Saving money for travel is the best way to save. It’s not easy as you likely need to save for other priorities before you allocate your budgeting to travel. So, we’ve got you covered with some fun, unique ways to save money for travel.
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Table of Contents
Top Ways to Save Money for Travel
Let’s get into the top ways to save money for travel so you can enjoy more vacation time and less office time.
Print Out a Travel Cost Map
From Christopher Liew of WealthAwesome
As a very visual person, I find I need to see my goals in order to help achieve them. While I was planning for my last trip, I made a list of my top three travel destinations and researched the approximate cost of it.
I then printed out a map of the world and colored it in those countries. I also put the dollar amount of the cost of the trip in bold red letters over each country. I then hung it up in my office, where I knew I would see it several times a day.
I found that this helped motivate me to save more money for travel, and influenced my spending decisions throughout the day in a positive way.
Start Travel Hacking
From Kevin Payne of Family Money Adventure
Travel hacking can be overwhelming if you’re just starting, but it’s not that hard to figure out. One way to make it easier is to have a destination in mind before you start planning how to earn points and miles to pay for your trip.
Knowing where you’re going will help you pinpoint the best credit cards to sign up for and how many points/miles you’ll need to cover trip expenses.
You can also just focus on getting part of your trip paid for with points, like your airfare.
As a family of six, it takes a ton of points and miles to pay for an entire family trip, so often we try to focus on earning enough miles to cover airfare first and go from there.
Consider the Nomadic Van Lifestyle
From Lauren Keys of Trip Of a Lifestyle
Our favorite way of traveling is by taking road trips in our van.
In 2019, we decided to visit every National Park in the US, which would take us from Florida to Alaska and back (along with a few flights to further-flung parks like those in Hawaii, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands).
When we were planning our trip, we were trying to find a way to spend 6-8 months on the road without having a nightly lodging cost (hotels, campsites, etc.), and so the idea of van life became pretty attractive. We opted for a very small van with great gas mileage, given how much we’d be driving.
Our van was bought used, we did very little to it in the way of converting it (literally just a bed on top of storage space in the cargo area), and we mostly slept for free by parking in National Forests, at travel centers, and at places like Walmart.
It worked out surprisingly well, and we actually kept the van even after that National Parks trip as our main method of travel (it’s also our only vehicle, so sometimes we get funny looks loading groceries on top of a bed).
When we do need hotels, we always head straight to Hotels.com.
While the pricing among all those comparison sites are the same (they’re mostly owned by the same 2-3 companies), Hotels.com has a rewards program that basically gets you 10% off (stay 10 nights, get the next one free).
We’re also big fans of using travel credit cards, but not to get a ton of travel points. Instead of signing up for specific hotel or airline brand cards, we stick with cards that have a huge signup bonus, take it as cash, invest that money, and then pay more efficiently for travel expenses as needed.
Airline points could have never been redeemed for our van.
Start a Vacation Savings Fund
From Kristy Marshall of MoneyBliss
In our household, traveling is a priority. It is something we enjoy and we want to explore as much as possible. Each month, we set aside the same amount of money into our vacation fund.
The first money-saving tip on travel may surprise you! It does most people when I tell them. This travel tip applies to bigger trips like all-inclusive vacations, Disney, Hawaii, or many international destinations.
Find a travel agent that you trust and vet their price versus what you can get online.
From our experience, we have gotten a better deal from our travel agent and not spent hours scouring for the best prices.
Plus we can start our vacation sooner without all of the vacation planning stress!!
For local travel within the US and quick getaways, I prefer to subscribe to a few travel deal newsletters. This is a great way to explore a new place without paying full price. And you can get some screaming deals of 30-50% off!!
Lastly, we prefer the low-cost airline to save on air travel. However, the flight times are either super early in the morning or late at night. Since our airport is a complete hassle and expensive to park, we pay for a driver to and from the airport.
At the end of the day, we pay less than getting preferred travel times and parking fees. For us, part of vacationing is enjoying the whole process.
Save money where it makes sense, little stress in planning, and enjoy the destination with quality time as a family.
Cheap Flights Might Not Mean The Best Deal
From Riley Adams of Young and the Invested
If you’re planning a holiday, it can be tempting to go for the cheapest flights and accommodation that are available.
However, this may not always end up being the best choice!
The travel industry is well aware of travelers looking for cheap deals and will often increase prices accordingly. If you want to get the most bang for your buck when traveling on a budget, then follow these tips:
- Be flexible with your travel schedule; don’t leave booking too early or too late in advance.
- Choose to visit off-peak season (January/February) or low season (April/October).
By electing to travel during an off-peak time of year, you can save yourself a significant amount of money.
In fact, my wife and I recently chose to travel to Yosemite National Park in time for the final week of off-season travel. We saved over $400 on our 3-day hotel stay due to open bookings available and low competition.
By having the ability to flex our schedule around the busier times of the year, we managed to see the natural beauty of the national park and also save a significant amount of money.
See Related: GetYourGuide vs Viator
Don’t Forget to Negotiate
From Andrew Shrage of MoneyCrashers
Our guide to saving money on travel reminds travelers that everything is negotiable.
Yes, including hotel and car rental rates. Book directly with the vendor rather than a third-party booking site (online travel agency or OTA) and you could realize significant savings if you’re willing to make the ask for a lower price.
You stand to save more on hotel bookings because the daily rate is apt to be higher.
Hotels that pay 15% or 20% commissions to Expedia or Hotels.com are often willing to return part or all of that commission to you via lower room rates.
Even 10% off the final bill adds up quickly — that’s $50 off a $500 stay or $100 off a $1,000 stay.
See Related: 13 Reasons Why Traveling is Important
Best Smart About Booking Sites
From Daniella Flores of Hiking and Roadtrips
I love using apps like, Southwest, Expedia, and Airbnb to save money on travel when I don’t have many points to use. Southwest is best for domestic flights, Expedia for rental cars, and Airbnb for accommodation.
Bonus points if you use Airbnb referral credit for your booking (start sending that link to friends and family!)
I give my referral credit to my friends and family for Airbnb so if I know I have credits to use, that’s what I am going to book with first for accommodation because I can get some free nights.
If not, I look through the cheapest accommodations (but with a good location with the good walking ability for shops and essentials) on Airbnb, look for good rates for longer stays, and always pay with a rewards card so I earn points for future travel.
I use rewards credit cards for everything in our life so we are always earning points.
If Airbnb has no good options, I’ll go to see if I have any Chase points or Hilton points from past stays to see if I can get a good deal that way.
Then if all of those fall short I always turn to Expedia because I’ve used them for so long and always have had a good experience.
The thing with Expedia though is you won’t always get the best view or the best room…that’s why they are always a bit cheaper.
I don’t like to waste too much time searching for the cheapest possible accommodation because my time is just as valuable as my money.
But what you can do for an added bang for your buck is when you get to your destination, be nice, polite, and see if they are able to throw in an upgrade for your room (every time I did this in Vegas I got a larger room with a better view by slipping them a 20 and asking if there were any upgrades available and they did it free of charge).
Try to be Completely Flexible with Booking
From Catherine Alford of MillennialHomeowner
I recommend using Skyscanner and being completely open and flexible about your destination.
With Skyscanner, you can select a week or even open dates within a month that you want to travel.
Then you can see which destinations are the most affordable to travel to via flight. You might be surprised to learn that there are super cheap flights to Washington, D.C., or a random city in Utah you’ve never considered.
Use that information to help you build trip ideas. It’s a fun way to plan, remain flexible about your destination, and save.
See Related: How to Find Hacker Fares
Diversify Your Types of Travel Credit Cards
From Katie Oelker, a money coach for KatieOelker.com
My favorite way to save for travel is to combine different types of credit card rewards. By utilizing different travel rewards platforms, you can mix and match and save yourself a lot of money.
For example, my husband is a Delta Platinum cardholder and a lot of times we will use his points to book some of our family’s flights and my points through a reward platform (such as Citi or Chase) to book the rest.
Or we will use my Southwest points to book flights and use a reward platform to book hotels (like we did for our trip to Hawaii last year).
It can feel intimidating to open a new credit card that will give you points in a platform you’re unfamiliar with, but we’ve always benefited by having points in different places and combining them to save on travel.
See Related: Best Credit Cards for International Travel
Make Airline Miles in a Priority
Holly Johnson, travel expert at ClubThrifty.com
We travel quite a bit internationally as a family of four, so we mostly maximize travel savings by earning airline miles to pay for flights.
Getting flights covered with miles saves us thousands of dollars on every trip we take, and it makes it easier to spend money on food and activities during our trips.
Our favorite program is Chase Ultimate Rewards because we can transfer points to Air France / Flying Blue for affordable flights to Europe or use points for flights to the Caribbean or Mexico on Southwest.
We use a combination of cards – Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited – to earn as many points as possible over the course of the year.
We also use the Chase Ink Preferred and Chase Ink Unlimited for all our business expenses, which helps us rack up points even faster.
See Related: Best Travel Hacks for Families
Stay Flexible During Your Travel
From Chris Linger & Maricela Soberanes of Up Plex Institute
If you’re going into town for a one-day business meeting with no stay over do you really need a rental car?
If you’re doing a one-way trip the rental car will have an additional drop-off fee. Is it cheaper to Uber?
Speaking of Uber when traveling through from an airport there will be an airport fee attached to your Uber ride that is linked to the entire ride so if you’re traveling a good distance the airport fee is exponentially increased… think about a short Uber ride out of the airport and reconnect to a different Uber for the long-haul.
Another option is to grab the offsite rental car shuttle to the rental agency and then call for an Uber from there.
No airport fee involved and again depending on the distance it can save you a bunch of money.
We used this personally as the airport fare for a 2 hr ride was going to be over $450 for a one-way trip, we did the second option of a ride to the rental agency and then called for an Uber and the trip was only $130. The flight was just paid for with the savings!
Using Priceline for your travel arrangements: you get added discounts after a certain number of reservations it’s tiered to increase the more reservations you do, but those discounts add up. Money saved is money earned for you and/or your business!
If you’re trying to save space and only do carry-on luggage you can downsize your economy bottles of make-up and hygiene items by purchasing smaller containers less than the three fluid ounce size and use them and refill them as you go…
With the travel toothbrush and toothpaste you can lay out a small portion on wax paper let it dry cover with wax paper roll it or cut them into individual use pieces and place them in a Ziploc bag.
If your travel plans are flexible during high traffic, be prepared to give up your seat for a credit to the airline. Never take the first offer and/or ask for a voucher for a hotel or food just to add to the savings.
Additionally, some airlines allow you to get on a flight earlier in the day with no fee if you have a boarding pass for a later flight.
So if the later flights are cheaper by that flight and then just show up to the airport early to get the other. If there’s no room on that flight you still have your ticket for the later flight.
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