We all deserve a time out after working 40 hours a week and 262 days a year. From cutting down on stress to building human connections and reducing the risk of heart disease, there are various benefits of traveling. Nothing feels better than surrounding yourself with music, art, and breathtaking landscapes.
Whether you are taking a short trip to New York City from San Francisco or taking a month-long trip to Bali, traveling can be really expensive. So, travel tips like avoiding car rentals and using free public transportation can help save money.
Let’s talk about ways you can save money on your next vacation.
37 great tips for saving money when you are on vacation
1. Skip the spa and cancel your gym membership
One way of saving money while traveling is to cancel your gym membership before flying out. You will be able to save quite a few bucks if you are taking a long vacation.
We all love getting pampered at the spa, but they cost some serious money. But, if you really want to enjoy getting pampered, turn your hotel bathroom into a spa. After all, sipping wine while lying in a bathtub is not bad at all.
Some hotels offer free massages and spa treatments, you can consider booking them as well.
2. Use credit cards with no foreign transaction fees
If you don’t want to pay 3 to 4 percent on top of your purchases, use no foreign transaction fee cards. Using credit cards without foreign transaction fees means you will pay for the purchases the same way you would have back home.
To avoid transaction fees, make sure you avoid using foreign ATMs and Dynamic Currency Conversion. It’s better to exchange currency before departing.
3. Choose a hotel that includes free breakfast
If your hotel offers free breakfast, don’t shy away from eating it.
Complimentary breakfast helps saving breakfast and transportation costs. Small expenses like daily eat-outs, coffee drinks, and transportation can add up. So, make sure you make the most out of your free meals.
4. Say good-bye to car rentals – Welcome public transportation
Say, you are drawing a vacation budget for a 15-day trip to Bali. It might come as a surprise to you, but an economy rental car in Bali costs $25 per day. That’s less than what a rental car costs in the US. However, spending $25 a day means your 15-day transportation cost will be around $375.
The cheapest option is to ditch the rental company and use free public transportation. One more convenient option is to stay at a central location, so you can easily walk everywhere.
5. Travel during the off-season
Make sure you travel during the off-peak times.
Traveling during the holiday season is the most expensive time to fly. So, make sure you don’t travel around Christmas, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and Memorial Day. If you want to spend Christmas away from everyone, depart on Christmas eve or Christmas Day. The prices for domestic flights and round-trips go under $400 on Christmas Day.
6. Look for cheap flight tickets
The first thing you need to know is that there’s no “trick” of securing a cheap flight ticket. Some people say that buying flight tickets on Tuesday (or any other specific day) costs less. However, that’s not true at all.
Whether or not you are traveling around the major holidays, make sure you buy tickets in advance. By booking tickets one to three months prior to the vacation, you can save a good amount of money.
Services like Cheapair.com recommend buying tickets 21 to 121 days prior to the departure date. The travel agency calls this period the Prime Time Window and states that the plane tickets cost less when booked during the prime period.
You can also visit discount travel sites to look for cheap flight deals. Most of these sites charge you a service fee but can help you find great deals online. Keep in mind that the travel dates and location you are traveling to makes the most difference. There are also quite a few websites that let you bid your own price on flights on hotels. Give it a try.
Tip: While booking flights, avoid airport foreign currency exchanges.
7. Book a hotel room with mini kitchen and refrigerator
Even if you are in the mood to make yourself a good, crispy mushroom sandwich, you will not be able to do it if you don’t book a hotel room with a mini kitchen.
Having access to the kitchen is a great way to save money on vacation. You might think you don’t need a kitchen, but sometimes the only meal that can survive your craving is hand-made ramen.
Having a refrigerator, microwave, and other necessary kitchen appliances in the room will ensure that the left-over food doesn’t go bad.
8. Try cutting down on the cell phone bill
The monthly cellphone bill ranges from $70 to $90 per month, and the annual fee can go up to $840.
The era of sending text messages has ended. Now, you have applications like WhatsApp, Facebook, and Skype to talk to your family. So, try cutting down on the phone bill by switching to WiFi instead.
9. Bring some food and drinks with you
One of the best ways to save money is by bringing some food and drinks to enjoy on the plane. You can also keep cupcakes and multigrain nut bars, so you don’t have to buy breakfast every morning. Don’t forget to buy a reusable water bottle. You have no idea how much money you can save by drinking tap water.
10. Skip the dessert menu
We are not asking you to cut down on sugar, but try to avoid ordering desserts at restaurants. Around 95% of people order savory and ditch dessert. Desserts generally cost more than savory foods because they go bad quickly and take more time to prepare.
11. If you are traveling with friends or family, rent an apartment
If you are traveling with 2, 3 more people, it’s better to rent an apartment than book 4 hotel rooms. If you want to save a huge chunk of money, consider staying at a hostel.
Whatever you choose to book, make sure you stay for more than two days at the rental. You get better travel deals and discounts when you stay at the hotel, apartment, guest house, and hostel for more than a few days.
12. Pack smart, pack light
If you want to save on checked luggage costs, learn the skill of packing light as some airlines charge extra for checking baggage.
You can either get a large backpack or a carry-on suitcase. Most airlines let the passengers bring one carry-on free of charge. However, the biggest drawback of a carry-on is that every airline has a different size limitation.
13. Choose an all-inclusive resort
All-inclusive resorts are a great option if you want to get away for the weekend. It might come as a shock, but an all-inclusive resort can actually cost you less than staying at bed and breakfast.
You should consider staying at an all-inclusive resort, especially if you are traveling with your family and friends. An all-inclusive stay means you don’t have to look for bars and restaurants near your location. All you have to do is sit back and relax.
14. Don’t shy away from having a big lunch
Most restaurants offer lunch deals for two at great prices. Get one of those so that you can save some for dinner.
15. Resist impulse buys
If you want to some money on your trip, make sure you stick to the budget.
There’s no point in wasting your valuable time shopping on vacation. Look at shopping on vacation as traveling 4,000 miles to a grocery store. Does that make sense? So, it’s better that you spend that time exploring the city and trying out different foods.
But, that doesn’t mean that you should apply a strict NO Shopping rule. If you want to buy something as a souvenir, do it. But, what’s the point of buying designer shoes and MORE jeans?
16. Follow a travel writer or subscribe to newsletters for travel alerts
To find great flights and hotel deals, make sure you subscribe to any cheap travel newsletters. There are quite a few travel blogs that share sales alerts. Make sure you subscribe to them in advance and keep an eye on your email.
17. Draw a budget – Make sure you stick to it
Whether you are going on a vacation or planning your wedding, drawing a budget can help you divide your expenses.
While creating a budget, make sure you include these expenses:
- Food budget
- Plane tickets
- Visa Costs
- Eat outs
- Entertainment – concerts, museums, and sightseeing
- Trips to the grocery store (if you plan on cooking your own meals)
- Cellular provider fees
- Travel insurance
Create a savings or checking account that exclusively holds the budgeted money. Add up your expenses and transfer the total cost into your checking account. Track your expenses and strictly follow the budget.
Create a savings or checking account that exclusively holds the budgeted money. Regularly track your vacation and non-vacation expenses. While drawing a budget, identify the big-ticket items and your priorities.
18. Choose connecting flights
We all hate connecting flights, but the reality is that they cost significantly less than direct flights. Sometimes, connecting flights cost 50% less than direct non-stop a.k.a direct flight. Before booking a flight, stop at an airfare comparison site that shows both direct and connecting flights. Compare and choose cheap flights with the fastest route.
19. Eat out less
While traveling to a different country, one of the things people get excited about is trying out the local cuisine. However, that doesn’t mean you need to have a fancy dinner every night. If Paris is where you are traveling to, you should know that a two-person meal at an inexpensive restaurant costs €50; that is quite expensive than cooking yourself.
However, taking a vacation means focusing on yourself and taking time off from work. So, we wouldn’t recommend you cook three meals a day. Even cooking one meal a day will save you quite a few bucks.
20. Look for free events
Who doesn’t like free museums?
One of the best ways to save money on traveling is to look for free activities. Some museums offer free entry on Sundays, while some offer discounted admission at a certain time of the day. Apart from going to the museum, you can go on a hike, spend the day at the park, or stroll around the city and build connections with the locals.
If you are traveling to a city that offers guided walking tours, make sure you make the most out of them. Travelers are asked to pay whatever they want, so it’s not free but a super affordable option to consider.
21. Opt for a local cafe
You don’t have to eat at fancy restaurants every day. While traveling to a different country, your priority should be trying out the street food and local cafes. Not only do the local cafes cost less than restaurants, but they also offer authentic local cuisine.
Get friendly with the locals, so they can suggest some good yet affordable places to try out.
22. Purchase travel insurance
Make sure you never travel without travel insurance. It protects you in the case of a medical emergency, flight cancelation, and trip interruption. The insurance also covers lost, damaged, and stolen luggage.
The premium fee you will pay for travel insurance is significantly less than the money you will lose or have to pay in case of flight cancellation and medical emergencies. Keep in mind that travel insurance doesn’t cover tickets, passports, and cell phones. So, make sure you don’t keep these valuables in your luggage. The insurance costs 5% to 10% of your total pre-paid travel cost.
The biggest drawback of travel insurance is that it doesn’t cover all the pre-existing conditions.
23. Consider night train and flights
If the transportation is longer than 6-7 hours, consider traveling at night to beat one less night in a hotel.
24. Stop drinking alcohol and quit smoking
We all know how expensive alcohol and cigarettes are. By quitting cigarettes and alcohol on your trip, you can save a whopping $227 per month. You can use this money on exploring the city and trying out food that the locals eat.
An average American household spends $565 a year on alcohol. According to National Cancer Institute, an average American smoker spends a whopping $182 on cigarettes every month.
25. Find good exchange centers to get cash in the local currency
Countries like Hong Kong, Cuba, Bahrain, UAE, and Panama have a fixed exchange rate. However, most countries’ exchange rate fluctuates depending on the day.
You will be able to spot quite a few vendors that provide local currency conversion services. However, keep in mind that not all of them trade at the same rate.
26. Cash in credit card airline miles and points
If you can, consider opening a bank account that airline points and miles. Some banks deliver bonus points for everyday money management activities. Redeeming points can get you discounted stays at hotels, free checked bags, and free food at restaurants.
If you are a frequent traveler, you might already have travel reward points to get something for free. But, if you are not, make sure you sign up for reward point programs, so you can get free stuff on your next trip!
27. Make sure you take more than one credit and debit card with you
This tip is more of a precaution. While traveling to a foreign country, people should call their credit card companies to notify them about their trip. This way, they wouldn’t block your card over a foreign transaction.
Thus, having more than one debit and credit card can save your time in the event of one getting blocked or hacked. Also, if you hold a large balance in your bank account, open a savings account to transfer a percentage of the balance for your trip.
28. Pet-sit or offer tutor services in exchange for free food or room
Picking up a part-time job is a great way to save money on travel packages.
Keep in mind that you need to pick a job that you are genuinely interested in because the main reason behind going on a vacation is to get away from all the worries and not to surround yourself with more.
Here are a few part-time jobs you can consider picking:
- Pet Sitting
- Travel Blogging
- Teaching your language
- Freelancing (web development, content marketing, graphic designing, etc.)
- Dog Walking
- Yacht Sailing
- Travel Photography
- Arts and Crafts Production
- Local Tour Guiding
- Wellness Instructor
- Freelance Massage Therapist
29. Shop at farmer’s market and local stores
If you have to choose between buying gifts for your family and extend your vacation, always choose to extend your trip. Everyone appreciates gifts, but the truth is that your mom already has enough coffee, and your sister doesn’t need more designer bags. It’s better to take them along than to get them to travel gifts.
But, if you really want to get something for your family, explore the local stores. You will be able to find authentic and meaningful travel souvenirs for half the price in local stores.
If you are planning to cook yourself, don’t forget to take a trip to the farmer’s market. They are relatively cheaper than grocery stores.
30. Don’t forget to check community calendars
If you want to do something fun at a good price, explore your options through community calendars. They will notify you about the events taking place in the town. If you are on a tight budget, you can try looking for free activities.
31. Don’t eat out at cafes close to tourist destinations
This is one of the tips that never get old.
Don’t fall into the trap of eating out at restaurants, and cafes near tourist destinations are quite expensive. The drawback of eating at restaurants near tourist attractions, apart from the hefty price, is that they are extremely busy. If you want to have your dinner in peace, walk around and explore small, cozy cafes.
32. Explore third-party travel websites
Want to find deals that are affordable? Shop around on third-party travel sites!
Websites like Booking.com, TripAdvisor, and Kayak offer a great deal on travel accommodations. Don’t forget to compare the prices!
33. You don’t need fancy coffee drinks everyday
Let’s get real. Americans drink 400 million cups of coffee every day. Most Americans consume 3.1 cups of coffee each day.
We understand that you love your morning coffee. The truth is, we all do. But, that doesn’t mean you have to buy fancy coffee drinks from expensive cafes. We recommend you to take your French press with you, so you can make a fresh cup of “affordable” coffee whenever you want.
34. Choose car rental companies that offer coupon codes
One great way of saving money while traveling is to look for rental car companies that offer packages. What’s better than bundling your rental car with a flight or hotel stay at a cheaper rate?
35. Plan the activities in advance
You will probably not be able to find great deals at the very last minute. From plane tickets to museums, make sure you book all the activities in advance.
36. Drink tap water if it is safe
Filtered tap water costs less than bottled water. You can skip $235 by skipping bottled water. So, if you spend to take a one-month trip, you can save up to $20. This might not seem too much, but it makes a difference when traveling with your family.
Ask the locals if filtered tap water is safe to drink. If not, don’t bother. You don’t want to end up sick and spend 10 times more on medical bills than you would have on bottled water.
37. Get rid of netflix, amazon, and hulu
You probably wouldn’t have the time to watch Netflix during your trip. But, when you have nothing planned for the day, you might want to stay back at the hotel and Netflix and chill. In that case, we recommend you unsubscribe to the subscription-based streaming services and use free streaming websites.
Say, you have Netflix (premium), Amazon, and Hulu. You will be saving $36, which doesn’t seem a lot but makes a huge difference if you are going away for a few months.
If you don’t want to worry about finances on your vacation, make sure you try out the aforementioned money-saving trips!
If you want to make the most of your trip, start saving a year before taking the trip. The most important thing while planning a trip is to draw a budget. Make sure you list down all the expenses and follow the budget to a T. While drawing a budget, the most important thing is to set your priorities. Saving money doesn’t mean that you have to stop doing what you love.
Ramit Sethi, in his book, I Will Teach You to Be Rich, said, “Spend extravagantly on the things you love, and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t.”