Taking a Summer Trip on a Budget

By Olivia Lawnick, Student at Newberry College

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Vacation time is finally here, and you are ready to relax … except your budget isn't as prepared for some summer fun.

Don't worry, there are a few ways you can enjoy your break without breaking the bank. Yes, it is possible. Check out my cheat sheet for ways you can have summer fun and stay within your budget range.

Who Do You Know?

One way depends on who you know, or more importantly, where they live. Think about your family and good friends. Does someone live in or near an interesting city? An aunt in San Francisco? Your best friend near New York City? Your grandparents near the lake in Vermont? Don't be shy — contact them and see what their schedule is like. This way, you can enjoy spending time with them as well as the change of scenery.

The bonus here is that you can save on lodging fees. And what you save on hotels you can spend on gas money. To make your visit a little more economical, see if the drive can become a road trip. Hopefully, your sister can help split the gas money to see your grandparents. If visiting family and friends doesn't appeal to you (or if the locations don't appeal to you), there are still other options.

Hit the Beach!

Want to spend a few days at the beach? This trip might not be as expensive as you think. First of all, consider the location. Do you want to just enjoy the beach or did you have a specific beach in mind? If you just want to enjoy the sun, sand and surf, you can actually save some money by avoiding tourist beaches. However, if that is exactly what you are looking for, you can compromise. Try finding hotels or lodging that are 1 to 2 miles away from the most popular sections. Rates will usually be lower, but you can still have access to the sights and action.

Regardless of which beach you decide on, try looking for a hotel that is a block or more inland. You can decide how far you want to walk with how much you want to save. Also, if your schedule allows, try visiting during the week. Tuesday through Thursday will not be as expensive as Friday through Sunday. Remember to avoid any big holidays, like the Fourth of July or Labor Day. Since you are paying for a hotel, try to save on food. If possible, bring snacks and drinks with you. Most hotels have a mini fridge and a microwave in their rooms.  That doesn't mean you have to eat Ramen, but you could bring lunch meat and bread to make sandwiches for an affordable lunch on the beach.

Plan Around an Internship or Job

This next idea is a little different — it's less of a vacation and more of an experience. It also requires much more planning ahead. For next summer, try applying for an internship overseas. My Big is currently doing chemistry research in France. On the weekends, the program takes them to different areas of France for sightseeing, exploration and interaction. Not all internships are overseas, but there are also interesting locations within the United States. The bonus is that some are paid internships. This is definitely something to look into further, as it's a great way to expand your experiences for both your resume and yourself.

Following along the lines of work and planning ahead, you can always look into an interesting summer job next year. Many boardwalks hire high volumes of people to work for the season. Sometimes the company will help provide with lodging. Yes, this does require you to work for the summer, but you won't be working all day every day. Make the most of your time off in the fun location you are at.

Another employment option is babysitting or becoming a nanny. This is not a great option for everyone, but it is for those who enjoy kids and are responsible. I was a nanny for my teammate's family friend, and I truly enjoyed playing with three kids on the private beach for the summer. I realized when I had time off and made the most of it. If you are interested in a more exotic experience, try posting a resume on an international nanny website. A friend of mine learned Italian in school and was able to be paired with a really sweet family just outside of Rome. This option should be considered as less of a vacation and more of making the most out of an opportunity.

Dream Big for Next Summer

For those who don't have a budget to work with at all, keep saving for next summer! When I can't afford a trip at all, I check out travel books from the library. I really enjoy hiking but can't afford the gear for more than day trips. I read "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson, where he describes his trek along the Appalachian Trail. I am desperate to visit Australia, but I can barely afford gas prices, let alone an airline ticket. So I was inspired to read another travel journal written by Bryson about his trip Down Under, "In a Sunburned Country." Reading helps to soothe the pain of not being able to afford these trips now, but it also helps motivate me to save for that great "One Day."

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