How to Save On Vacation

There are plenty of ways to save for vacations. Consider these 17 ways to help you start your finances for vacation.

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travel budget concept, money savings in a glass jar on a map

If you’re like us, every opportunity to save on vacation is a must.  As the cost of living rises, vacation costs and services will also rise.  So how do we make the most of our precious time and decisions while on vacation?

There are many ways to save on vacation.  You can find great deals online and while on vacation find some amazing strategies to stretch your wallet.  Here are 17 ways.

1. Compare Prices Online

I’m sure you’ve heard of companies like Priceline or Hotels.com. The great thing about online booking sites is that they give you a way to compare prices.  There are even aggregators like Kayak.com that provide multiple searches through travel sites so that you can compare.

Take a look at these popular sites and see if you can a great deal. You’ll find that there are the many online companies competing for your business.    If available, set up a notification to see if anything falls within your price and date range.

Another helpful site is Google Flights.  If you go to the Google search bar, simply type “Google Flight” and you’ll see the site as the first in the search results.  When you provide the date/time and destination, you can get a list of various flights that could be sorted by cost or time to travel.  In fact, you can set up a notification to tell you when the prices go down.  

Here are some sites to get you started.

Kayak Booking.com Hotels.com Hotwire.com Expedia.com

2. Travel During Slow Periods

One of the ways to get the best deals is to look for “shoulder” or slow seasons for travel.  For example, you might think that the summer is the prime season for all places.  However, you’d be surprised to find that places like Phoenix would have some incredible deals during the summer– that is if you’re willing to weather the high heat. 

Or, if you’re flexible to travel during the Fall or Spring for destinations, instead of the popular summer season, you can also save on airfare, hotel rooms, and even travel packages.

The slow periods can give you tremendous opportunity to save.  Check the online site for prices during the non-peak periods.

3. Get Credit Card Bonus SignUps

A great way to lower your travel costs is to sign up for credit cards.  Credit cards are offering tremendous travel deals if you apply and spend a specific amount on the card.  You can use the points to buy roundtrip tickets, hotels, or vacation packages.

For example, the American Express Hilton Aspire card requires that you spend $4,000 in 3 months to get 100,000 points.   Those 100,000 points can be used for Hilton hotels all over the world.   You can use the points for free night stays, saving you hundreds of dollars.

Keep in mind that credit cards should not be used to keep a balance.  You should always pay off any expenses on a monthly basis to avoid the high interest from a credit card. 

4. Stay at a Timeshare or Airbnb

The great thing about Timeshares and home vacation sites like Airbnb is that they often offer a partial or full kitchen.  This is helpful since the cost of eating out is always high.   Think about buying groceries while you’re on vacation. You can save a ton of money by cooking right at the convenience of your own kitchen.

If you’re inclined to eat out, consider cooking breakfast for you and your family. Compared to other meals, breakfast may be easiest meal to make and be close to restaurant quality.  Breakfast ingredients are usually more affordable.

5. Camping

Camping sites are far cheaper than hotel rooms and resorts.  The cost of sites can range from free to maybe a hundred dollars per night.  Considering the cost effectiveness, you might want to check out your local state park or even national park.

With camping, cooking is an essential part of the experience.   Brining your own items is much more cost effective.  Some camping sites do offer their own store or restaurant.  If you want to save money, consider bringing your own meals.

If you don’t have camping equipment, there are store like REI that provide rental equipment. Find yourself camping often? It might be worth it buy the equipment if you’re thinking of the long term.

6. Become a Local

One of the best deals can be found in the local establishments. Think of hole-in-the-wall restaurants where many of the locals eat.

In places like Hawaii, you can find some incredible places that offer great meals at lower prices.   Where the prices for meals are high are, of course, in areas that are centered around resorts.

Check out Yelp or local food guides that can point you to these establishments.  They can point you to places with great, reasonable meals that are native to the local culture.

7. Consider Exchange Rates

Currency exchange rates can be a great benefit if you decide to travel to another country.  The key here is that your country has a gain over the destination country’s currency. 

For example, the US dollar has an 8 percent gain over New Zealand’s dollar, relative to last year.  Because of the US rate gain over New Zealand, if you travel now, you’d have a favorable 8 percent advantage over the New Zealand dollar.

This could help you take advantage of cheaper prices in the destination country.  Consider checking out currency exchange sites to help you find a great place to visit.

8. Don’t Buy Souvenirs

We used to buy souvenirs on practically every vacation.  What happens to those souvenirs?  Well, they clutter our house, and then they ultimately become stored in a box.  Most of the money we spent were on items that we no longer look at.

So consider some alternatives.

With digital photography, we can preserve our moments online in a cloud or on a device.  This is a great way to save money and not feel compelled to buy things that would otherwise be thrown away or stored.

Also, tourist destination often have photographers that take pictures of you.  They ask if you want your picture taken, and you oblige and say “yes.”  Some of these photo opportunities might have a picture that you like. If you decide that you want to buy them, you’ll find that the price is pretty high.  I’ve had times where the picture was often quoted for $50.  No need to buy these pictures. You can always get another tourist to take a picture of you and your family.

9. Look For Free Activities

Free! I can’t emphasize this word anymore.  There are so many free options even in the more expensive locations. Besides parks, you can find a host of free activities during your vacation stay.

For starters, especially if you’re in hotel, ask the concierge to find free activities. They can be your best friend. They’ll provide a map and locations of where to find the free activities. Ask them if there are any concerts or free events in the area, and I’m sure they’ll find one or two. 

Of course, there are always free parks, free museums, and historic sites.  Check search engines like Google to see what may be in your destination.

10. Keep a Travel Expense List

One of the most important things I do while on vacation is keep track of my expenses.   What this does is not only help monitor my expenses, but keeps me mindful of the budget.  The expense list is a like diary of what I’ve spent throughout the day.  With smart phones, it’s easy to use an app throughout the day since it’s likely you’ll have it with you.

11. Buy Tourist Cards

Depending on the destination, you might be able to find deals through a tourist card. The cards provide an all-in-one package that allows you to choose and pick tourist attractions and theme parks for a city for one price.  Popular cards include companies like Go City Card and City Pass

If you’re checking out the popular area attractions, the card may offer some great savings.  The cards run around $100 per adult.  They can give you access to places that may well go over $100.  Make sure that you see check out the attractions and destinations in the description. 

12. Volunteer

A unique way to save money is through volunteering.  You could work at a nice destination and build houses, or help educate people in a third world country.  And you may be able to take advantage of the free room and board.  This could be a great option if you have a volunteering spirit and want to travel the world. Some volunteers even get a discount on their flights.

Check with major volunteer organizations or local church to see if there are any opportunities.

Handsome smiling young man getting into bus.

13. Use Public Transportation

I used to be a person who thought that anywhere I go, I should rent a car. After staying in cities, it really made look at public transportation in a different way.  Interestingly it gave me a new perspective after it helped us to save on parking fees throughout the urban landscape.

With cities averaging $20 per day for parking, you can bet public transportation can help you stretch your budget.   Moreover, think about the cost of finding parking and being stuck in a commute. 

There are some urban areas that you may need a rental car, so make sure your destination has a good public transportation infrastructure.

14. Save Money on Ride Sharing or Self Parking at the Airport

You can actually save money with ride sharing. Depending on your length of stay, a ride sharing trip can be cheaper than parking at the airport parking or parking shuttle service.  The longer you remain in your vacation, the more you’ll need to pay for parking.  Calculate the number of days you’re staying and determine the total cost.  If the cost to park is higher, you might want to consider services like Uber.

If you’re looking for self-parking, discount sites like Groupon.com can help you save money.  There are plenty of airport transportation companies looking for your business.

Of course, the cheapest way to save money on transportation to an airport would be through a friend or family member dropping you off and picking you up.  But if you don’t have means, try paid parking you can find through local coupon sites.

15. Eat a Big Lunch

The notion that dining out for dinner is much more expensive is often true. Consider eating a bigger lunch so that you’ll be less inclined to buy more dinner items.  The cost of eating out is often times more expense for dinner than any other time.

This will not only save you money, but it might healthier since you’re eating less. Some would even you can lose some weight this way.  A small dinner is less calories during the evening.

Young couple planning vacation trip with map. Top view. Pointing to Thailand map

16. Join A Discount Travel Club or Travel Agent

Want all the hard work done for you?  Many travel clubs and agents off packages that can be cheaper than online alternatives.  And best of all, you don’t have to do the heavy lifting to purchase the flights and then later look for hotel and transportation separately.

The travel agents can get a leg up on online discount travel sites because they have special relationships with hotels and other travel related companies.  Their relationship allows them to package an entire vacation page at competitive rates or provide special incentives like free meals.

The same applies to giants like Costco Travel, who can obtain vacation packages in a large scale and be price competitive.

17. Check Your Credit Cards For Deals

Check out the packages through these avenues and compare them to your prices that you’ve obtained through discount sites.

Credit card companies like American Express and Chase offer discounts or cash back through their offer list.  You have to proactively accept them and allow the credits to be available after a few days purchasing the item or service.   In fact, a number of these discounts can be travel related.

While it’s easy to ignore, take the time review them and see if you will be making any future purchases on the shopping or services discounts.  You might be able to find some significant savings through this method.