12 Proven Ways to Save Money for Travel

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Save Money for Travel

Saving money is a challenge for most people. With inflation making the price of everything much more expensive than it used to be, everyone’s savings account has taken a hit in the last few years.

It’s not easy to save enough money for your dream vacation, but it’s not impossible, either. If you’re serious about traveling more, there are a lot of ways you can save money for travel that don’t involve earning extra income (though that helps).

Proven ways to spend money for travel, with an inset of the Eiffel Tower
ViaTravelers

We’ve got some of the best ways to start saving money for your travels plus a few tips to help you save money on your actual vacation.

Because once you’ve done the work of saving, you want to make sure you’re getting the best deals and stretching your vacation fund as far as it can go. 

Here are some of our favorite ways to save money for travel and make your next trip one you’ll remember forever:

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How to Save Money for Travel

Let’s get into a step-by-step guide on how to save money for your big trip.

1. Know Your Numbers

Empty wallet

First things first: crunch some numbers. How much money (after taxes) do you bring home every month? What about after the bills and other essential expenses are paid, how much is left over? How much of your savings account (if any) are you willing to allocate to your travel fund?

Regardless of whether you’re on a fixed income or your income changes from month to month, you’ll need to know what you’re working with before you start saving money for travel.

Factor in all of your bills into your overall monthly expenses. This includes utility bills, rent, and any other essential expenses like groceries, fuel, car notes, and insurance. Don’t forget to add in monthly subscription services like cable TV, Netflix, Hulu, or Spotify…you’d be surprised at how quickly those add up.

This is going to give you an idea of the potential savings. Of course, this isn’t a realistic number because life happens. Unexpected purchases are going to happen, we’re just looking for an estimate to see the potential. 

2. Set Realistic Goals

booking agenda

Let’s set ourselves up for success, shall we? Saving $2,500 in 6 weeks to make it to Paris for Christmas may just not be in the cards. Trust me, I wish we could all buy a round-trip ticket to somewhere incredible at a moment’s notice, but realistically, that’s not the reality for many of us.

So often we give ourselves unrealistic goals and then beat ourselves up when we don’t reach them. 

Get yourself a rough estimate of how much it’s going to cost to get you to your dream destination. And now, using the numbers you crunched earlier, how long do you think it would take you to save up enough money?

If your answer just took the wind out of your sail, don’t worry, we here at ViaTravelers have got your back. 

This is a marathon, not a sprint. Remember, this should be a long-term type of goal. Most of us simply can’t save that much in such a short amount of time, even if we skipped every impulse buy, took public transit, and cooked every meal at home. 

Be realistic with yourself and your financial situation, while still pushing yourself to meet your savings goals and growing your savings account is possible. I promise.

Check-in with yourself on a weekly basis to make sure you’re on the right track and monitor how much you spend. And don’t beat yourself up if you bought that coffee or enjoyed yourself on a night out with friends. This isn’t a punishment!

See Related: Incredible Bucket List Ideas of a Lifetime

3. Budget Ruthlessly

budget

Now that we know our numbers and have set some realistic goals, it’s time to start slashing away at some unnecessary expenses. This is one of the best ways to reach your savings goal, but it can be a bit of a lifestyle change, depending on how intense you want to get.

Where can you cut costs in your life? Do you really need a monthly subscription for all of those streaming services? How often are you eating out, or having food delivered? If you’re a coffee drinker, I think we both know where we could see some huge savings. 

You’re going to have to create a budget and stick to it, there’s no way around it. Now, I’m not telling you to stop doing things that bring joy to your life. I’m simply suggesting that maybe reel it in a little bit, or at least have a game plan.

Right off the bat, you could see huge savings by not eating out as much, limiting your drive-thru coffees, and maybe dialing back your nightlife a bit. These are all phantom expenses that we don’t think about at the moment, but they add up quickly to extra money in your checking account.

Start making a grocery list before you go to the store, and start meal prepping. Look for deals at the grocery, and stick to your list! This will prevent any impulse buys and unnecessary purchases.

Put a pause on those late-night Amazon shopping sprees for new clothes, limit yourself to one specialty coffee or cocktail a week, and watch how fast a few bucks here and there start adding up. 

These changes don’t need to be drastic measures that completely change your life. They’re meant to make you more mindful about your daily expenses and everyday purchases so you can reach your savings goal and grow your bank account.

4. Start tracking your spending

invoices of payment

Seeing exactly where you are spending money can be a game changer, especially if you’re a visual learner. 

It’s critical to track your spending to determine where you may reduce or even eliminate it. With free personal finance tracking software such as Personal Capital, you can track your expenses.

When you track your spending habits and expenses, you can get smarter about where you can spend less and what monthly expenses are essential.

These days, your bank account online may even do it for you! I know I can check my Chase checking account online and it filters everything into nice little buckets so I can see exactly where my money is going. 

If you don’t want to use software, that’s totally fine. There’s nothing wrong with tracking your spending old-school style with a pen and paper. This budget planner is less than $10 bucks and is easy to carry around with you.

5. Make extra money on the side

counting money

If you’re on a fixed income and are having trouble saving money for your travel fund, then finding ways to make some extra money can help you save money for travel much faster. 

You could look into getting a side job, but there are many ways to get some extra cash into your account that don’t involve getting a side job. 

Sometimes, finding ways to earn extra money can be as simple as having a yard sale or selling stuff in your house you no longer need. Other times, you may find that you can make some extra cash from some of your hobbies, like photography or traveling. 

There are also many ways to make money while you travel. You can sell your photography and videography from drone footage on stock photo sites such as Shutterstock. Alternatively, you can write about your travel experiences by starting a blog.

While these may not be the cash cow you were banking on, every little bit helps grow that bank account!

See Related: Best Travel Jobs to Make Money Traveling

6. Create a Vision Board

Waiting in airport

Vision boards have been used by some of the most successful people on the planet, so don’t knock this one until you’ve tried it. They’re wonderful, tangible reminders of your goals, and you’ll be surprised at how effective they are. 

As a visual person, I need to see my goals to help achieve them. While 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 world map 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 daily.

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.

7. Start A Vacation Savings Fund

money in hand

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. We set aside the same amount of money each month into our vacation fund.

My first money-saving tip on travel surprises most people when I tell them. This tip applies to bigger trips like all-inclusive vacations, Disney, Hawaii, or many international destinations.

Find a travel agent 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 have not spent hours scouring for the best prices. Plus, we can start our vacation sooner without all the vacation planning stress!!

For local travel within the US and quick getaways, I prefer to subscribe to a few travel deal newsletters like Going.com and Dollar Flight Club. This is a great way to explore a new place without paying full price. And you can get some screaming deals!

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 hassle and expensive to park, we pay for a driver to and from the airport.

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, with little stress in planning, and enjoy the destination with quality time as a family.

Best Ways to Save Money While Travelling

Once you’ve reached your savings goal, now what? Well, it’s time to start planning your next big trip!

But you worked hard to save that money, so it’s important that you stretch those dollars as far as you can. If you’re willing to put in the time and do a little research, I guarantee you’ll end up saving money on your trip. 

These travel tips will help you get the best deals so your hard-earned cash will go as far as possible.

7. Be Flexible

Man looking flight table

Flexibility is the best way to save money traveling, both when you’re booking and while you’re traveling. 

Starting with the plane ticket, I’d recommend you check the flights a few days before/after the date you’re looking to go. You may find it significantly cheaper to fly out two days before you were planning, and these savings could be big!

That’s more money you can add to your travel budget and possibly use for a nicer hotel, a tour, or even a fancy restaurant.

Using travel companies like Skyscanner or Google Flights is perfect for this. All you need to do is put in your departure airport and it will tell you all of the cheapest destinations you can fly to within the next few months. 

If you really want to get serious about traveling, sign up for a membership with going.com. These guys scour the internet for the best deals and send them straight to your inbox every day. There is a free version, but as someone who has been a premium member for about three years now, I can confirm the membership is worth it. 

Another useful tip in the flexibility department is to check other airports. This is an especially useful tip when traveling to Europe, as it may be significantly cheaper to fly into one airport than another. 

For example, last winter I found a cheap flight to Helsinki (thanks, Going!) but really wanted to explore Norway. I’m a fan of the journey rather than the destination, so I decided to take a ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm and then hop on a train up to northern Norway. Had I taken a direct flight, it would have been thousands and put a serious dent in my savings account. 

Public transit, especially in Europe, is a fabulous way to travel long distances on a budget. Heck, public transit is also great for getting around big cities! And much cheaper than a cab.

It’s all a balancing act of what you’re willing to spend time on, and what you’re willing to spend money on. 

See Related: Countries With Digital Nomad Visas

8. Start Travel Hacking

Save money

From Kevin Payne of Family Money Adventure

Travel hacking can be overwhelming if you’re 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 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.

9. Make Airline Miles A Priority

Plane in the airport

With family in both Europe and America, we travel internationally often, so we mostly maximize travel savings by earning airline miles to pay for flights. Getting your round-trip ticket covered with miles saves us thousands of dollars on every trip we take, making 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 year. We also use Chase Ink Preferred and Chase Ink Unlimited for all our business expenses, which helps us rack up points even faster.

I know it’s starting to sound like this article was sponsored by Chase (it’s not) but they really do have some of the best travel rewards on the market. If you don’t already have a Chase account and you’re serious about travel, it’s 100 percent worth looking into!

10. Diversify Your Types of Travel Credit Cards

Travel Credit Cards

My favorite way to save for travel is to combine different types of credit card rewards. Utilizing different travel rewards platforms allows you to mix and match and save yourself a lot of money.

For example, my wife is a Delta Platinum cardholder, so we will use her 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 on an unfamiliar platform. Still, we’ve always benefited by having points in different places and combining them to save on travel.

See Related: Best Travel Credit Cards with No Annual Fee

11. Use The Best Booking Sites

Pointing the laptop screen

From Daniella Flores of Hiking and Roadtrips

I love using apps like Southwest, Expedia, and VRBO 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, I will first book for accommodation because I can get some free nights.

If not, I look through the cheapest accommodations (but with a good location close to shops and essentials) on Booking.com and VRBO.com, 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 or VRBO has no good options, I’ll 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 have had a good experience. The thing with Expedia, though is you won’t always get the best view or room…that’s why they are always a bit cheaper.

See Related: Best Websites for Cheap Flights and Hotels

12. Cheap Flights May Not Mean The Best Deal

seat of the airplane

From Riley Adams of Young and the Invested

If you’re planning a holiday, it can be tempting to go for the cheapest available flights and accommodation. However, this may not always end up being the best choice!

The travel industry knows 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 during the 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 significant money. 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.

12. Consider Van Life

Parked Van

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 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.), so the idea of van life became pretty attractive. We opted for a very small van with excellent 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 is the same (the same 2-3 companies mostly own them), Hotels.com has a rewards program 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 with 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.

12. Negotiate

people making business

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 ask for a lower price.

You can save more on hotel bookings because the daily rate will increase. 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.

FAQs

How do people afford to travel regularly?

By budgeting and planning, anyone can make travel a regular part of their life. It’s important to prioritize travel as a goal and adjust your spending habits accordingly. Additionally, taking advantage of travel rewards programs and finding affordable accommodations can help make travel more affordable.

What is the best way to save money while traveling?

The best way to save money while traveling is to plan and budget ahead of time. This can include researching affordable accommodations, finding free or low-cost activities, and using public transportation instead of taxis or rental cars. Using travel rewards credit cards or loyalty programs can also help travelers save money on flights, hotels, and other travel expenses.

What is the best way to avoid overspending on vacation?

To save money on vacation, consider traveling during off-peak times, using reward points or miles for flights and accommodations, and choosing affordable destinations or accommodations. Additionally, try to minimize unnecessary expenses like dining out for every meal or buying souvenirs.

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Kyle Kroeger
WRITTEN BY

Kyle Kroeger

Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He's a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he'd heard.

Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he's learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.

He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time. Read more about his portfolio of work.

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