November 26, 2022

COLUMN: Beat the heat with these budget tips

We all know gas prices are sky high this summer, but don’t let that stop your travel plans.

I started traveling with my husband fresh out of college, and boy, were we broke. I had no idea where to start, and I have learned a lot of penny-pinching tricks along the way.

My first piece of advice is to plan as far in advance as you can - this allows you to be flexible with dates. The second is to be flexible with where you plan on going. Sometimes, we know exactly where we want to go and what we want to do. But if you can avoid this, you will be able to save money.

Now it’s time to make your first decision - driving or flying? You’d think the less expensive option would be driving, but that isn’t always the case.

Let’s check out flying first. The absolute best resource to find flights for trips like this is google flights. There is an option to select “flexible dates” where you just pick whatever month you want to go and the number of days you’re looking to be there.

I just checked flying from Des Moines in August with two people and here’s what I found: round-trip, nonstop flights to Las Vegas, Phoenix and New York for under $250. Orlando and San Diego came in just over $250. To put that into perspective, driving round-trip from Creston to Nashville getting 30 miles per gallon with current gas prices would cost about $220 in gas.

A benefit to driving is having your car with you. In some places, that makes a big difference; however, if you don’t plan on doing a lot of traveling out of the immediate area, or if there is accessible public transit, it may not matter. When I calculate the price difference between driving and flying, I always consider the price of a rental car.

Some people rent a car for the whole time they’re traveling, but I recommend picking a day or two to do all your sight-seeing that will require a vehicle to save on cost.

Let’s talk lodging. If you’re open to roughing it, tent camping will always be the cheapest option. Kampgrounds of America (KOA) is a nationwide facility that has great camping amenities. Looking at a place in Phoenix, nine nights of camping for two people comes in at $360. That would be a little too much camping for me, but even just camping for a few nights at the front end of your trip will cut on cost.

If Google Flights isn’t my favorite travel tool, then Airbnb is. The thing to keep in mind with Airbnb is that cleaning fees and other surcharges aren’t included in the nightly total, so always look at the total price when comparing, not the price by night.

I found a two-bedroom, one bathroom apartment for only $41 per night - a total of $511 for the nine night stay. This is so much cheaper than a hotel, you get a place to yourself and you can purchase groceries to make meals in house. A full sized fridge, stovetop and microwave instead of the tiny hotel ones? Sign me up.

I typically filter to have the entire home to ourselves, but we have stayed in someone’s basement before with a private entrance and it didn’t even feel like anyone else was there. To really pinch pennies, that’s the way to go. Plus, a lot of these hosts love the opportunity to share their city’s hidden gems with guests.

It doesn’t need to be an elaborate nine night stay across the country to take a break from the monotony of daily life. My husband and I took the dogs down to Compton, Arkansas one weekend last year where we stayed in a little cabin and enjoyed nature. We didn’t even have to take time off work.

Don’t make it complicated - make it a priority.