This is a very big question and it is impossible to do it justice in one article. Holidays can be local, domestic or international, while transport can be by road, train or air. As a rule, the cheapest holidays (especially for families) will always be a camping trip. They may also require the least training.
There’s always somewhere to travel in season, and there’s always somewhere to go cheap (although the holidays are normally a bad time). Trips can be had from as little as $40 a day to, well, the sky’s the limit for how much one can end up spending. Here’s a quick primer on when to book a vacation and how much to budget to get started.
When to book a trip and how much to budget
Usually the best time to book a road trip is during the warmer/summer months (although winter trips – even in Alaska – can be worthwhile). Peak seasons are less important with a road trip – as it is possible to plan to avoid places away from the crowds (unless one would like to visit very popular locations such as Yellowstone National Park – the oldest national park in America).
- Best Time: The summer months
- Budget: $30-$150 per day
Travel budgets can be very small – depending on what they want to do. The entire western half of the United States is full of free campsites and gorgeous locations. For example, people can discover and camp at remote and forgotten hot springs in Oregon.
Those who would like to take a camping trip and cook a barbecue do not need to budget for much more than gas, food from the supermarket and a few necessities. Of course, camping in developed sites and many other campsites will need to be budgeted for.
Perhaps the best international destination for an epic road trip is the southern African country of Namibia, where people can drive to wrecks, self-drive safaris and desert dunes.
When to book flights – domestic and international
One of the few constants of booking flights is that the holiday season is likely to be expensive. Otherwise, it really depends on where you plan to fly (also, don’t fly to Las Vegas on weekends – stick to weekdays). Holiday seasons are offset around the world, for example the holiday seasons in England and New Zealand are somewhat opposite.
According to a 2021 survey by CheapAir.com, the cheapest time to book a plane ticket for domestic travel is usually about 64 days or two months before the departure date.
- When to book domestic flights: About 2 months before departure
This changes somewhat with the season; it’s best to book about three months before departure in the winter, but only about two months before a summer trip.
When it comes to international travel, CheapAir.com found that the lowest fares to Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico were about two months in advance. The maximum time to book flights to Africa is about three months in advance, and to Asia and Europe that amounts to about four months. Note that Africa has the highest volatility of all regions.
Flight tickets Mexico:
- Average airfare: $535
- Cheapest month: October (most expensive December)
Airline tickets for South America:
- Average airfare: $999
- Cheapest month: November (most expensive January)
Airline tickets for Europe:
- Average airfare: $1,580
- Cheapest month: February (most expensive June)
Air tickets Africa:
- Average airfare: $1,542
- Cheapest month: November (most expensive July)
The cost of flights varies massively – domestic flights in Europe are particularly cheap (often much cheaper than the cost of a taxi to the airport).
When to travel by train in the US and abroad
Few people travel long distances by train in the United States. Trains are usually quite expensive and slow (the US doesn’t have high-speed rail to a large extent). That said, if one has their heart set on train travel, much of the nation is connected by Amtrak (and even offers a ferry service from Washington DC to Orlando, Florida).
But mostly, people in America travel by train for scenic tours and historic trains. In this case, the best time is during the summer months (unless one would like to take the Polar Express).
Trains are one of the standard ways to travel in Europe, India and much of Asia. The major locations are linked and fare tickets are generally affordable (the UK is expensive). The time of year makes no difference in these countries (unless it’s holiday season, like Chinese New Year in China).