Bucket List for Less: 3 Surprisingly Affordable Vacations to Plan Now

Nothing inspires wanderlust like being at home for a year. While 2020 gave us the opportunity to simplify and find joy at home, it also provided ample time to dream about all of the places we want to go and things we want to do once COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror. 

Here are three bucket-list worthy trips to start planning now that can be surprisingly affordable with a little strategy and extra planning:

Cruise to Alaska

America’s northernmost state is known for its cold weather, but its unspoiled natural beauty is really what makes this vacation destination shine. Alaska is bigger than the entire state of Texas, so when traveling here, Alaska cruise tours offer the most efficient way to see some of the state’s natural wonders. 

June, July and August are the most desirable (and most expensive) months for Alaskan cruises, but you can get better rates by booking your trip in May or September. These shoulder season months also often mean fewer crowds so that you can enjoy more of the ship’s amenities and offshore excursions. Get the most bang for your buck by booking a cruise to Alaska that includes shore excursions, amenities like Wi-Fi, specialty dining and a drink package.

Go on a Safari 

A safari vacation is definitely a bucket list trip. Seeing elephants, lions, giraffes and rhinos up close in their natural habitat is an unforgettable experience and, in most cases, can be quite an expensive one. But while the pricey luxury safari trips get all of the press, many people don’t realize that you can also plan a safari trip on a modest budget. 

To maximize your budget and chances of seeing lots of wildlife, plan your trip for the end or beginning of the low season. The dry season, June through October, is considered peak season in Kenya and Tanzania, so aim to travel in May or November to get more bang for your buck. To save on accommodations, choose a National Park that is closer to a city so that you can drive over for day trips. If you love to camp, you may alternatively consider choosing a more remote National Park that allows camping instead of paying for a hotel. Rent a car with a full-time driver to show you around the game preserve instead of booking through a tour company. It will take more time and effort to plan a DIY safari, but you can save thousands of dollars, all while getting to know a bit about the destination. 

Enjoy a Hawaiian Family Getaway

Nearly 2,400 miles from the mainland U.S., Hawaii can be an expensive travel destination. But with a little advance planning and flexibility, you can have an idyllic island vacation without spending a fortune. Look for accommodations first, as many places can book a year in advance. Renting a home or condo is usually the most cost-effective option and can offer more flexibility for saving money on meals. Once you decide where to stay, begin looking for airfare. Traveling midweek can often help you save on flights. Hawaiian Airlines and Southwest offer some of the best deals from the mainland. Consider the savings of flying from a regional hub if you have one within driving distance.

To enjoy extra savings while in Hawaii, skip tourist attractions like pricey luaus in favor of frequenting local food trucks and enjoying sunset picnics on the beach. Embrace the local culture by exploring the natural wonders of the area like hikes, beach walks and scenic drives instead of expensive activities and tours. By keeping it simple and focusing on nature’s delights and quality time with family, your trip can leave you feeling refreshed, recharged and reconnected to your nearest and dearest. 

No matter which destination you decide, just take the leap and go. If there’s one thing that 2020 has taught us, it is that tomorrow is not promised. Book that trip and start checking items off of your bucket list today.