Budget Travel

June 2, 2009

Summer Fun on a Budget

Filed under: Budget Travel — twdhf @ 7:55 pm
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By Meg Hoppe

Photographed by: D Sharon Pruitt

Photographed by: D Sharon Pruitt

From vacations to concerts and festivals, summer is the time to travel.  Kids are off of school and meandering around and the weather is perfect for weekend trips downtown or out of town.  If you’re at all like me, you find that come Labor Day, you bank account has gone through the ringer. A few days at the Taste of Chicago, some baseball games or concerts, and a summer vacation with the girls can put a dent in my credit card bill that even I have trouble looking at. So, this year as my social calendar fills up I’ve decided to try something a little different.

Being a rather young writer, my bank account doesn’t have the bang for its buck that I would like.  Knowing that most of my friends have the same problem, I have resided myself to the notion of stretching what I can for as long as I can without compromising. You might find yourself wondering how I plan on stretching a rather slim regular income while not compromising my plans for the summer. To be honest, I found myself wondering the same thing when I made the suggestion. The answer to that lies in the little nuances of event planning.

Living in Chicago affords me the luxury of having a decent amount of free events to attend all year long. Aside from hitting up local museums on their free days, which they all have, I can check out the Botanic Gardens any time I want, picnic in the parks, check out local festivals and neighborhood parties.

For those of you who love sports and concerts, but don’t really want to dish out $40.00-$100.00 for tickets; utilize your local Craigslist. I have found that for most events just looking a few days prior, even the day of given enough time, can prove to be both frugal and fruitful. The closer you get to the actual event, the more willing people are to bend a little on the ticket price. I’ve paid next to nothing for sold out shows and games because people just needed to get rid of their tickets. Just note that if you’re going to use Craigslist, you need to have a back-up plan in place in case you can’t score great tickets.

Now we come to the vacationing section of the cheap summer fun plan. I have found that vacationing can be a pleasure for your bank account when done correctly. First off, think about where you want to stay. Do you really need to book a room at the Four Seasons in New York when you have those second cousins who have a pretty decent size brownstone? Bring home some wine and flowers during your stay, offer to help clean, do some chores, and you have free digs to call your own while on vacation.

When it comes to travel to and from, choose the cheapest route available. If you have a group of friends, do your research on car rentals, vans, cheap airlines, etc. When my friends and I travel, we do lots of research. We buy any plane tickets well ahead of time and plan our trips on non-peak days to avoid higher costs. When we are on vacation, we have a researched cheap mid sized vehicle that when split between us is reasonably priced. If you’re in a big city, utilize public transportation. City transit normally offers weekend passes that are a bargain if you do the math and see you’re using it enough.

Vacations can sometimes seem like the check-out aisle in a grocery store. They’re littered with “impulse buys” or “impulse trips.” In order to avoid spending more money than you had originally set out to I’ve found that it is important to have a plan laid out before you go. If you make a note of the main attractions or events you want to attend, you are eliminating lots of “impulse trips.” Now, that’s not to say that every moment of every day has to be planned. Remember those cousins you’re staying with? They live there and have a wealth of information for things to see and do. Ask them for ideas on cheap things to do and I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised. Offer to take them out with you and you can end up having the best vacation of the summer.

In the end, summer vacations and trips are all about the people you’re with. So don’t forget to just spend some nights at home. Break out some citronella candles, margaritas, and call your best friends for a night of good food, good drinks, and good company. Good friends are the best and cheapest summer event you could possibly plan.

*Meg Hoppe is a freelance writer and marketing professional from Chicago. Visit her other blog here.

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