Create the trip of your dreams a reality with a little planning and preparation.
About a quarter of Americans do not go on vacation this summer, because they can’t pay, according to a survey from Bankrate. But, for Americans who get paid leave from their jobs, not take one of those days is a waste of time and money.
“It is important for the Americans, who have the vacation time to use it, even if it is something as low-key as a “staycation,'” Bankrate analyst Amanda Dixon said in a statement. “Otherwise, it’s almost like you’re leaving money on the table. For those who feel that they can’t afford to take a vacation, be creative and think outside the box.”
Summer technically hasn’t even started yet, and there are plenty of creative ways to make a vacation happen on a budget.
Save up to smart
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, the first step is to avoid “budget” for your trip. Each week, set aside money automatically, and work with whatever’s left.
Once you know how much you can feasibly skip the next few months, start the search for options within your budget. The Bankrate survey showed that 70 percent of Americans expect to spend more than $500 on their summer vacation. But there are plenty of options well below that price.
Look for budget airlines
Or travel by the state or by an ocean, there are plenty of budget-friendly options. Be warned, however: many budget airlines operate from airports that are further away from city centers. Make sure that the cost of transport to and from these smaller airports do not compensate for the low flight.
Open to travel on less popular days, like Tuesday or Wednesday, for the low flight. Subscribe to airfare alert sites and you could nab a ridiculously low offers, like $200 round-trip flights to Europe.
Way to go, in September
If you don’t mind working with a liberal definition of “summer vacation” would you care to snag a great deal in September the shoulder of the season. It is a win all around: the prices are cheaper, the attractions are less crowded and the weather is still pretty good. And in the summer technically lasts until September 20.
Consider unconventional accommodations
Once you have your trip booked, cconsider unconventional accommodations. ‘Homeshares, hostels and couch-surfing are some of the most inexpensive ways to travel (you can even sleep in a college dorm to save money). But if you are adamant about hotels, take a look at the cheapest cities in the country this summer, the best time to book.
Not eating out for every meal
Make sure that the plan for the cost if you are at your destination. Although eating out is a fun part of the vacation, plan to cook some of your meals to save. Hardcore budgeters can also travel with the packets of instant ramen in their pockets for the ultimate financial efficiency.
And do not discount the appeal of last-minute travel. With the help of some handy apps, you can actually book hotel rooms, flights, cruises for less than what you would have paid if you had booked in months
This story originally appeared in Travel + Leisure.