Taking a vacation can seem hard to fit into your budget, but traveling to fantastic places may be easier than you think. Blogger Elizabeth Elstien shares some tips on how to make vacations more affordable.

Working and studying hard and want to get away from it all? That may be expensive by yourself, but sharing expenses with friends or relatives can bring everything together with less cash, especially if you stay closer to home to keep travel costs low. From timeshare and vacation home rentals to hostels, these three types of vacation rentals can make your downtime memorable and affordable.

Pick the Resort with a Timeshare

Timeshares—a shared vacation rental with yearly allotments for each owner—have been around for decades and are an easy and inexpensive way to stay in a range of destinations. Think condos for vacations, with full kitchens, sheets, towels, dishes, and cookware. You may already know someone who owns a timeshare (e.g., best friend’s parents, coworkers, aunts, cousins) and will not be using their full allotment this year. Ask to rent it for a week! This is more affordable than renting directly from the shared vacation rental resort.

If you do have to rent from outside owners, check out rentals at Sell My Timeshare Now. If the owners purchased from one of the big-name companies (such as Wyndham, Disney, Westgate), you may have the option of staying at one of the developer-run timeshares in a different location through an exchange company. Of course, there will be an extra fee that may cost several hundred dollars, but if the costs are shared with a few friends, it is worthwhile. However, you will have to plan months in advance to get a location you want. Be careful, though, as exchanges are not always allowed if not made by the owner. Timeshares often come with amenities, such as a hot tub, patio, balcony, fireplace, or even views of the snowy mountaintop you just skied down. Plus, a kitchen where you can cook and feast on local foods from area markets means savings for you.

Make sure the owners tell the resort management that you’re using their vacation time slot, so you’ll have access to use all the facilities. Remember, the timeshare owner is liable for any damages you cause, so be respectful while having fun.

Play Outdoors in a Vacation Home

A step up from a timeshare stay, a fully furnished vacation home rental typically means a larger space that can be shared with more people for longer lengths of time. You can rent a metro-area home, beach house, or even a secluded cabin in the woods. Whatever you rent, acreage or outdoor yard space adds to the vacation vibe, as the home may have a tiki bar, outdoor barbecue, small putting green, or even a swimming pool. Again, ask someone you know if they have a second home they want to rent out for the dates you want.

Otherwise, search online at Vacation Home Rentals or Airbnb. A short-term rental contract is often required to protect you and the owner. Read it carefully before signing. Be prepared to pay an often hefty upfront deposit with your rental price, but the deposit is all or mostly refundable if the home is vacated on time and in good condition. While weekly prices may seem steep at around $1,500 and up (plus the deposit), it’s an affordable split with a few guests, especially factoring in the use of a kitchen at all times. Use good consumer judgment: Consider properties from a reputable agency or trusted vacation property manager to handle your rental stay.

Hit the Town at a Hostel

Traveling alone or with a group and the budget is tight? Try a hostel. Sleeping options can include common dorm-room style living, room sharing, or a private room, depending on the facilities. A bunk in a dorm-style room can be as low as $30 a night in major U.S. destinations, with private or shared rooms that cost a little more (but still much less than any hotel room). Hostels tend to cater to younger people, but others are kid-friendly or appeal to a range of ages. Bring a sleeping bag, pillow, and towel—less expensive places don’t have these items.

Hosteling is meant as a way to travel cheaply, interact with locals to really get out and see an area, and socialize with international guests. Hostels may include the use of a kitchen at select hours, some free meals (three squares, if you’re lucky), free area tours, complimentary Wi-Fi, and fun events (like boating excursions). Ask any trusted travelers you know for recommendations or check Hosteling International and always read recent reviews.

Whether traveling by yourself or sharing a vacation rental with others, plan ahead and reserve your rental far in advance for the best locations. Get confirmation of all your reservations and carry them with you or store on your phone.

Who says you can’t travel to fantastic places on a budget? They’re wrong, and you’ll have the photos to prove it.

Using her 14 years experience as a Realtor®, Elizabeth R. Elstien is a real estate writer, editor, educator, and consultant. Follow her Real Estate News & Views blog at eElstien.com.

Any third-party resources or websites referenced above are not under Society of Grownups control. Society of Grownups cannot guarantee and are not responsible for the accuracy of the resources, websites, or any products or services available through such resources or websites.

While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner.

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