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How to Have an Extravagant Vacation for $1,000

By Allison Kade

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Travel is one of the great joys of summer, and my husband and I were eager to get away without blowing our budget. We live on a busy street in New York City, with noise from the bar downstairs wafting into our apartment at all hours. Between the crowded streets and ever-rising temperatures, the city was getting under our skin.

We got married in December and haven't yet been on an "official" honeymoon. We've talked about some epic honeymoon adventure for later, but the summer heat and stresses of city life were getting to us now. The fact that we hadn't gotten around to our honeymoon yet didn't seem like a good reason not to travel in the meantime. Yet, if this was an off-the-cuff trip, we didn't want to spend all of our wedding money and leave nothing for the "official" honeymoon later.

In the end, we vacationed in Bermuda for a full seven days--for slightly over $1,000 per person, including airfare. That wasn't much more than if we had gone to a B&B somewhere upstate, instead, and this was paradise, after all.

In the process, we learned some valuable lessons about traveling smart on a budget, which we'll take with us for future vacations:

Fly by the Seat of Your Pants

Almost literally. Plane tickets are one of the most prohibitive travel expenses, so instead of setting your heart on one destination only to find that the tickets are out of your price range, you can approach the problem in reverse. For me and my husband, the exact location was less important than simply getting away. We are both freelancers, so we could be flexible on exact dates, too.

Most online tools are ill-equipped to help with a spontaneous trip on the cheap, since you have to search specific dates and locations. Kayak's Explore tool is great, because you can choose departure dates as vague as "any month" or as specific as a season ("fall 2013") or a month ("September 2013"). Then you can set a maximum you're willing to spend on airfare and see where in the world that money can take you.

I searched for flights under $400 during "summer 2013" and the tool spat out a world map with fares in my range. I was surprised that Bermuda was much closer than I'd thought (the flight is less than two hours from NYC) and how cheap the tickets were ($280 per person roundtrip, total). I was sold.