If you desperately need a breather but worry that you can't afford a trip, think again. 

The very idea of planning a vacation can be daunting when you're on a tight budget. These are some ways that you can put together a great getaway without going broke in the process.

Timing is everything.

When it comes to airline tickets, you want to buy them at least six weeks in advance to get the lowest price. Use price-checking sites like Skiplagged or Skyscanner to get an idea of just how low a ticket can go for your desired destination, and then keep an eye out for the best fares.

The difference between a last-minute ticket and one bought months ahead can be hundreds of dollars per seat, so it's worth the trouble. Set a low-price alert to make the whole process easier.

sky, airplane

Stay within your means.

While the big bright resort hotels may seem like the most convenient place to stay, sometimes an Airbnb or smaller boutique hotel can be an inexpensive alternative. Make sure you read plenty of reviews and get the extras you'll need to have a good time. Good Wifi, a pool, and free parking are all basic perks to insist on when you're searching. You'll save even more by having a room with a kitchenette.

Research, research, research.

Florida is a fantastic option for a budget beach vacation. Stay away from the high-priced attractions in Orlando and go for the free beaches in Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade County instead. If you have a rental car, you can easily spend a week trying out public beaches from Miami up to West Palm and deciding on your favorite.

Download the parking apps for cheaper street parking wherever you go, and avoid the expensive valet service at garages if you can. 

beach, ocean

If you want something a bit more educational, then check out the local museums, historical sites, gardens, and national parks. They are generally free or have nominal entrance fees. No D.C. vacation is complete without exploring the Smithsonian museums and National Zoo. Instead of individual tours, try a hop-on-hop-off bus to see as many local sites as possible for a single ticket price.

Don't diss the dives.

By all means, plan an expensive dinner or two, but try seeking out the local favorites like a good Cuban sandwich in Florida or the perfect crab cake in Maryland. Check out reviews for bakeries in the area and stock up on the best breads and pastries to go with fresh salads and fruit for your lighter meals. In my experience, some of the best vacation meals are in the incredible local sandwich spots.

cuban sandwich, bakery

Go easy at the gift shops.

Chances are, the souvenir shot glass that seems so hilarious will just gather dust in your cupboard. Try getting some postcards instead, or a single t-shirt to remember your lazy days away from home. One of my favorite things to buy when I'm in a new state are reusable grocery bags from stores we don't have at home. They're inexpensive, unique, and can easily fit in your suitcase. They also make great gifts if you get the pretty ones!

*The photos in this article are by Sarina Petrocelly.

What are some of your favorite tips for planning a budget vacation? Share them with us in the comments!