How to save money on vacation

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If someone is money-poor, time-rich, what are the cheapest ways to travel halfway or the whole way around the world?

For example: Starting in Australia or South America traveling to Northern Europe, with a time to get there of 1-4 months.

1 Answer 1

On continents: Walking and hitchhiking ought to be the cheapest as far as raw transportation costs are concerned (but if it takes longer to cover the same distance, you also have to budget more for food and lodging). Depending on the location, long-distance busses, collective taxis or car sharing are options you can consider next.

Between continents: Air travel, hands-down. If you are flexible with the route and time and look for the cheapest fares or discount carriers, it beats anything else. We often get questions about getting a on a freighter ship or that kind of things, that’s possible but not cheap by any means.

Avoiding the most convenient direct flights does save money but beyond that being time-rich does not help you much. Obviously hitchhiking your way across a continent is an experience in itself but there is no secret way to cross oceans or cover long distances and air travel is currently very cheap (historically speaking).

Seven tips to save money on vacation with your family.

August 25, 2018 | 5 min read

Of all our fondest childhood memories, few survive the test of time like family vacations. That trip to the beach. That long car ride. That epic camping trip. We never forget the great travel moments of our youth. But all those ice cream breaks aren’t free, and as families grow, so do vacation budgets. Here is a guide for parents looking to save money on vacation.

1. Build a budget

It can be hard to include travel in your family budget since the timing and costs of trips can be difficult to predict. Sixty percent of American families don’t maintain a household budget, so creating a vacation budget might be a good way to start learning the basics. It will also let you focus on the fun instead of worrying about the finances.

So as you begin trying to determine how to save on vacation, start by studying your checking account to track your past spending habits. Then estimate how many trips you will take each year and how much they should cost. If your kids are old enough, you might include them in the budgeting process. That will help them understand the importance of planning and saving for travel.

2. Choose a destination

When booking family travel on a budget, choosing an affordable destination may be the best place to start. Camping is often a great way to experience natural beauty on a budget, whether in the mountains or on the beach. In an era of urban renaissance, many mid-sized American cities—think Kansas City, St. Louis or Nashville—are worth visiting for a weekend or longer, and their downtowns are often clean, safe and packed with cool, casual bars and restaurants. And even obvious destinations like Florida or Hawaii can be done on a smaller budget if you find a way to travel during the low season.

3. Don’t fear the road trip

Long family road trips are the stuff of cinematic legend. But the days of “I spy” and wrestling with sprawling road maps are long gone. The technologies in our cars and phones have made long car drives more comfortable and enjoyable with GPS, climate control, music apps and the magic of audiobooks and podcasts. They’ve always been cost-effective family vacations, but road trips are also becoming more popular, accounting for almost 40% of American family vacations. 1

Depending on where you live, there are likely amusement parks, mountains, beaches or historical sites within a day’s drive. (Here’s a great guide to how far you can get from major cities in an hour, depending on when you get on the road.) If your kids are young, you may want to break a drive of 6 or 7 hours (or more) into smaller chunks, finding interesting places to stop along the way. Either way, by simply eliminating airfare, car trips can make the best family vacations on a budget, as long as you have a few phone chargers and plenty of snacks.

4. Flexibility for your finances and fun

If you’re looking for ways to save money on vacation, it pays to be flexible. 2 Search for flights for a few destinations that your family is interested in traveling to. But instead of locking yourself into a specific week or weekend, look across several dates when you might be free to travel. When you see something affordable, snag it. Even if it means taking an extra day off work, the trip will be memorable for its spontaneity and will help reinforce the importance of travel to your family.

5. Staycation’s all you ever wanted

Sometimes you just need a change of scenery. If you need out of the house, but you can’t afford to pile your family onto a plane, consider a staycation. Find a hotel, resort, vacation home and even campsite nearby. If you don’t know where to start, try your city’s website, which likely offers tourism tips for activities in your own backyard. Or search for nearby state parks, which may even rival the majesty of national parks without the travel time.

Pack the car with treats, games and maybe a bathing suit and hit the road. Bonus points if your hometown has a resort with a pool or an amusement park. You never know: 20 years from now, your kids may still be talking about that epic trip 30 minutes up the highway.

6. Extended family fun

People often save family visits for the holidays. But if your extended family has space to host you, consider building a trip around visiting them. Wherever they live, they probably aren’t far from an interesting historic site, cultural experience or hot dining scene. And while you may worry about imposing, they may be thrilled to show off their hometown and their everyday lives. Just be sure to be flexible about dates so you don’t throw them off schedule.

7. Live like a local

The internet is a never-ending ocean of vacation planning websites and cheap vacation tips. But it can also suck you into tourist traps, including expensive hotels, overpriced meals and overcrowded destinations. If you’re worried about how to save money on vacation, it can be cheaper and more fun to live like a local.

For a large family, using a service like Airbnb or VRBO typically helps save on lodging. 3 If you’re trying to figure out how to save on vacation meals, local newspapers and websites offer insider guides to unique local restaurants, where the food is cheaper and tastier than the large eateries on the beaten path. You can eat in more easily and even entertain, if your host allows it. You’ll also save on parking and won’t accidentally splurge on room service or the minibar.

It’s never too early—or too late—to start making memories with your family. And with a little creativity, you can build a memorable family vacation without breaking the bank.

This site is for educational purposes. The material provided on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Capital One product or service to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.

How to save money on vacation

How to save money on vacation

Now that Spring has officially sprung, and as the school year winds down to a close, I can’t stop daydreaming about taking a summer vacation.

Vacations are few and far between in our family. With all the commitments my husband and I have professionally, coupled with the school activities my daughter has going on, we just can’t pick up and go at any other time like we can during the summer. So our summer vacations are really important to our family as it is one of the few times we can relax, unwind, unplug, and reconnect.

One obstacle we have to overcome each year in our quest for a summer vacation is the economics of it all. How are we going to fund it? For us, there is the expense of the transportation getting there, money for the place where we plan to stay, the cost of meals and activities, and funds for the dog kennel that will care for our two pooches while we are away.

It can start to get downright expensive quickly. And since we don’t have an influx of funds coming in during the summer, we have to be thoughtful about how we plan to fund these trips.

Here are six ways to fund your summer vacation:

1. Start saving early by putting money away in a vacation savings account.

Since we know summer vacations are really important to the health of our family, we start saving for them ahead of time. We accomplish this by automatically taking a specific amount of our paycheck monthly and depositing it into an account we designated expressly for our vacations. It comes directly out of my check before anything else and is out of sight and out of mind. By the time we start making plans for our getaway, we usually have a decent little stash of cash saved up. It is a lot less stressful and a lot more fun to arrange these getaways when we know how much we have to work with and that we won’t be driving ourselves into debt.

2. Accumulate and use your points.

We have a couple of different credit cards we use personally and for my husband’s business that offer excellent incentive programs. When we know we need to make large purchases that we would have paid for using our household cash flow; we’ll put them on the credit card first and then immediately pay them off at the end of the month when the bills come. As a result, we have racked up a considerable amount of points that have funded hotels, car rentals, flights, and even cruises.

I wouldn’t suggest this method if it isn’t something you plan to pay off immediately because you don’t want to accumulate debt. However, if you have the cash flow for a specific expense and can be disciplined enough to pay off the card immediately, this method can help you earn points – thus enabling your vacation dollars to stretch a lot further.

Another points option is to join the rewards programs offered by major airlines and hotel chains. I often travel for business, and because I tend to go to a few specific areas of the country, I am often on the same airline and staying in the same hotels. These points add up fairly quickly and easily offset some of our summer vacation costs.

3. Sign up for travel alerts.

Most major airlines, hotel chains, rental car companies, amusement parks, and the like offer opt-in savings alerts for customers. These savings are rarely offered during peak travel times (so, NOT usually during summer), but, if you watch carefully and would be okay with booking a vacation well in advance, there is bound to be some incentive that will make your dream vacation more achievable.

4. De-clutter, simplify, and sell.

Each year it is a good idea to go through your home and get rid of stuff you are not using. Not only will it help you to de-clutter and simplify your life, but it can also be a money-making opportunity for you. Whether it is via a garage sale, Craigslist, eBay, thredUP, your neighborhood Facebook groups, or apps like letgo, Poshmark, or OfferUp, you sell your “treasures” and then stash the money away in your vacation piggy bank. That’s a zen-win!

How to save money on vacation

5. Take on some extra work.

One fairly obvious suggestion is to find a way to take on a second job or a side hustle for extra money. If you are anything like me, the thought of more work sounds overwhelming. I just don’t have the time … but do I?

If vacations are a priority in your family like they are in mine, maybe you should honestly assess how you are using your time. If you are spending hours in front the TV or perusing social media (ahem—like spending hours and hours pinning vacation ideas on Pinterest), the truth is you DO have the time to make a few extra dollars instead.

And, as you probably already know, there is a myriad of ways you can do that from the comfort of your home. Or, if you already work from home for your primary source of income, you may want to consider some part-time work outside of your home, like these 19 Flexible Ways to Make Money With Your Car or Five Types of On Demand Money Making Opportunities.

6. Ask for the gift of travel.

Every year many of my family members (siblings of my husband, my parents, close family friends) struggle over what to get each other for Christmas. We either agree not to exchange gifts at all, or we end up giving each other dinner gift cards. In fact, one year my sister-in-law and I ended up buying each other the same dinner gift card!

Next holiday, you may want to consider asking for the gift of travel instead. Loved ones may have travel points on their credit cards or airline miles they can share, and the great news is it won’t cost them anything to pass them along to you. Also, most airlines, hotel chains, rental car companies, and amusement parks have gift card options.

The great thing about gifting travel is instead of adding another consumable item to a person’s life; you are helping them to build a memory they will likely carry with them for the rest of their lives. This would work for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, and other special occasions, and is a meaningful gift for adults and children alike.

All of us need a chance to unwind and recharge. And the memories my family makes while on summer vacations have kept us storytelling and laughing for years afterward. With a little planning, research, and effort, we’ll continue to make summer vacation memories for years to come.

How do you fund your summer vacation? What ideas would you add to the list? Any unique savings ideas you’ve discovered?

As the travel industry begins to recover, you may be feeling a little—okay, more than a little—bit of cabin fever. For most of us, it’s been a year of shut-ins and shut-downs. So now that things are opening up, getting out has never seemed more enticing.

But to make the best of your newfound freedom, you’ll want to have a plan for where you’re going. More than that, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got the money to spend when it’s time to go, and have a strategy for what you’ll spend it on.

Learn some easy tips for saving ahead of time so that when you hit the road, you’re financially ready for that much-awaited vacation.

Follow along as The Balance wades back into travel, too, with “Our Money’s on Travel”—a series of stories about navigating the current world of travel, and how to pay for it.

Set a Vacation Budget

Knowing how much your vacation is going to cost is one of the primary factors you should consider when planning for a trip. Creating a vacation budget does more than just give you peace of mind—it allows you to be prepared for any costs that come your way. This can mean the difference between accommodating unexpected charges with ease or ending up overdrafted on your bank account—or worse, on the hook for high-interest credit card payments.

In 2019, there were 1.9 billion one-person trips booked by U.S. residents, according to the U.S. Travel Association, and direct spending on leisure travel by both domestic and international travelers totaled $792.4 billion.

Common vacation costs to consider include:

  • Transportation: airfare, car rental, train tickets
  • Lodging: hotel, Airbnb, hostels
  • Food: groceries, planned meals out
  • Extracurriculars: tours, attraction tickets, souvenirs
  • Miscellaneous: rental car insurance, security deposits, unexpected fees

Commit to a Savings Plan

It may seem overwhelming trying to save for a big trip, especially once you list out the numbers. But planning ahead means you’ll have the time to save in advance for all your expenses.

The easiest way to create a savings plan is to divide your projected budget by the number of months until your vacation. This number represents the amount of money you’ll need to save each month in order to have enough saved up for the trip.

Say you’re going to need $5,000 for your vacation and you’re looking to travel in 10 months. You’ll divide $5,000 by 10 to come up with $500—this is how much you should plan to save each month.

If the number you come up with seems insurmountable—don’t worry. There are many ways to make this manageable, including the following strategies.

  • Stretch out your timeline: If you can, push back your vacation by a month or more. If you’re able to do so, this will decrease your monthly savings amount, giving you more time to save up.
  • Trim the fat: Take a look at the planned expenses you have thought about and see if there are any costs that can be reduced. Can you take public transportation instead of renting a car? How many bags are you checking that may incur extra cost, and could you instead use a credit card that gets you free checked bags? Slimming down some of the extras in your trip can drop your overall total.
  • Set up a savings account: Checking accounts are usually non-interest bearing. Instead, open a savings account that’ll earn you some money for every penny you save. Maximize your savings by opening a high-yield savings account rather than one at your local bank.

Use a Credit Card to Kick-Start Your Savings

If you’re looking for a way to cut down significantly on your travel costs, you may want to consider opening a travel rewards credit card. Often, these credit cards will come with a large welcome offer when you reach a certain spending goal. These points can then be redeemed for flights, hotels, and even tours, depending on which travel rewards credit card you choose.

If you sign up for the card early enough and spend on daily essentials regularly, you’ll earn even more travel rewards points on top of any sign-up bonus, all of which can help defray your travel costs.

Automate Your Savings

It can be difficult to remember every time you’d like to transfer money to your savings. Fortunately, there are plenty of options that’ll automate the process for you—and some will even reward you for it.

  • Most banks will allow you to create a recurring transfer into a dedicated savings account.
  • Programs like Bank of America’s Keep the Change and Chime’s automatic savings round up the change from your debit card transactions and automatically transfer it over to your savings.
  • Mobile apps such as Acorns act similarly, as they round up your transactions and then invest your savings into the stock market.

Look for Ways to Earn or Save More

If the cost of your dream vacation exceeds what you’re able to save from your monthly earnings, it’s time to examine big and small ways to boost that amount.

  • Consider taking a side gig or renting out a room: Is there part-time work you could take on for a while to bulk up your vacation savings? Or could you get a roommate to earn some extra income? Strategies like these can super-charge your savings.
  • Cut expenses at home: Reduce entertainment expenses, cut the cable cord, or replace restaurant meals with home cooking. Apps such as Trim and Truebill can also help by checking and canceling unwanted monthly subscriptions, negotiating lower bill payments, and even providing you a bonus on the amount of money you save each year. Then throw all that extra money into your vacation savings.
  • Use shopping portals: An online shopping portal is a site that rewards consumers with points, miles, or cash back for making purchases through various merchants. When shopping online, use a shopping portal such as Rakuten to earn cash back on your purchases. Cashback Monitor will show you which programs are offering the best returns on any purchases you make.
  • Add in cash-back apps: Apps such as Ibotta, Dosh, and Fetch will give you cash back on groceries, dining, hotels, and more. Some of these services are automatic, while others require that you upload your receipts. When you use these with rewards credit cards, the extra earnings can add up.

The Bottom Line

Expenses from vacation can add up, so it’s important to make sure you’re saving the money to go along with it. From trip budgeting to automated savings, preparing for travel can be easy, and will ensure that your vacation goes off without a hitch.

Our friends over at Spot reached out to a bunch of travel pros for their best money-saving travel tips. And what they came back with was the kind of head-noddingly smart stuff that makes you go, "Ugh, why didn’t I think of that?" Their advice hits everything from booking hacks to hotel-room upgrades to eating like a king for next to nothing — those things you can do before you hit the road, and what to think about once you’re on the ground.

1. Pretty Simple: Buy Less Stuff

How to save money on vacation

Take More Photos, Buy Less Junk

You can cut costs on traveling by buying less stuff. Instead, snap a picture of beautiful iconography or scenery so that you have a free way to keep your memories, rather than buying overpriced tourist memorabilia.

"Generally I try not to buy many things — I’d much rather have the time and money to travel, than work like crazy just to buy stuff. Even when I see something I think I’d really love to own, I try to think about the places I’ve been able to travel and the memories I have, and that helps me put ‘value’ into perspective." – Erin Spens, editor and co-founder of Boat Magazine

2. Opt for Off-Season

"This is our number-one tip. Accommodations, tours, and even food will be much higher if you’re traveling during high season or the holidays.

We’ve traveled in off-season many times. It’s winter, and we’re currently working our way through Eastern Europe. And guess what? The weather has been pretty good, there are basically no tourists, and we’ve gotten all our apartments and hostels at a discounted rate. We’ve also traveled through the Caribbean during the summer, which is considered hurricane season, but have yet to come across a hurricane. All we’ve found are cheap hotels, ferry discounts, and half-price tours." – Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift, full-time travelers behind Goats on the Road

3. Fly On an Off-Peak Day or Time

"Generally, flying earlier in the week (Monday or Tuesday vs. Thursday or Friday) translates to better deals, and the second flight of the day is less expensive than the first." – Justine Goodman, travel and weddings editor of Refinery29

4. Open a Travel-Friendly Bank Account

"You want one that’ll give you unlimited ATM withdrawals abroad and won’t charge you any transaction fees." – Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift, full-time travelers behind Goats on the Road

5. Consider Renting Out Your Place

How to save money on vacation

Offset Your Own Travel Costs By Renting Your Own Home

To offset the cost of your own travel, consider renting out your own home. Sites like Airbnb or Home Exchange offer reputable resources to help you sell out your space and keep your own traveling costs at a minimum.

"It can help offset your travel costs and, depending on where you live and where you’re going, even turn you a profit. Several years ago, we did the Southeast Asia backpack circuit for a couple months, and rented out our NYC apartment while we were gone. Our travel costs were so low — SE Asia is the trip for the budget-minded — that we actually ended up making money. We found a renter via Craigslist, but you could also list your pad on a site likeAirbnb or VRBO, or look into a house swap on Home Exchange." – Kelly Lack, content and community lead at Spot

6. Jump on the “Orbucks” Train

"Of the booking sites, I’m a huge Orbitz fan because their rewards program is by far the most simple I’ve used. Immediately after you book, you receive ‘Orbucks,’ which you can use on future bookings. If you were visiting multiple cities in Europe, by the time you book your first hotel you already have cash to put towards the next hotel in the next city you plan on visiting! It’s as uncomplicated as can be." – Nastasia Wong, founder of women’s travel community Dame Traveler

7. Find a Home Away From Home

"While we do love hotels, sometimes prices are through the roof—especially when you’re traveling as a group. That’s when a service such as Airbnb can save you money and give you more space and amenities. To make sure you’ll get the best possible experience, select rentals hosted by Airbnb ‘Superhosts,’ those who have the highest ratings." – Howie Rappaport, featured contributor at FrugalTravelGuy.com

8. Book Activities Ahead of Time

"One school of thought says that booking activities last minute on the ground will nab you a deal, but that’s not always the case. Take Europe. Europeans like to plan. This means you can get cheaper prices by helping them plan. Say you’re booking a raft trip in Slovenia (highly recommended!) or a tandem paraglide flight in the Alps, you’ll generally do better to book ahead online. You’ll find group-discount rates you can take advantage of even if you’re not traveling in a group. Schools and student groups tend to holiday together in Europe, so pricing is set up to accommodate groups and you, as an individual, can slot into open spots." – Josh Sampiero, adventure editor at Red Bull

Our friends over at Spot reached out to a bunch of travel pros for their best money-saving travel tips. And what they came back with was the kind of head-noddingly smart stuff that makes you go, "Ugh, why didn’t I think of that?" Their advice hits everything from booking hacks to hotel-room upgrades to eating like a king for next to nothing — those things you can do before you hit the road, and what to think about once you’re on the ground.

1. Pretty Simple: Buy Less Stuff

How to save money on vacation

Take More Photos, Buy Less Junk

You can cut costs on traveling by buying less stuff. Instead, snap a picture of beautiful iconography or scenery so that you have a free way to keep your memories, rather than buying overpriced tourist memorabilia.

"Generally I try not to buy many things — I’d much rather have the time and money to travel, than work like crazy just to buy stuff. Even when I see something I think I’d really love to own, I try to think about the places I’ve been able to travel and the memories I have, and that helps me put ‘value’ into perspective." – Erin Spens, editor and co-founder of Boat Magazine

2. Opt for Off-Season

"This is our number-one tip. Accommodations, tours, and even food will be much higher if you’re traveling during high season or the holidays.

We’ve traveled in off-season many times. It’s winter, and we’re currently working our way through Eastern Europe. And guess what? The weather has been pretty good, there are basically no tourists, and we’ve gotten all our apartments and hostels at a discounted rate. We’ve also traveled through the Caribbean during the summer, which is considered hurricane season, but have yet to come across a hurricane. All we’ve found are cheap hotels, ferry discounts, and half-price tours." – Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift, full-time travelers behind Goats on the Road

3. Fly On an Off-Peak Day or Time

"Generally, flying earlier in the week (Monday or Tuesday vs. Thursday or Friday) translates to better deals, and the second flight of the day is less expensive than the first." – Justine Goodman, travel and weddings editor of Refinery29

4. Open a Travel-Friendly Bank Account

"You want one that’ll give you unlimited ATM withdrawals abroad and won’t charge you any transaction fees." – Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift, full-time travelers behind Goats on the Road

5. Consider Renting Out Your Place

How to save money on vacation

Offset Your Own Travel Costs By Renting Your Own Home

To offset the cost of your own travel, consider renting out your own home. Sites like Airbnb or Home Exchange offer reputable resources to help you sell out your space and keep your own traveling costs at a minimum.

"It can help offset your travel costs and, depending on where you live and where you’re going, even turn you a profit. Several years ago, we did the Southeast Asia backpack circuit for a couple months, and rented out our NYC apartment while we were gone. Our travel costs were so low — SE Asia is the trip for the budget-minded — that we actually ended up making money. We found a renter via Craigslist, but you could also list your pad on a site likeAirbnb or VRBO, or look into a house swap on Home Exchange." – Kelly Lack, content and community lead at Spot

6. Jump on the “Orbucks” Train

"Of the booking sites, I’m a huge Orbitz fan because their rewards program is by far the most simple I’ve used. Immediately after you book, you receive ‘Orbucks,’ which you can use on future bookings. If you were visiting multiple cities in Europe, by the time you book your first hotel you already have cash to put towards the next hotel in the next city you plan on visiting! It’s as uncomplicated as can be." – Nastasia Wong, founder of women’s travel community Dame Traveler

7. Find a Home Away From Home

"While we do love hotels, sometimes prices are through the roof—especially when you’re traveling as a group. That’s when a service such as Airbnb can save you money and give you more space and amenities. To make sure you’ll get the best possible experience, select rentals hosted by Airbnb ‘Superhosts,’ those who have the highest ratings." – Howie Rappaport, featured contributor at FrugalTravelGuy.com

8. Book Activities Ahead of Time

"One school of thought says that booking activities last minute on the ground will nab you a deal, but that’s not always the case. Take Europe. Europeans like to plan. This means you can get cheaper prices by helping them plan. Say you’re booking a raft trip in Slovenia (highly recommended!) or a tandem paraglide flight in the Alps, you’ll generally do better to book ahead online. You’ll find group-discount rates you can take advantage of even if you’re not traveling in a group. Schools and student groups tend to holiday together in Europe, so pricing is set up to accommodate groups and you, as an individual, can slot into open spots." – Josh Sampiero, adventure editor at Red Bull

How to save money on vacation

One of the great traditions many of us enjoy is the summer vacation. With school done for the year, it’s time to start thinking about what you want to do this summer.

Unfortunately, a summer vacation can get expensive if you aren’t careful. If you want to make sure that you don’t break your budget with your vacation, you need to have a good plan for saving money. As you look ahead to your summer fun, here are 10 ways to save money on your vacation.

1. Save for Your Vacation

Like anything else, saving in advance instead of relying credit will save you money by earning interest instead of paying interest. Look ahead and estimate how much your vacation will cost. Divide that cost by how much time you have (in weeks or months) and set aside money in a high-yield account. This strategy doesn’t mean that you can’t use credit cards, though. A savvy way to save is to set money aside, and then use your credit card (earn those points). When you get back from vacation, use the money you saved up to pay off the entire credit card balance. You’ll have earned interest, and cash back.

2. Find the Best Deals Online

Check out websites such as Expedia and CheapOair for deals on hotels, attractions and cruises. In many cases, you can do even better if you bundle your vacation services. These sites aggregate the best deals, and you can even find discounts on entertainment and attractions when you use these sites to book a vacation bundle.

3. Check the Direct Offers

Before committing to any offers on the sites above, compare to what you can get direct from the airlines and hotels to confirm it’s a better price. As with any purchase, you want to shop around. Find out what you can get buying direct, and what you can do bundling through a third party. Then make your reservations in the way that costs you the least.

4. Reviews, Photos, and Tips

Use Trip Advisor to compare hotels. This site has many reviews for each hotel and you can find out which is the best for your spending budget. Sometimes, it’s worth it to pay a little extra for a better experience. You want to make sure that your hotel is truly a good deal for the money, since sometimes you get what you pay for.

5. Save on Your Vacation with Coupons

Look for coupons on the websites of attractions or restaurants you plan to visit. Almost every zoo, museum or amusement park has discount coupons on it’s web site, but you can likely get a better deal by picking up a CityPASS for the city you’re visiting. You can also buy a book full of local coupons on Entertainment.com. If you plan to stay in one place for awhile, bring grocery coupons to save on food when you shop at local stores.

6. Auto Club Discounts

Are you a member of the CAA or AAA? These memberships can get your further discounts on hotels and rental cars. Stop in your local branch before you go and get free maps and travel brochures. They also offer travel agents, but in my couple attempts to use them, they weren’t able to get me a better package, and would then charge a fee on top of it.

7. Pack Efficiently

Don’t bring more clothes than you really need and roll your clothes so they fit into fewer bags. With many airlines charging for extra bags, this can be an easy way to save money. At the same time though, don’t over stuff a large bag as it will put you over the airline’s weight limits and they’ll charge extra for that as well. Efficient packing can also save you money on gas when you go on a road trip vacation.

8. Stop Pulling Out Your Wallet

If going to a beach destination, have a look at all inclusive resorts. With food, drinks and the many activities included, this will save you from constantly pulling out your wallet throughout your vacation. It’s a good way to find peace of mind. Cruises can also be all-inclusive and cost-efficient. You can visit multiple destinations without re-packing every time you move on.

9. Bring Your Own Snacks and Drinks

Going to an amusement park? You might want to bring some snacks and bottled drinks in a backpack or purse. The prices at the parks are amazingly expensive. Bringing your own is a good way to save money for buying souvenirs.

10. Travel in the Off Season

Not only can travelling in off-peak times save you money on airfare and hotels, but the crowds will be smaller at most places you visit. It might mean going during a fall break, and having staycations during the summer, but it can be just as fun, and much better on your budget.

Tom Drake is the owner and head writer of the award-winning MapleMoney. With a career as a Financial Analyst and over a decade writing about personal finance, Tom has the knowledge to help you get control of your money and make it work for you.

How to save money on vacation

When wanderlust gets the best of you, it’s easy to lose a couple of hours researching the best flights, hotels with rooms-to-die-for and other adventures you’ll want to experience on your journey. Even though many of us aren’t ready to pull the trigger on a journey just yet, we’re doing lots of research now — window shopping, if you will — on the best possible getaway we can take when the world is safe to travel.

You may be happy sticking to the continental US, or heading somewhere farther afield like Europe or Asia. If you’re on a budget (as most of us are), it’s likely that you can’t afford to have all of the perks and luxuries at every stop. But that’s okay! There are many ways to have an exciting, memorable getaway while still saving major $$. The trick is being strategic about your booking options, as well as your spending while you’re on the road. We checked in with nomads and frequent travelers on the most effective ways to make your next trip more affordable:

Be Strategic With Meals

One of the most expensive parts of traveling is feeding yourself. You readily have food available at home, and you likely cook more meals than you eat out. On vacation, though, you probably don’t want to cook daily, but you also don’t want to spend money every single day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A helpful middle ground is to save by strategically skipping meals when you can, and always booking an accommodation that includes complimentary breakfast, recommends travel blogger Lia Garcia .

Here’s how a ‘strategic’ meal plan might look:

Start by enjoying the free breakfast at your hotel. Load up and have as much as you can stomach to keep you fulfilled for many hours. If they have pastries or apples, take one for the road.

Then, for lunch , you likely won’t be hungry for a big lunch, so consider skipping, grabbing some granola bars, or heading into a cheap cafe to split something small with your companion. If you’re in an area with delicious street food (like South America or Southeast Asia), it will be no problem to snag a quick, cheap meal.

Dinner can be your “splurge” meal, where you spend what you normally would on dining out. After all, you’re in a new place, so you want to experience the food culture. “By only eating out at a restaurant for a pricey meal once per day, we’re able to keep our food costs low during our trip and save money on each vacation while still enjoying the local cuisine,” Garcia says.

Choose A Hotel That’s Away From The City Center

While being in the heart of the action is fun, it can come with a hefty price tag. Rather than spending your entire budget on accommodations, look at hotels that may be slightly further away from the main town square or beachfront. Sometimes, you’ll see rates plummet, even after just a quick, ten-minute walk away, says Nate Hake, CEO of TravelLemming.com . “While it’s less convenient, you can save boatloads of money by considering accommodation options in areas that are adjacent to a destination’s main tourist area,” he continues. Just make sure to read reviews before you book!

Consider Homestays

For a non-traditional vacation experience, a homestay not only saves significant money but it helps you deeply immerse into the local culture. Particularly if you’re visiting a smaller community, you may have the opportunity to share a home with a family for very little money, explains Nora Livingstone, the CEO and volunteer coordinator at Animal Experience International .

“Staying with a family, you can share food, and when you pitch in for groceries it’s cheaper than restaurants, and you can learn how to cook dishes to ‘wow’ your friends back home,” she continues. “Some homestays have people staying in separate and autonomous living quarters. This is nice for those looking to have a more independent experience but also want to save money while making sure they still invest directly into the local economy.”

Get Around Like A Local

Another way your credit card bill can skyrocket on vacation is getting from point A to point B. “Whether you’re renting a car, booking private shuttles, or buying an expensive Eurail pass, getting from place to place adds up fast,” Garcia says.

To reduce this spending category, Garcia gets around a destination as the locals do. In some areas, this may mean walking; in others, it could be taking public transportation or buses. Or, in some cases, it could be a wildly unique experience, like moto-taxis (motorcycle taxis) in Bali or Colombia, or tut-tuts in Thailand. It may put you a bit out of your comfort zone, but that’s what traveling is all about.

“While we’re always a little confused on where exactly the buses stop, or how to buy a metro pass when we don’t speak the language of the machine we’re attempting to use, or how much this shared shuttle bus costs and whether they’ll actually drop us off where we’re going or just nearby, we do our best to lean into the confusion and rely on the kindness of strangers,” she continues. “We’ve found that locals, especially locals in the tourism industry — like tour guides or front desk concierges — are usually happy to explain.”

Get A Travel Rewards Credit Card

If you have the self-discipline to charge everything to your credit card and then pay off the balance monthly, look into a travel rewards credit card. For everyday spending on groceries, gas, and other expenses, you earn points that can be turned into cash for jet-setting. While a travel credit card won’t pay for your entire trip, it will help cover those big costs like flights and hotels, says Elise Armitage, the founder of What The Fab .

“Many travel reward cards offer a sign-up bonus for added rewards after you spend a certain amount of the card. Also, purchases made with your card earn points or miles that you can redeem for future travel expenses,” she continues. “Depending on the card, purchases such as airfare and hotel stays may earn 2 to 3 times the rewards for everyday use.”

Use Messaging Apps + Turn Off Cellular

If your travel plans take you abroad, Armitage says the one thing that can save you money while staying in touch with friends and family is to download messaging apps like Skype and WhatsApp. These apps can be used whenever you have access to wifi, and will keep your data charges down. With these apps, you can talk, message and video chat with all of your contacts and you won’t have to worry about returning home to a huge cell phone bill. Also, pro tip for travelers who are heading out on their journey: make sure that if you do have a cell phone plan that “cellular data” is turned “OFF” for all non-essential apps, like shopping apps, Instagram, Twitter, and other apps that don’t directly relate navigation or travel essentials. Why turn cellular off? An app “refreshing” in the background can cost you, and it’s always possible you might mindlessly click on a social media app while waiting for a bus, and inadvertently eat through your data plan.

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