5 hacks for planning your leave on a budget

You finally got your leave approved and you’re dreaming of an above-water bungalow somewhere in the Pacific. Sounds nice, but a vacation like that can easily break the bank.

Retired Marine Corps Colonel and Manager at Navy Federal Credit Union, Clay Stackhouse shares his thoughts, “You’ve worked hard and earned yourself a vacation – that’s great, but don’t forget your discipline. Your vacation is the end goal and you’ve got some work to do to get there. Travel, lodging, meals and activities come with a price tag.”

Planning for the costs will make your vacation more rewarding. Here are 5 hacks to get you there:

1. Pass on the plane

We know hopping on an airplane across the ocean sounds incredible, and especially if you have TSA PreCheckSM and any sort of airline status. But, plane tickets are a major expense when it comes to your vacation. If your entire vacay budget is $2000, tickets can easily eat up half of that.

Do some research and see what destination you can find within a one day’s drive. Not up for a road trip? Amtrak® has excellent military discounts and train travel is always fun. Plus they have that snack car.

2. Find a house

There are multiple options for booking a rental home instead of a hotel. Finding a chateau in the mountains, a cottage on a lake or a condo on the beach has never been easier. These properties are generally extremely well-maintained and often significantly cheaper than a hotel.

Depending on where you’re heading, parking at a hotel can cost almost as much as staying the night. Houses often have parking included, saving you even more up front.


Bring your own breakfast! The real cost savings of having a house over a hotel will come when you take advantage of having a kitchen.

Stackhouse adds, “Hit the local grocery store or Commissary before you leave and stock up on breakfast and lunch items and any drinks you want for your getaway. If you’re in a rush, then see if there’s a local grocery store at your destination. You’ll save a little extra doing this, and it will be convenient to have some food and drink on hand.”

Eating 2/3 of your meals at “home” will give your budget more room for fun instead of just food. Your future self will thank you.

4. Ask the locals

Tourist traps are called tourist traps for a reason. Ask the locals for inexpensive but awesome restaurant recommendations, places you absolutely have to visit and free things you must do before you leave. Often, the best places of a city aren’t found through a Google® search; they’re found by asking around.

5. Look for the military discount

“Always ask for the military discount when booking your travel, accommodations and excursions. If you’re a member of Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU), you’re eligible for plenty of incredible discounts through member websites that will come in handy for your trip, like rental cars,” says Stackhouse.

Booking a house through a website? Email the property owner directly and ask if they offer a military discount. Ask and yee shall (hopefully) receive.

Vacations are always more enjoyable when you aren’t stressed about breaking the bank. Use our five hacks and the awesome resources from NFCU to have your best leave yet.

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Amtrak is a trademark of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation

Google is a trademark of Google, LLC.

This post presented by Navy Federal Credit Union.