It’s summer time and most of us would love to take a vacation. Unfortunately, planning and actually paying for a vacation can be tough, especially for medical students and young professionals who are on a tight budget. Here are a few things I did to lower costs when I traveled:
1. Travel during a different time of the year. Most people like to travel in the summer. The weather is nice, kids are out of school, and it’s easier to take time off from work. However, vacation prices are usually more expensive in the summer. To cut costs and save money, I tried to go on vacation during other seasons. Going to warmer places in the spring not only saved me money but also spared me from the insufferable summer heat. Planning tropical vacations in the winter allowed me to escape the cold weather and snow from up north.
2. Find cheaper flights. Call me crazy, but I do not have allegiance to one airline. I try not to make myself suffer through a flight on Spirit or Frontier but besides those two exceptions, I’m open to booking an affordable flight on just about any airline. In fact, I have a separate email address I use for coupons and store discounts. Before I book a flight, I look through those emails for any discount codes, then search kayak or google flights for cheap round trip tickets.
3. Use Airbnb instead of hotels. As a female physician in her late 20s, I like a certain level of class. I’m not a huge fan of hostels or sharing a bathroom with random people I’ve never met. I left the dorm life in college and I do not want to go back, ever. Airbnb is different. The last two times I’ve traveled out of the country (to Puerto Rico and Mexico) I’ve stayed at an Airbnb. The places were clean, the hostess was reliable, and I had zero issues. Plus, it was drastically cheaper than hotels or resorts and was conveniently located within walking distance of the places I wanted to visit. If you’re traveling with a family or in a group, Airbnb’s can save you lots of money and even provide that “home away from home” feeling that is hard to recreate in a hotel.
4. Travel with people. Vacations are cheaper if you can split the cost with other people. Sleeping 2-4 to a room drastically lowered my cost per night. Sometimes I would even split an entrée with a friend at a restaurant if the portions were large enough. Traveling with friends can decrease your lodging and food costs, and the make the trip even more enjoyable.
5. Visit friends and family. If you’re working a tight schedule and can’t coordinate your vacation time with other people, consider the alternative. Go visit your friends instead. As a medical school graduate, I have many classmates who are starting jobs at various places around the country. In an effort to save costs (and maintain the friendship) why not go visit them? It might be nice to go skiing in Utah, hike the mountains in Colorado, or attend a Seahawks game in Seattle. Visiting close friends in other places will not only provide me with a place to stay but will also allow me to explore a new area with people I enjoy. Win-Win.
6. Search Groupon. Once I’ve settled on a vacation area and found affordable lodging (or a friend’s couch), I need to also search for things to do in the area. One of my favorite apps for finding affordable entertainment in a new area is Groupon. On this site, I can find discounts for almost anything. When I went to Napa Valley, my friend and I got a private wine tasting at one of the most beautiful vineyards for only $25. When I was in Georgia, my mom and I got spa and massage deals for half the price. That site has discounts for almost anything you can imagine.
7. Think about going to a conference. This may sound random, but hear me out. As a physician, and even as a student, there were tons of medical conferences each year across the country. From general medical organizations like the AMA to specialty specific organizations and recruitment trips, each year of medical school I attended at least 1 conference in a different state completely free. As a resident physician, I get CME (continuing medical education) money that I can use to attend conferences. Instead of forgoing this money or spending it on phone apps I may never use, I decided to allocate this money for conferences that just to happen to be in a place that I want to visit (wink-wink). Regardless of your profession, ask your colleagues if there are educational conferences your job could help you attend. Doing so may allow you to travel to a new place completely free.
8. Consider a cruise. As a person who went to medical school in Florida, cruises were a viable option. I only lived a couple hours from many of the major ports, which means I didn’t have to spend money on a flight to get to the dock station. Cruises are usually all-inclusive, so I also didn’t need to worry about lodging or food. There was free entertainment on the boat (i.e. Comedy shows and dance clubs). Plus, I had the opportunity to get off the boat each time we docked at new country. Cruises can certainly serve as an affordable vacation.
Tell me, what tips do you have on ways to take more affordable vacations?