How to Plan Your Dream Trip on a Budget

Guest blogger William Frye says, "We're a family of four that is always looking for the next best destination. We're frugal travelers that love to live within our means, but travel beyond them. Visit our blog at http://fryetime.thesmilingsuitcase.com/ for tips, observations and travel anecdotes."

Do you fear your dream destination will break the bank? Maybe that trip is closer to being a reality than you think. With some careful planning, some time, and a bit of out-of-the-box thinking, you could put together a dream trip for you and your family on a shoestring budget.

Our family of four recently took a trip to St. Thomas, USVI and made a decision to spend only $2200 without impacting the trip in any way. That includes airfare, accommodations, transportation and food. Seems impossible, huh? As with any trip, planning and research are the keys. Here are some tips to manage the costs of your dream trip.

  1. Start searching well in advance for price fluctuations in airfare. We typically sign up for daily alerts to locations we've considered traveling to in the next several years to be fairly accurate on what time of year is the cheapest to fly. The standard airfare for Nashville to St. Thomas is usually around $460 round-trip. We booked a special offer during low season for $250 round-trip, a savings of $840 for a family of four.
  2. Check into renting a villa, home or apartment instead of the usual hotel or resort. Not only can you get a cheaper rate, many come with fully stocked kitchens and extras such as snorkel gear. Plus, living like a local allows you to get out and explore instead of staying put at the resort. The typical cost of hotel in St. Thomas is $150 per night. A villa rental cost us $750 for seven nights, a savings of $300.
  3. Reserve your car in advance on a site that doesn't charge until you arrive. That way you can continue to shop for a better deal with no cancellation fees.
  4. Buy your food from local merchants and grocery stores.  Dining in is possibly the easiest way to save money. If you're renting a place with a kitchen, why not use it?

As expected our trip costs totaled just over $2100. With careful planning and a bit of time, you can live within your means, but travel beyond them. 

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