and save the date so you know how much to expect to spend on that day.

travel adventures

5. Find free/cheap adventures. Most cities have endless amounts of things to do that involve little to no money. Think beaches, pools, parks, public art spaces, hiking trails, and even art museums on certain days. Walking tours are a great way to explore a city and can be relatively cheap. Airbnb also offers experiences — like cooking classes, chocolate making, and a sunset hot spring soak — to fit all price ranges and that will give you a taste of living like a true local.

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