woman planning a cheap vacation

How to Plan a Cheap Vacation

A cheap holiday can be had whether you’re travelling alone, with friends, as a couple or with family. All it takes is a little planning and the vacation you want at the price you want can be had.

Planning where to take your cheap vacation

Want to get away but not sure where?

Start your vacation planning by sitting down and brainstorming, on your own or with fellow vacation-hungry comrade, a list of places that tickle your fancy.

If you’re brain dead and need some help coming up with ideas do a little research and reading. For starters you could cruise the pages of ThriftyTourist.

Figuring out where to stay on your holiday

the logo for the tripadvisor website one of the sources you for cheap vacation planningOnce you know where you want to go, you need to decide on where you’re going to stay when you get there.

If you’re heading to a popular Canadian or American city you’ll find a variety of affordable accommodation ideas ranging from hotels, bed & breakfast places and vacation rentals to hostels and university campus residences on ThriftyTourist.ca.

If you want to expand your planning and investigate more cheap places to stay on your vacation, TripAdvisor reviews of hotels and other accommodation options are always a solid source of insight.

Finding a place to stay for a large group

If you’re travelling in a large group or as family and your stay will be three days or more, you can save a lot of money on your accommodations by booking a vacation rental.

Again you can check out vacation rental deals at TripAdvisor or another good option is the website Vacation Home Rentals.

If you’re young and really travelling on the cheap, then you should definitely plan to spend some time on Hostelworld, where you can  review over 15,000 hostel properties worldwide.

Don’t wait, pre-plan your tours

You know where you’re going and where you’re going to stay, now it’s time to plan out what you’re going to see and do on your vacation.

Something the ThriftyTourist.ca highly recommends when you set foot in a new city is to get a sense of the lay of the land by taking a tour on your first day. Turns out we’re not the only ones who think this way–tours generally sell out quickly.

Avoid missing out by booking your tour in advance. There are a number of websites that allow you to do this.

Avoid disappointment: book tours ahead of time, on-line

the viator logo a online source for booking tours as part of your cheap vacation planningBook a tour in advance for almost any city on the Viator website.

Viator has offices around the world and a team of people who have tried out and handpicked the best local tours.

On Viator you will find tours for cities in Canada, the US, Europe and more.

Psyched to go on a group tour to discover and explore Western Canada or Eastern Canada? Check out our comparison article titled “Best Group Tour Operators in Canada” to help you decide who you should book your Canada group tour with.

If you’re vacation plan is to visit a US city a couple of online tour booking options are Trusted Tours & Attractions, and more specifically if you’re heading to California and want to see where the stars live and hang out you should explore Starline Tours.

Visiting Paris? ParisCityVision offers a variety of Paris tours including hop-on hop-off tours and one tour that includes dinner at the Eiffel Tower.

Organize what attractions you want to see

If you’re the type of tourist who likes to check out as many of the go-to attractions a city has to offer as possible, than buying an attraction pass is smart planning.

Remember, the cheapest pass isn’t always the best pass.

The key to deciding which pass is right for you is to compare what attractions are included with each one.

Some passes try and make their’s look better by padding them with lame attractions. Luckily most attraction passes are available to pre-buy online, which means you can compare to each other ahead of time as part of your vacation planning.

One of the more popular attractions passes that’s available in a host of US cities and Toronto, Canada is CityPASS which promises up to 50% off the best attractions.

If your planning on heading over the pond you should take a look at The London Pass which saves you money on 60+ London attractions and tours.

Save on things like the Tower of London, seeing the Crown Jewels, Westminster Abbey, Thames River Cruise, Churchill War Rooms bunker, Kengsington Palace, Windsor Castle and many more.

If your vacation is going to be a trip to Paris you should definitely include The Paris Pass in your plans.

This pass provides access to 60 museums.

Plus, express entry into the Louvre, the Orsay and the Rodin, a one-day hop-on hop-off bus tour, entry to seven attractions, free admission to public transportation–both the subway and buses–and a comprehensive guidebook which even includes suggested daily itineraries. C’est magnifique!

Keep your budget on track in Europe with a rail pass

If you’re set on discovering more than one city while visiting Europe a fantastic way to keep your budget from going off the rails is to book a rail pass through Rail Europe.

Enjoy the European countryside as you travel from city to city aboard a comfortable, air-conditioned rail car.

As an added bonus, many of their rail passes also can be used for reduced or free fares on ferries, cruises, private trains, hotels, museums and other attractions too.

Do a little meal planning before your trip

ad for Groupon, another way to save on cheap things to do in torontoOne of the joys of going on vacation is not having to cook meals, but spoiling yourself with lunches and dinners out can quickly give your travel budget indigestion. You can counter that with a little planning.

No one expects you to brown bag it when it comes to your vacation meals, but if you can sprinkle in some affordable places to eat into your menu, then you won’t feel guilty when you splurge on that must-dine-here restaurant you’ve heard about.

A good place to start your research is the Cheap Places to Eat section of Thrifty Tourist.

And if you’re visiting pretty much any city in Canada or the United States you can find meal deals on Groupon, not to mention some tasty offers on local theatre, attractions, concerts and events.

Get last minute tickets to a concert or game

You never know who might be in the city you’re visiting playing a concert or show, or what sporting event could be going on.

A great, reliable source for last minute tickets is Stubhub. You can often pay less than the face value of the ticket when you purchase it a few minutes before the show or event.

Be thrifty and practical! This information was accurate when published, but can change without notice. We recommend you confirm all details with the provider in question before planning your excursion.

Photo credits: Annette + Powerbook + Teh Interwebz.