So, is that stimulus check burning a hole in your pocket yet? If so, we’ve got a few ideas—namely, it might be time to plan a long-overdue vacay for yourself. If you’re ready for a change of scenery and wondering where you can go with $1,400, just keep reading and we’ll show you how to plan a vacation for $1,400 or less.
Option #1: Go big
or go home ($1,400)
You’ve got some cash. You’ve got some time. Why not treat yourself to a relaxing getaway so you can come back to work or classes feeling refreshed? Here’s how to plan an entire vacation for less than $1,400.
1. Know where to go.
Sometimes certain destinations are much cheaper (or more expensive) than others—and this can depend on where you’re coming from as well. You can fly between any major cities in the US (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, etc.) generally for $350 or less, but sometimes small town airports have great deals too! If you want to go international, London, Cancun, the Caribbean, Montreal, Toronto and Barcelona are all great places to find cheap flights from the US.
Keep in mind too that $1,000 will stretch further in some destinations than others. For example, $1,000 will go further in Tulum or Belize than it will in London—so choose your destination accordingly if you’re on a tight budget!
2. Fly on weekdays.
Some days of the week (Mondays, Fridays and weekends) tend to be more expensive to fly on than others (Tuesdays – Thursdays). Try flying Tuesday-Thursdays or Thursday-Wednesdays for the cheapest flight options. Flexible dates? Search on StudentUniverse using the flexible search feature and we’ll show you the cheapest option on nearby dates so you can easily find the best flight!
3. Book your flights on sale.
Why pay full price for flights when you can get a discount? Check StudentUniverse for student discounts on flights (just sign up with your .edu email address for the best deals) or download our Flyaway app to get flight discounts as a post-grad. Not seeing any sales on the flights you want? Check out our promo codes to save even more. For an example, let’s plan a vacation to Costa Rica—not too far, but it’ll feel a world away when you’re there! We have flights to San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO) from 38+ US cities for under $500* roundtrip. From many major airports, the flights are even cheaper, so we’ll say flights budget: $400.
4. Sleep well, but keep it simple.
Your flights may have been a big purchase, but once you’re in Costa Rica, things get pretty cheap. It’s super easy to find nice accommodations for less than $60 a night, whether that’s an Airbnb or a hotel/hostel downtown. Rather than staying in a big US chain hotel, look for boutique hotels or smaller hotels or homestay rentals to save money. Even better, if you’re splitting that room with a friend, you can cut that price in half. Considering a 7-night stay, accommodations budget: $225 (per person).
5. Don’t forget to plan for transportation costs once you’re there!
Of course transportation costs vary based on final destination, so do some research to see what the most affordable (and practical) transportation is in your destination. We don’t recommend renting a car in Costa Rica, unless you’re experienced at driving on unfamiliar, mountainous roads with hazards like potholes, wildlife, unexpected storms and the like. Thankfully, the public bus system in Costa Rica is actually quite extensive and cheap, though the journey may take a bit longer.
Bus rides around the city will cost less than $1, while longer bus rides (several hours) will cost $10 or so. For a speedier trip, private buses like Interbus and Gray Line will arrange transportation directly to major scenic areas and tourist sights for about $40-$60. For $280, you can buy a weekly pass to the Gray Line and get unlimited access to their daily shuttles. Depending on where you want to go, the costs here could vary quite a bit, but if you plan for one or two big adventure days and a few days exploring options nearby wherever you stay, you can budget around $170.
6. Eat local.
Thankfully, eating well is not too expensive in Costa Rica! A basic meal of rice, beans and meat is about $5-8. If you want to get a bit fancier, $10-$15 will give you something a step up. Small, local restaurants and cafes will be the best deal—of course, pizza, pasta and other familiar favorites can be found, but they’re more expensive than sticking to local staples like rice, beans, fish and so on. Food budget: $250
7. Start exploring.
Now it’s time for the best part of trip planning: getting some amazing activities on your itinerary! Thankfully, Costa Rica has no shortage of bucket list activities, from surfing to hiking, seeing volcanoes or exploring rainforests, waterfall rappelling, white-water rafting, lounging on the beach or exploring downtown San Jose—the list goes on and there’s something for literally everyone here! Adventures that require a guide (ziplining, anyone?) will need to be booked in advance and typically cost between $40-$200, depending on the activity, the length of the tour and the transportation costs (typically included). Budget: $200
8. Go ahead and splurge.
If you’ve stuck to the budget so far, you’ll have about $150 left over, which means you can splurge on a cool activity, a fancy dinner out, a more glamorous stay, or anything else that will make your trip super memorable. Our recommendations? A rainforest canopy or white-water rafting tour ($100-$150, typically including transportation), waterfall rappelling ($150 or so), or a surf lesson or two ($60-$120).
Option #2: But I have textbooks to buy ($900)
Ok, ok, you’ve got bills to pay but you still want a break. If you want to have a fun trip that’s a bit of splurge without spending your whole stimmy check in one place, we’ve got some ideas for making your trip even cheaper.
Don’t count out an international trip, even if you don’t have much money. Depending on where you go, traveling internationally can even be cheaper than staying in the US! Either way, with $900 (give or take) you can plan a great vacation either in the US or abroad. Nothing says R&R like a tropical getaway, so let’s think about planning a trip to Hawaii or the Caribbean.
1. Grab a cheap flight.
We have flights to Hawaii from pretty much anywhere on the West Coast for under $400* roundtrip. If you’re flying from the East Coast, try the Caribbean—Nassau, Montego Bay, Belize City, Punta Cana, San Juan and St. Thomas all have cheap flight options. Flight budget: $350
Make it even cheaper:
- Stay closer to home. Want some tropics or adventure without going all the way to Costa Rica? Head to Los Angeles, Phoenix, Austin or Miami to score a cheaper flight.
- Travel during off-season. Tickets to the tropics are always highest between December – May, when the weather there is best and everyone is hoping for a bit of sunshine to break up the winter. No matter where you’re going, if you travel during that destination’s off-season, you can save quite a bit on flights and accommodations.
2. Find a place to stay—but not in the center of town.
Sure, it’s typically the most convenient to stay right in the heart of downtown, but you can usually save a lot by staying a bit further away. Whether you opt for a hotel, hostel, Airbnb or some other accommodation, just staying a bit away from the main tourist area can save you a lot! If you’re renting a car, you won’t notice the difference at all—and even if you’re not, you can typically find public transportation that’ll take you into the center of town for cheap. You can find an Airbnb just outside of Honolulu for around $100/night for 4 nights = budget: $220 (per person).
Make it even cheaper:
- Take red-eye flights to save money on accommodations while extending your vacation. If you fly out overnight Thursday night and fly back super late Monday night (or overnight Monday night), you get four full days but only have to pay for three nights accommodation.
- Use credit card points. If you have a travel credit card or another card that gives you points or rewards, you can often spend those points on hotel stays. Whether you want to use your credit card points to splurge on a slightly nicer stay than you would go for otherwise or just cover a few nights of your trip, taking advantage of booking hotels with credit card points can save you a ton!
3. Decide if you need to rent a car.
Sometimes renting a car can save you a lot of money—if you’re planning to see lots of destinations that aren’t easy to get to, or if there isn’t any public transportation and you’re going to spend loads on Ubers and taxis. However, if you’re going somewhere with a decent bus or subway system, you can usually get around fairly well for really, really cheap without having to pay for a car rental. Do some research on your destination and see if you can avoid renting a car to save some cash. If you do want to rent a car, we have student discounts on rental cars so you can get the cheapest deal!
4. Plan your activities carefully.
If you can, plan a vacation to somewhere where there’s going to be lots of options for cheap things to do! For example, if you’re heading to a beach destination, it’s easy to spend lots of time swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, hiking, biking or just enjoying sunny weather with other outdoor activities. Rentals—like kayaks, surfboards, canoes and so on—are also pretty inexpensive and a great way to spend an afternoon. If you can take advantage of cheap things to do, you’ll be able to easily splurge on a more expensive activity like swimming with dolphins, ziplining or parasailing. Budget: $100
5. Eat out for lunch, not dinner.
Lunch menus are often cheaper (but just as delicious!) as dinner menus. If you want to stretch your budget while still enjoying some delicious food, plan to eat out for lunch instead of dinner. Of course, eating out doesn’t always have to mean going to the fanciest sit-down restaurant. Street food, outdoor markets, small cafes, food trucks, farmers markets and tiny hole-in-the-wall bistros sometimes (usually!) offer some of the best food in town—and cost much less. If you can stock up on simple groceries at local markets and grocery stores to cook for yourself, you can save even more by not eating out for every meal. Budget: $180
Option #3: No, seriously, I’m broke ($450)
Think you can’t plan a vacation for less than $500? Think again, fam. Here’s how to do it:
1. Plan a weekend trip.
Fewer nights away = the less you’ll pay. It’s a no-brainer, but a quick weekend trip can be pretty cheap. Thankfully, a quick vacay can leave you feeling just as refreshed as if you’ve stayed away longer! And if you’re on a budget, a few days is definitely better than nothing, right?
2. Book some cheap flights.
If you can fly out of (or into) a major airport (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Atlanta, San Francisco, etc.), you should be able to find some cheap flight deals to a nearby city for around (or under) $100. Red-eye (late-night or overnight) flights are usually cheaper. If you’re not flying from a major airport, don’t throw out the idea of a cheap flight altogether—we’ve got cheap student flight deals available from all over the US (and the world!). Budget: $120
- Dallas to Los Angeles starts at $74* roundtrip
- Los Angeles to Chicago starts at $74* roundtrip
- Charlotte to New York starts at $78* roundtrip
- Chicago to Phoenix starts at $79* roundtrip
- Washington D.C. to Orlando starts at $79* roundtrip
And there’s tons more options, too! Check our current flight deals to see what’s on sale from your hometown.
Make it even cheaper:
- Make it a road trip.
- Use a flight credit leftover from a trip that got cancelled due to Covid.
- Book your “weekend” trip during the week to take advantage of cheap weekday flight deals.
3. Try staying in a hostel.
Hostels in the US? Yes, they exist—and a lot of them are nicer than you think! They’re a great way to save money and meet other travelers (even if you’re staying in a private room because #covid). Airbnb or other home-share sites are also a great way to find cheap places to stay. If you’re going with a friend and can split the cost, it’ll be easy to do a 2-night stay for $150 (per person) or so. Budget: $150.
Make it even cheaper:
- Know someone in town? Stay with a friend (or crash in your friend’s aunts guestroom) for a cheaper (or free) place to stay.
- More friends = more savings. Travel with more people and split accommodations to save even more.
- Go camping. If you really want to save on accommodations, opt for an outdoor adventure. A campsite usually costs between $15-$40 a night and puts you super close to National or State Parks and Forests where you can hike, kayak, rock climb or just take a scenic drive—typically all for free.
4. Find free things to see and do.
Every city has free things to see and do—you just have to look for them. (Check out our favorite free things to do in places like San Francisco, Chicago and New York!) If you want to plan a vacation on a budget, many cities have some free museums or art galleries to check out. If it’s nice weather too, you’re in luck—exploring or picnicking in a local garden or park is a great way to spend an afternoon. And many cities have free outdoor concerts, movie nights or festivals in city parks during the summer months as well. Of course, some sights and museums have a super small admission fee, which can easily be added to your list too. Budget: $30.
5. Stock up on groceries at a local market or grocery store.
Exciting? Not always. Cheap? You bet. If you’re on a budget, hit up a local farmers market or grocery store for some staples (especially for breakfast and snacks) and save yourself a TON of money by not eating out for every meal. Bagels & cream cheese at home for breakfast? $3. Brunch out on the town? $15. Know what we mean? If you save a lot on most of your meals, it’ll give you the budget to splurge on something fancy during your trip, too. Budget: $130
So where are you planning your next trip to? Check out our cheap flights in the US and beyond and put that stimmy check to good use for your summer plans.
*All flight prices were current at the time of publishing, however, flight prices subject to availability and subject to change without notice. Prices are not guaranteed until StudentUniverse confirms your booking and payment is made in full. Merchant fees may be applicable. Flight prices vary by date, departure city, arrival city and availability. All taxes/fees are included in the price, except certain government taxes, change fees imposed in destination and airline baggage fees if applicable.