6 Tips for Traveling When Money Is Tight

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Being short on funds doesn't have to leave you grounded.

Being short on funds doesn't have to leave you grounded. 

We all need a vacation once in a while, and if you can't remember the last time you escaped the daily grind, you're probably well overdue one. But if you're short on funds to travel, taking a trip is easier said than done. And while you'll often hear people talk up the benefits of a staycation, let's face it -- there's something to be said for actually getting a change of scenery.

The good news? It's possible to pull off a trip even when money is extremely tight. Here are a few tactics that'll help you do just that. 

1. Use your air miles

If you've been racking up air miles on a travel rewards credit card, now could be the ideal time to redeem them. If you're able to cover the entire cost of your flight, you'll eliminate one major expense associated with getting away. But plan ahead a bit if you want that option -- some airlines impose blackout dates for using miles, so make sure you go away at a time when you can actually cash them in. 

2. Redeem your credit card rewards

Even if you don't have air miles to use for travel, you may be sitting on a stack of cash-back rewards on a credit card. And if that's the case, redeeming them could free up a nice chunk of cash for the trip you want to take. The best part? You'll usually get your money pretty quickly upon requesting it, and many credit cards will deposit it directly into your checking or savings account

3. Travel at off-peak times

Traveling during holiday weekends is convenient, what with the baked-in day off from work to preserve your precious vacation day allotment. But if you're willing to escape during less desirable periods of the year, you'll save money by locking in lower airfare and lodging costs. 

4. Drive rather than fly

If the destination you have in mind is relatively close to home -- say, within 300 miles -- driving could be a much cheaper alternative to getting on a plane. And if you're traveling in a group, road-tripping definitely makes sense, since you'll be able to split the cost of fuel and tolls. Even if you have to rent a car, if enough of you divvy up its cost, it could come in well below the price of several individual flights. So find some frugal-minded friends and convince them to get behind the wheel. And then get yourself a credit card that offers extra cash back on gasoline. 

5. Rent a private home instead of staying at a hotel

Depending on your destination, renting a private home through sites like HomeAway and Airbnb could save you quite a bit of money while you're away. And if you're traveling in a group, it makes even more sense to pursue this option. You may find that you can rent a three-bedroom home for half the price of three hotel rooms, and you'll enjoy the added benefit of having more space. Plus, if you're driving to your destination, a private home could offer free parking, whereas hotels -- particularly those in metro areas -- often charge for that privilege. 

6. Prepare your own meals

Food can be a major expense when you're away from home, especially if you limit yourself to dining out at restaurants. But if you're willing to do a little cooking, or enjoy some no-frill meals, you can shrink your food costs significantly by buying supermarket ingredients and preparing them yourself. This option is especially feasible if you rent a private home with a kitchen, though don't write it off if you're staying at a hotel. Some hotel rooms come with kitchenettes that make meal prep possible if you're willing to relax your standards a little. 

Traveling on a budget isn't always easy -- but it's better than getting stuck at home. If you're itching to get away, be flexible and get creative. Chances are, you'll enjoy yourself despite the money-saving tactics that may make your trip a tiny bit less luxurious. 

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