image of a woman planning a cheap vacation on her desktop computer

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

image of the logo for the tripadvisor website one of the sources you for cheap vacation planning

Once 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

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

Image of the logo for vacation home rentals another great source for accommodations when you're planning a cheap vacation

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

image of the viator logo a online source for booking tours as part of your cheap vacation planning

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 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

image of the logo for trusted tours and attractions one of the tour companies to visit when planning a cheap vacationBook 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.

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

image of the CityPASS logo one of the attraction passes you can use to save money when planning a cheap vacationIf 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.

image of The London Pass one of the ways to save money while planning a cheap vacation to LondonOne 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.

image of The Paris Pass one of the ways to save when planning a cheap vacation to ParisIf 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

RailEurope logoIf 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

image of Groupon one of the ways to save when you are planning a cheap vacationOne 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.

Combine your travel reward points

image of the logo for one of the ways you can save money while planning a cheap vacationA true thrifty tourist is always looking for ways to make travel affordable. Using reward points collected on credit cards, gas cards and through other loyalty programs is a really smart way to save on accommodations, airfare and attraction tickets.

But what if you are just shy of the number of points you need in order to redeem them for what you want?

Here’s an option: top up your points by using the website

What’s cool about this website is that it allows you to exchange points or miles between loyalty programs. Best of all there is no fee to do this. You can even trade points with other members.

And if, after exchanging points, you’re still a little short of the amount you need, no worries—on you can purchase points and miles too.

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.