Maybe you’re on a tight budget, love a bargain or simply want to take several trips a year, whatever the reason, today’s post provides money saving ideas for your next vacation. My hubby, Jim and I are pretty good at saving money and living below our means. We live a simple life and most of our vacations are relatively inexpensive. I think it comes naturally to us but our desire to retire early is a strong motivator.
Our idea of vacation is not for everyone. Most of our friends and family have no desire to spend their vacation walking in the wild spaces of our country’s National Parks and Wilderness areas. Our budget friendly vacations allow us to take longer trips, which we prefer to several smaller ones. We had an awesome time this summer in and around Glacier National Park. We did splurge a bit by renting a boat and spending the day on Flathead Lake. I highly recommend you visit the lake on your next trip to NW Montana. I share all the details in the post below:
Traveling outside of the United States can be expensive. We loved our vacations to France, Baja Mexico, and Switzerland. We went to France for our honeymoon, Baja with Backroads and Switzerland on our first home exchange. We have already booked an home exchange to Italy in July 2023!
One way to save money is to have flexible travel plans and use Pomelo Travel to find affordable international flights. Pomelo has an experienced team of travel experts who scour the web every day to find you the best international deals departing from the US. Alerting you to mistake fares, price wars, and hidden discounts. They do the time-consuming task of searching for you. Simply provide your email address and they send you a list of flights every day. Popular destinations tend to sell out fast, so you will need to pay the $39 yearly membership fee to get these flights earlier than the unpaid members. Visit the link below to learn more:
We have used the website Home Exchange for years. This is the same one featured in the Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz movie, The Holiday. We have used this site to exchange homes in Switzerland, Whitefish and Red Lodge, Montana. When you join, you will have the opportunity to exchange your primary or vacation home with over 450,000 members in 159 countries. The cost is $175 per year and to get you excited about your first home exchange, you will earn enough GuestPoints to stay in another member’s home without exchanging your home. Simply, fully complete your profile including pictures of your home and interesting spots in your community.
How Home Exchange Works:
I reactivated our account after completing our Coastal Modern renovation and it took less than a month to book an exchange to Italy’s Lake District in 2023. We will be staying in a family home in Baveno, Italy, which features beautiful gardens and views of Lake Maggiore. Baveno is a small town close to popular, Stressa and is located on the SW shores of Lake Maggiore near the beautiful Isola Bella and the charming Isola dei Pescatori islands. In addition to the wonderful Italian food and culture, we will explore local towns and the countryside on the nearby mountainside trails.
If you are interested in exchanging homes with us, here is the link to our home: https://www.homeexchange.com/homes/view/1338081
Below you will find links about our Home Exchange to Switzerland:
Whether you use VRBO or another online rental service, having a place with a kitchen and privacy is hard to beat. We like to have breakfast at the rental, then pack our lunch and head out for a day. Our activities will determine our dinner plans. If we have been hiking all day, we will usually stay in, but if we took it easy, we’ll enjoy a night out on the town. Preparing meals in your rental will save a bit of money and allow you to splurge on other parts of your trip.
Traveling to major cities makes using public transportation relatively easy and inexpensive. When visiting New York, London, or Paris learning the routes and pricing of the railways, underground, and bus systems can save you tons of time and money compared with renting, gassing up, and parking a car. We found the railway system in France and Switzerland relatively easy to understand and inexpensive. The Swiss trains are notoriously reliably, but the trains in France can be hit or miss.
Things to do
We live where folks take their dream beach vacations, so we like to head to the mountains or abroad for our holidays. I will share more information about US National Parks and natural areas later in this post but spending time in these places can be absolutely free or just a few dollars a day. In addition, historical sites, ancient churches and museums are usually less than $20. Beautiful parks, beaches, rivers and lakes are free or just a few dollars. Remember, exploring local towns and window shopping is free!
Wilderness Areas, State and National Parks
There are over 800 wilderness areas protecting over 100 million acres in the U.S. and most of these areas have no fee or a very small fee for entrance. These are special places where nature still calls the shots. Places where people like us, with an appetite for adventure, can find a sense of true self-reliance and experience solitude. They are final holdout refuges for a long list of rare, threatened, and endangered species, forced to the edges by modern development. They are the headwaters of critical, life-infusing rivers and streams. They are places where law mandates above all else that wildness be retained for our current generation, and those who will follow. You can explore trails, camp, hike, float rivers, and even hunt with required permits. All for free or a very small cost. Please remember to practice leave no trace principles when you visit natural areas. To learn more about our wilderness areas visit the link below:
State Parks offer many opportunities to get outside in your community for free or a very small fee. State Park systems can stimulate each state’s economy through tourism, relocation, recreation, and even air-quality for nearby residents. Outdoor recreation can reduce juvenile crime, promote closeness within families, and build community involvement. Spending time in state parks promotes exercise, good health, inspiration, self-realization, and life enrichment. Supporting state park systems ensures that natural and cultural resources are preserved for the next generation. Children growing up in a culture of smart phones and computers can benefit greatly from spending time outdoors in state parks. Find a park near you in the link below:
You have probably spent time in one or more of our nation’s natural areas. I remember going to Phipps Park in Palm Beach as child, where my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother celebrated holidays and birthdays since the park was created in 1948. We have explored trails in many U.S. National Parks, including Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Yosemite, Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, North Cascades, Olympic, Mount Rainer and Glacier. An annual pass is $80, and a camping site is $20 per night. The majestic landscapes and star-filled nights provide an experience that is truly magical. Many folks will see bear, big horn sheep, mountain goats and other animals for the first time.
Off the beaten path
Budget Travelers know that some of the coolest places to visit in the United States are towns with populations under 20,000. Whether you want a warm welcome, a vibrant main street, a craft beer, cutting-edge gallery, or tasty bowl of chili, America’s small towns make for some of the finest—and affordable—vacations on earth. We truly enjoyed our stay in Marblemount, WA, where we rented an RV on the Cascade River. The RV was a bit tight, but the location was awesome!
Plan ahead to save money on your rental car and flights. When we vacation, we prefer to head to the mountains and that means we need to pay for our flights, a rental car, and a place to stay. Booking these things early often means we save money.
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