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Vacationing on a shoestring

The new normal seems to be that, while enjoying enviable travel, our friends, family and social media acquaintances must post photos and stories to turn everyone green with jealousy. But not everyone can afford a month of wine tasting in Europe or the gear and guides to dog sled through the Yukon to experience the Northern Lights. Many simply have different priorities for their money. Luckily, opportunities exist for singles, couples or family travel on less luxurious budgets.

Local tourism

Many people do not know every nook and cranny of their neighboring towns and cities. There are likely museums, restaurants, breweries, shops, nature areas or sporting events you have wanted, but never managed, to explore. Do it! You will spend minimally on travel and food while staying for free in your own home and supporting your local economy.

National Parks and camping

Every U.S. state and territory has a National Park. Explore nature and history on a day trip or multiple-day stay by either camping or staying in off- or on-site lodgings. Some National Parks are free, while others require a fee to enter; if you’re planning to visit multiple parks in a year, an annual pass might be the most economical choice for you. Seniors, active military and the disabled are eligible for free or reduced prices for annual passes.

Whether in a National Park or other natural area, camping is a great way to get away while controlling costs. True, you’ll need gear, but it can be rented or borrowed until you are certain you love camping and will make it a hobby worth investing in. In addition to the cost of equipment, you’ll need to pay for the gas to get there and the groceries you’ll need to eat, both of which are easily controlled based on the distance of your camp site and the length of your trip.

Make the most of free, inexpensive and discounted things

Airfare fluctuates on a daily basis, not merely season by season. Stalk the fare you want or commit to going whenever the price is right. Grab the last-minute, discounted cruise cabin. Search fare sales, bidding sites and package deals to save on airfare and lodgings. Stay in a hostel, bed and breakfast or dormitory-style lodging. Once on the ground, take advantage of public transit and rail, free museums and sites, museum passes, free tours, the local paper’s events guide and Groupon deals for local restaurants and activities with good reviews.

Research and save, then spend cash

Do your due diligence. Research attractions, estimate the cost to do everything you’d like and do your best to save. Set a budget for necessities like food and a separate budget for extras like souvenirs and side trips. Once on your trip, try to spend only cash. Spending cash on hand will help you realize and control how much you spend—without causing you to spend the next year paying off that getaway you put on your credit card.

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