Planning a trip can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re planning a vacation soon, you’re going to love these 25 ways to save money on your next trip.
General Money Saving Tips
- Rewards programs. Everyone offers rewards programs these days — hotel chains, airlines, credit cards, etc. Many offer an initial points bonus just for signing up with them. It’s a good idea to sign up for those reward programs before you book your trip.
- Travel when most people don’t. If you are able, plan your trips for the “shoulder season” between peak tourism and off season. In the US, the shoulder season is typically before and after schools’ summer breaks – April-May and September-October. If you’re into cruises, book a “repo” (repositioning) cruise to save a bundle.
- Protect yourself against theft. Stay alert, keep your money in a money belt, carry your purse in such a way that it cannot be grabbed, make sure the purse opening is in front of you where you can see it, etc. Know where your money is at all times.
Tips to Save Money on Lodging
- Consider staying at a home instead of in a hotel. In many cases, you can rent a place through Airbnb or Home Away for less than what a hotel would cost. As an added bonus, if you rent a home (as opposed to a room in a home), you will be able to cook some or all of your meals if you want, which is much cheaper than eating out.
Tips to Save Money on Transportation
- Shop around for airfare. I have seen better fares from Momondo than any other airfare shopping site. It’s important to check because the difference in prices can vary by as much as several hundred dollars.
- Use ride services like Uber and Lyft instead of taxis. Last summer I went to a trade show in Pennsylvania and got a taxi from the convention center to a restaurant. The taxi cost $25. I decided to try Uber for the first time on my return to the convention center, and it only cost me $12. With a ride service, you know up front what it will cost and the driver doesn’t earn any extra money if he takes a detour/wrong turn. You can’t be overcharged.
- If you’ll be using public transportation during your trip, look into getting a multi-day fare card/pass, which is generally cheaper than paying for every trip individually. You pay one set amount up front and use it as much as you want over a period of several days.
- Know when to ask for a refund. Most European railroad services will refund part or all of your fare if your train arrives 30 minutes or more after it was supposed to.
- Know what you are entitled to if you get bumped from an overbooked flight. Don’t take the first offer of a couple hundred dollars from the airline. It’s possible you could be entitled to much more than that (up to $1350).
- Let your budget determine your destination. You can decide how much you are able to spend on airfare and use sites like Skiplagged or Google Flights to select a destination that doesn’t exceed your price.
- If you’re traveling by car, use the GasBuddy app to find where gas is the cheapest.
Ways to Save Money on International Travel
- If traveling to another country, there is no need to pay international roaming charges for your cell phone. Just buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card on a cellular network in that country and you’re good to go. We did this when we were in England and it worked great for us – we didn’t have to worry about going over our limits and receiving a whopper of a phone bill when we returned home.
- When changing your cash from one currency to another, try to deal only with businesses who display both their buying and selling rates. Their margin of profit should not exceed 5%. If it does, look for a different place.
- Be aware of what bank fees you may incur abroad. Some credit cards have a “foreign transaction fee” and others do not. If they are going to charge you a fee every time you use your card abroad, you will want to know that in advance.
- Find out what the tipping customs are in the country you’re visiting. There is no need to leave an American tip of 15-20% in other countries where they only expect 10%. There are about a dozen countries in the world where no tip is expected at all.
- Don’t waste money on a foreign language phrase book. The Google Translate app is free, and it is phenomenal. You can point your phone camera at a foreign phrase and it will show you what it would look like in English. Or you can speak/type words in to get a translation. The best part is that you can download a language for use when you are offline.
- If traveling to the UK, familiarize yourself with the procedures for getting your VAT taxes refunded to you. The VAT tax is a crazy high (20%) sales tax that you pay on everything – built right into the prices. That’s why everything seems so much more expensive. If you’re not a UK citizen, you are entitled to get that 20% back, so go for it!
Ways to Save Money on Attractions
- Buy your admission tickets online. Many attractions will offer a discount for online ticket purchases. (As an added bonus, you will also save time by not having to wait in line for your tickets when you arrive.)
- Find out about special events. In summer especially, it seems there is always a festival going on somewhere. Local festivals can be a great opportunity to enjoy live music, yummy food, and other entertainments. Best of all, there is no charge for admission.
- Ask about free admission days. Many places that charge for admission, including museums and parks, will have certain days when admission is free or reduced. Give priority to those attractions on the days you don’t have to pay.
- Use Groupon. Check Groupon for the area you are visiting to see if there are any discounts on restaurants and/or attractions. On a recent trip to NYC, I purchased tickets for an escape room experience via Groupon for $22.25 per person. If I had purchased them directly from the company that runs the escape rooms, I would have paid $38 per person. Since there were eight of us, that amounted to a total savings of $126! (This is not just for US travel – Groupon operates in 48 different countries!)
Ways to Save Money on Food
- If you’re visiting a metropolitan area in the US or Canada, consider buying an Entertainment book. They are usually full of coupons for things to do as well as hotels and restaurants. By mid-year, they will only cost you $10. And if you’re one of those people who can never remember to take your coupons with you, never fear – the book is now accessible via smartphone.
Ways to Save Money When Shopping
- Store loyalty programs. If you need to go to a grocery or drug store while you’re traveling, go ahead and join their loyalty program in order to be eligible for sale prices. Even if you never set foot inside the store again, it will save you a little bit in the short run, and it costs nothing to join.
- Be wary of souvenir shopping. A Gryffindor scarf from Universal Studios in Orlando costs $37. You can buy the same one online at Amazon for $25, perhaps even less. The hand painted slate sign with the motto you find so charming doesn’t need to be purchased and hung on a wall. Just take a picture of it and post to your social media accounts, or make something of your own with the saying after you get home. (I think that Christmas ornaments make the best souvenirs as they tend to be small and inexpensive.)
- Don’t be afraid to haggle. Prices at most markets are negotiable. You won’t offend anyone by asking for a lower price; in most places it’s even expected.
There you have it! There are 25 ways to save money on your next trip to make your travel dream a reality. Do you have other ways that you save money on your travels? Tell us below and make sure you pin this to your travel board so you can find it later by clicking here.
Meet the Author
Julie is a travel blogger who loves to travel, write about her travels, read, and plan her next adventure. If you want to follow her travels, you can check her website, Travel As Much, or follow her on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.