50 Budget Travel Tips and Save Money on Vacations

by David Ning · 86 comments

Want budget travel tips for free? Wouldn’t you want to travel more often without breaking the bank? What if I told you that instead of planning one family trip a year, you can go twice with the same budget? If you are at all interested, read on to find out how you can do simple things to save money next time you go on vacation.

* Airfares *

airport

  1. Airline Tickets – Plan in advance and visit discount websites to see if there are better deals. While these sites might charge you a service fee ($5 or so), they can easily combine flight segments from different airlines easily to give you a great deal. (bonus – get even more savings by finding a Travelocity promo code before you book a trip)
  2. Connecting Flights – You might think connecting sucks but it sure saves you a good chunk of money doing it. Consider the pros and cons and don’t write it off right away.
  3. Travel Light – Airlines are starting to charge for everything now and if you have 2 bags or more, expect to be charged for it. Remember to not use over sized bags whenever possible and try to keep it all within one bag per person.
  4. Substitute – Consider packing really old clothes (if you plan to buy new ones on the trip). This way, you can keep one luggage and still have room for purchases.
  5. Always Look into Round Trip Tickets – Sometimes, one way tickets are so expensive that the round trip ticket is cheaper. Just don’t use the return trip. (I know it’s weird but I’ve seen it myself)
  6. Try to Get Back to the Same Airport – Flying in and out of the same airport is almost always cheaper. It’s not only the flight tickets but the car rentals as well.
  7. Traveling to Two Countries – If you are planning to stay in two countries and an airline makes you change planes on those countries anyway, you might be in luck. Check pricing on the flights to see if you can stay a few days at the country of the flight change instead of changing planes right away since airlines often let you do that for the same price.

* Eating *

dessert

  1. Plan Your Meals – Figure out where you will be and eat before you actually go out. This is not just good for your wallet, but your stomach too since you will probably find economical restaurants that tastes great.
  2. Cook for Yourself – Not many people do this but cooking while on vacation can sometimes be quite fun. Since the experience is new (cookware, dining area, supermarkets etc), it’s actually quite fun.
  3. Meals Carryover – Want a breakfast that cost nothing? Ask for some bread to-go at the restaurant the night before.
  4. Avoid Breakfast from the Hotels – Chances are good that the breakfast from the hotel is expensive and isn’t great. It probably pays to walk out the front door in the morning and find a local cafe. You might just stumble onto the local favorite.
  5. Eat More at Lunch Than Dinners – Fancy lunches are often much less expensive than dinners. If you eat a big breakfast, lunch and a light dinner, it’s also healthier.

* Car Rentals *

  1. Be Specific with Car Rentals – One way car rentals (when the pickup and drop off locations are different) are sometimes more than twice the price of standard rentals, especially if the two locations are in different states (or country). If you need the car for 7 days and will be in the same city for 5 and another city for 2 for example, break the rental period in two and have a 5-day same location rental and another 2-day one day rental. You might need to go back to the rental facility but it really doesn’t take that long and it might save you a few hundred dollars.
  2. Car Rental Coverage – Some insurance and many credit cards have car rental coverage so take advantage of those when you rent a car. All you have to do is pay with the credit card that will cover you. (Just make sure you decline the coverage from the rental company when they ask)
  3. Size of the Car – I used to always get the smallest car possible because not only do I not need the extra room, I also didn’t want to pay for the extra gas that bigger cars need.
  4. Children Car Seats – If you are traveling with kids, you might think that bringing the car seat is cheaper. Call the car rental company and ask about rental prices. With airlines charging for extra luggage, it might save to just rent it.
  5. Fill up that Rental Car – If you are renting a car and need fuel, just fill her up with regular gas since that’s what the car rental company uses anyway. Also, decline those services that fills the gas tank up for you. Even though it seems like the advertised price is cheap, they charge you for a full tank of gas regardless of how much is left in there when you bring the car back.
  6. Coupon Codes – Sometimes car rental companies have coupon codes that can be used. Search the Internet.

* Transportation *

transportation

  1. Rail, Metros and Subway – If you are traveling to Europe, research on multi-trip discounts. Many metros and rails have passes such as a 3-day unlimited travel passes which might be worth the cost.
  2. Night Train and Flights – If the transportation is going to be long, consider traveling at night to save money on accommodation and many hours of time. Many people have a tough time sleeping on these, but it’s all mental. Once you get used to it, you will be able to have a good night’s rest.
  3. Take the Slower Transportation – If flying is too short for you to take advantage of sleeping while traveling, take a bus ride. When you are sleeping, you won’t mind that the bus ride is 7 hours.
  4. Avoid Taxis and Welcome Public Transportation – Tourist usually take taxis since it’s the laziest way to get from point A to B. Consider the subway or buses because it’s sometimes easier and it is much cheaper.
  5. Driving is Not Bad – Want to take that 1 hour flight? With airport security and all the hassle of airport inefficiencies, you might as well drive there (it takes just as long and it’s less expensive). Once you get there, having a car is also much easier than needing to take your bags everywhere.

* Currency *

  1. Watch That Currency – If you never really had a preference in travel destinations, consider the exchange rate when you travel. This sometimes makes the biggest difference.
  2. Getting Cash – Many exchange centers have very bad exchange rates so don’t go there. Search the internet to find out good places to get cash in the local currency. For example, a quick search tells you that the best exchange rate is found at the airport and using ATMs in Taiwan and France respectively.
  3. Try Using the Local Version of the Same Website – Due to the rapid change in currency rates, it could be much cheaper to book using the local currency. How do you do that? Go to the local version of the same website.

* Accommodations *

  1. Staying in a Town Next Door – Sometimes the smaller towns close to where you are going have hotels that are much less expensive. If you don’t mind the 15 minute ride, you might just save that bundle.
  2. Home Exchanges – These are pretty cool and popular especially in Europe. Your trip might not be as romantic as The Holiday (movie with Cameron Diaz and Jude Law) but if you are of the adventure type, this could be exciting and refreshing).
  3. Ask – Sometimes smaller hotel chains are willing to give you free upgrades (or even free nights). If you already have a reservation booked elsewhere, call them up and tell them that you would consider changing if you can get an additional night free.
  4. Vacation Home – If you are staying at a destination for at least a few days, consider a vacation home instead of hotels. They are often are more comfortable and your cost will probably be cheaper.
  5. Suites – Instead of having two rooms, consider the two-bedroom suites that some hotels provide. They will end up being cheaper and you get just as much privacy with your own room.

* Shopping *

shopping

  1. Duty Free – Many airports have duty free shops that you can take advantage of. They might not be the best deal around if you don’t consider taxes but tax-free might make it the least expensive option.
  2. Don’t Forget About Possible Tax Refunds – Some countries let you get all or part of the retail sales tax back. You might have to fill out forms and show proof but if large purchases are made aboard, it can save you a bundle.

* Alternatives *

  1. Tourist Spots May Not be That Hot – Many countries have tourist spots that aren’t really the most interesting places to go to, not to mention that everything is more expensive around that area. If you’ve been to that place already, there’s no point seeing it again and again. Instead, go to local areas and observe life. It might just spice up your vacation.
  2. Walk Around – If your destination isn’t that far away, consider asking the locals directions and walking there. It’s a great chance for you to see the city and take pictures.
  3. Enjoy the Local Version – Many consumables are less expensive when it’s made in the country you are visiting. Consider trying their local beer, coffee or food. You might be surprised at how great and cheap it really is.
  4. Be a Little Flexible with Travel Days – Many prices are based on supply and demand, so sometimes it’s much cheaper to leave the day before (or after) instead. Look around the dates of your travel plans and see if spending an extra day is worth it. This makes a difference especially around major holidays.
  5. Book a Bundle – There are many package deals that saves you money if you book hotels and flights together. Basically, the more business you can give them, the better discount they can give you.
  6. Go Off Season – Everyone wants to ski or go to Hawaii in the winter. Consider this type of vacations in off-peak times (going skiing in the spring time for example). It’s cheaper and less crowded.
  7. Travel Around Home – Overseas travel might be your dream vacation but there are actually many places close by that is very interesting as well. Check out those lesser known places and the local experience might very well be great.
  8. Try Booking at Different Times – Online sites sometimes have rates based on the time and day of the week you book. Try different combinations and see if you can get a better deal.

* General *

beach

  1. Bid Your Own PricePriceline.com has a great system where you can name your own price on flights, hotels and car rentals. If the same offer is available, I’ve always saved money bidding for it.
  2. Discount Everything – Some countries have discount stores (I’ve seen one in Japan for example) where they sell all kinds of tickets at a discount. In that store, I’ve even seen gift cards for department stores so if you are buying something anyway, those stores will give you an instant deal.
  3. Don’t Give Up Looking for Deals – Even if you have your plans set, keep trying to look for deals. Reservations can often be canceled with a full refund so if you find a last minute deal that fits into your plans, take advantage of it. (I went to Las Vegas recently and saved half my hotel cost since a last minute deal happened to fit my itinerary so it really works)
  4. Reward Points – Even if you aren’t a frequent traveler, sign up for those reward programs since you might qualify eventually. It’s all free anyway and if you finally get enough points, you can get always get something free.
  5. Go to the Grocery Store – Even if you are away from home, chances are high that there are grocery stores where you are traveling to. It’s worth it to take a trip there and get snacks, water, and everything you need for your trip since hotels overcharge.
  6. Age, Student and Membership Discounts – Many attractions like theme parks, museums and others have discounts for senior, children or students. If you are traveling, remember to take your ID and membership cards (e.g. AAA card) with you that might qualify you for these.
  7. Group Discounts – We all know there are group discounts everywhere. To take advantage, team up with a few friends and go to the same destinations together. You can even set it up so there is no obligations to be everywhere together.
  8. Talk to the Locals – Be friendly and chat with them. Sometimes, they will tell you where to eat and some may even offer you to stay over (works best in small towns).
  9. Mini Tours – I’m not talking about bus tours that takes days but one day tours that take you to many different places within the city. Not only will they take you to places you probably want to visit anyway, the bus driver is usually quite entertaining and informative as well.

More Money Saving Tips

Money Saving Tip: An incredibly effective way to save more is to reduce your monthly Internet and TV costs. Click here for the current AT&T DSL and U-VERSE promotion codes and promos and see if you can save more money every month from now on.

Related Posts

{ 86 comments… read them below or add one }

Miranda January 15, 2009 at 7:43 am

Thanks for the great tips. I especially like the one about planning your meals. It may seem as though it can’t be done when you are traveling, but it can be. If take a side trip somewhere (an amusement park or a national park), we go to the local market and buy sandwich stuff and fruit and brown bag it so that we don’t have to buy the more expensive food at our destination.

Reply

Peter January 18, 2013 at 12:25 am

Booking a month or more in advance give you savings on hotel rooms. I stayed in Canberra Australia last week and paid $165 for 2 bedroom room for 1 night,I booked with hotelless.com 6 weeks in advance. One week before I arrived at the hotel I checked the prices online at the same website and the same room was $250 per night.

Reply

Victor January 15, 2009 at 8:00 am

Some great tips in the article. OT: Please cut down on the use of the exclamation point. Putting it in nearly every sentence in each point is irritating.

Reply

MoneyNing January 15, 2009 at 8:52 am

Miranda: Great example. It shows that with a bit of planning, some seemingly expensive trips can be much more affordable.

Victor: Good point. I edited the page and did find many, many exclamation points :)

Reply

Craig January 15, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Another way to save on food is to sacrifice a meal. Maybe eat a really big lunch and just have an appetizer for dinner, or other way around. You can get more for your money at lunch time.

This is specifically tips for abroad, but especially in Europe, there are some cheap airlines like http://www.ryanair.com/site/EN/ that can help save money.

Also always take money out from an ATM, you will get the best exchange rates there, especially if your bank is international like Citibank.

Reply

Jane January 15, 2009 at 2:15 pm

When my sister and I travel we usually have ice cream for lunch.

Reply

bruce kavich January 16, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Many people have tons of airline miles racked up on their credit card. If you do you may be able to fly for free or at least get an extra ticket or upgrade. How much nicer is it to go on your trip and not have to pay for airline tickets. Those same credit cards can give you discounts on your hotel stays also. Many people have access to these rewards from their credit cards but never take advantage of them. I think this is what the credit card companies plan on when you use them. So check your cards and see if you have points.

Reply

Jim January 19, 2009 at 8:41 am

One way I try to save money is by winning my vacation. Sounds crazy but I just enter contests and try to get lucky.

Reply

Lynn January 19, 2009 at 11:20 am

Great tips. I always hit the grocery store for snacks, too. National parks provide wonderful inexpensive vacations — for example, Acadia in Maine. I just blogged about an affordable family trip to Mount Desert at http://ouracadia.wordpress.com.

Reply

Ken January 21, 2009 at 6:46 pm

I liked the suggestion of vacationing in the town next door. There are new things and sights to be enjoyed very close to home. This is very cost effective and fun at the same time.
Good Post.

Reply

Isabelle January 22, 2009 at 12:23 am

Using local transport can by made much easier by doing a bit or research on the internet before you go. In Britain it is possible to buy cheap train tickets in advance – but there is an excellent long distance bus network that is cheap.

For local buses, especially in London, it is more fun than the underground as you get to see stuff. Buying tickets for the day is a good idea, the last one I bought was about $5. It is also easy to see online which buses can take you between the major sights and where the stops are. Remember, the stops are on the other side of the road to you.

Bed and breakfast can be a good deal as the breakfast is usually massive.

Reply

Zach January 26, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Imagine, booking a five star hotel for up to seven nights at $1.00 a night. One single George Washington could be your key to a hotel room just about anywhere in the world…..http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/money/who-said-1-00-doesnt-get-you-far-358320/

Reply

SimplyForties January 28, 2009 at 6:42 pm

Great tips. I’m a little confused about #4 though. Why would old clothes take up less room than new ones? Are you suggesting that people throw away the old clothes and pack the new ones to bring back? Hmm….I think if I were planning to buy clothes, I would just take fewer clothes with me in the first place. Going off season is a great money saver.

Reply

Tony (1st Home Exchange) February 3, 2009 at 7:34 am

Home exchanging is a great way to save thousands on accommodation and to enjoy a holiday living like a local. For additional savings, many home exchanges also include a car swap. And because you have access to a full kitchen, you don’t need to eat out 3 times a day – saving on meals.

For visitors interested in learning more about home exchanging, take a look at our Website, 1st Home Exchange. 1stHomeExchange.com has numerous articles, tips, and videos to learn about this travel alternative.

Reply

Becky February 13, 2009 at 7:52 am

When we traveled with our family, we usually tried to hit the all you can eat places for lunch, as late as possible. Then, we at big. Then, we didn’t eat again. If we want something later in the day, we got an ice cream cone at McD’s, or occasionally a blizzard. That way, we were eating out only once a day (we always tried to get a hotel/inn that had complimentary all you could eat breakfast.

Reply

Becky February 13, 2009 at 7:57 am

I forgot to add. If the ice cream was too expensive at a restaurant, we evaluated how hungry we were (there were 7 in the family) and got a 12 pack box of ice cream sandwiches or bars (store brand of course) at the grocery store and then ate them right away. The teenagers were glad to eat more than one.

Reply

Peter March 15, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Great budget travel tips. Easy to follow and understand.

Reply

Paula March 17, 2009 at 5:26 pm

When searching for internet car rental specials, you can also try to check car rental rates using a discount code. There are hundreds of membership programs and professional associations that offer car rental discount codes to their members. You can find a list of car rental discount codes for 8 major car rental companies everywhere.

Reply

Jack Mathew William June 25, 2009 at 11:48 pm

Great Article really. This really helpful. Thanks :)

Reply

Debt Consolidation Regina June 26, 2009 at 11:25 am

This is a brilliant post with a lot of good tips on how to save money on vacations. Another idea is to purchase those all-inclusive holiday packages. They include airfare, food, drinks and hotel which can substantially decrease the amount of money a person ends on spending on a holiday.

Reply

Bilety lotnicze August 25, 2009 at 10:45 am

I must say that I am impressed by that list. Prolly took some time to put together. None the less doubtfull that one can remember all of them when you actually are on a trip and are dazzeled by the sites :).

Reply

RB @ Financial Samurai September 6, 2009 at 6:04 pm

This is such a great list David. My favorite, is to do what the locals do.

What about buying a vacation property at your favorite vacation spot? I have to admit, and did so up in Lake Tahoe. Not the best timing, but it has provided fantastic memories.

Reply

Ian Buell September 21, 2009 at 11:10 am

When I traveled with kids, the airline did NOT charge to take car seats – they were gate checked with strollers, wheel chairs, etc. The car rental agency wanted $50 per seat to rent. Don’t rent them, take them. Downside is – more to carry through the airport. Also, for example, it is currently cheaper to fly Ryan Air from France to England rather than take the Euro-star train through the Chunnel. Do your research first…

Reply

Butterfly November 5, 2011 at 10:40 pm

The actual flight from London to Paris might be less expensive than Eurostar (Eurostar rates change thru out day, ie: early morning is less expensive than peak travel time), however …. If one is staying in Central London, you MUST factor the cost of transport and time spent to any of the London area airports, and then the transport costs from Orly or CDG into Paris. Remember that large International airports are in the suburbs. If you travel Eurostar in London, St Pancras station is centrally located and also a stunning example of Victorian architecture and once in Paris, the GAre du Nord is also centrally located. In October 2010, I walked from GAre du Nord with my little rolling suitcase to my rented apartment in the Marais….probably a half hour journey and time very well spent……. I took the opportunity to stop at cafe for pain au chocolate and a coffee, stopped at a market for some kitchen essentials and enjoyed every minute of my ” commute from train station to apartment”
Another point is that the security is extremely efficient at St Pancras, the waiting area for Eurostar passengers extemely well appointed and civilized….. When was the last time anyone said that about airline travel?

Reply

lucy lady November 22, 2011 at 11:54 am

It is actually cheaper to fly, from London to Paris. Especially if you take the train.
I did this in the spring of 2010, i took a bus to Luton ($12) RT, and after arriving in paris, purchased a 7 day train pass and took the train from the airport to the stop near the Arc de Triomphe and walked to my destination as well. it is quite efficient either way. I would say flying more so.

Reply

pps September 24, 2009 at 6:39 am

Good tips. I also suggest to use a personal finance software with a cellphone or PDA phone. This makes recording and tracking expenses much easier. An Excel sheet on a PDA would do very well as a personal finance planner and it can be easily transferred to a PC for expenses tracking and archiving.

Reply

sir jorge September 25, 2009 at 1:11 pm

this is dfinitely going to help me leave the cubicle

Reply

Hostelio October 13, 2009 at 5:47 pm

When it comes to travel, there are two things you can count on: (1) you’ll always find a cheaper exchange rate after you’ve traded your money, and (2) you’ll always go over budget. I don’t mean to be negative, but these are the Murphy’s Laws of travel.

Reply

FrugalMom December 19, 2009 at 1:16 pm

These are really great tips. I was looking for a deal on a hotel for New Years on the Florida’s west coast. The prices were ridiculous, and I ended up doing something new. I found the best possible deal, then I emailed the 3 star hotel I wanted, and asked, if I could get a room for that price at their hotel. I received an email back an hour later that they would accept that price. It was 50 percent off the regular price, an it actually ended up costing us only 2 dollars more than camping would have.

I have learned the lesson that it never hurts to ask.

Reply

Tanie Bilety Lotnicze December 23, 2009 at 11:00 am

Many thanks for this extremely useful article. I often travel on budget, so I bookmarked your tips.

Reply

Study Skills: CampusByte March 21, 2010 at 2:05 am

This is an excellent resource. Stumbled it. Thanks.

Reply

James April 23, 2010 at 8:30 am

I definitely like the tip about packing old clothes. I’m going out of town soon and i know i’ll definitely be doing some shopping while there.

Reply

Gina May 25, 2010 at 9:55 am

Great Ideas but a few things: your travel codes don’t work even though it says it was updated 2 days ago. also for number 16 airlines don’t count car seats as luggage and fly for free. The ones you rent at car rental places are old, dirty, and alot of the time expired.

Reply

MoneyNing May 25, 2010 at 12:16 pm

The offers are officially from the discount travel sites themselves, and each have their own expiration date and pertain to its own category (for example, some are for Marriott hotels only, and would not work with other hotel chains) Which code specifically are you talking about?

Let me know and I can investigate further.

Reply

Michael June 5, 2010 at 6:22 am

I am a car rental agent and I’d like to add some comments to the rental car section. Hope it helps everybody out.

Car Rental Coverage – Yes, sometimes your credit card will cover rental cars, but I’ve encountered situations where credit cards have a rather large deductible and don’t cover SUVs or Minivans. One customer was stuck with their claim for a year while he saw his interest rates go up because of his accident. Do your research before hand. If you’re only renting for a couple of days and your deductible is $500, you might want to consider purchasing the coverage from the rental car company. It’s $40 vs $500 in case, God forbid, you have an accident. Our companie’s coverage will cover you 100% with no deductible, so sometimes it’s smarter to take the coverage on shorter term rentals.

Size of the Car – Yes, it might be cheaper to get that little economy class for that crazy low daily rate, but will your family really be comfortable? If you’re taking a trip and squeezing all your kids and luggage into a small car, your experience will not be a good one. I can’t tell you how many unhappy customers I’ve had the return from a family vacation because they’re were cramped in like sardines. Sometimes the price difference between a compact and full size is only a couple of dollars. Again, do your research and think about the car you’ll actually be getting vs. the small difference in price.

Fill up that Rental Car – Yes, we do charge for the full tank, and yes, it’s cheaper per gallon than the outside prices. However, if you think you are going to use more than a full tank, PURCHASE THE GAS THROUGH THE COMPANY. In the end run you save yourself about $6-7. I know it feels weird returning with a half tank, but you already paid for your first tank at the discounted rate. Yes, the company makes out by getting a half tank of gas back, but it’s a win-win situation. Either way you’re going to pay for gas, whether it be with us at the front end or at the end of the rental outside. Would you rather pay for one tank at 2.49 and another at 2.79? Or pay for two tanks at 2.79. Do the math and figure out which is best for you before you make a decision. If you aren’t going to use that much gas, of course, fill up yourself. If you’re going to use a tank or more, it’s cost effective to purchase with the rental company if the price is cheaper per gallon.

Hope this helps.

Reply

Michael June 5, 2010 at 6:40 am

Also, if you have the opportunity to rent from an off airport location, do it. Most cities and airports place an “airport fee” that raises the rental by 10-20%. You will save that by renting at an off site location vs the counter at the airport.

Yes, the rental agent will try to sell everything to you. It is our job, and that’s how we make our commission. We bonus from upgrades, coverage, and gas sales. A good agent will explain your options and help you make an informed decision. A bad one will sound like a car salesman and push everything on you. Do not let this deter you. Make sure you decide what is best for you and not be pushed to purchase something you don’t want. Likewise, do not let a slimy agent turn you off from taking something that will save you money in the long run.

Reply

Melanie July 10, 2010 at 2:43 am

Domestic US airlines WILL NOT charge you for baby items. Strollers, Car Seats, pack and plays…etc..THESE are ESSENTIAL items for children and airlines ARE NOT charging you to check a car seat.

“Children’s strollers and seat restraints are not counted as part of the standard baggage and therefore can easily be checked for free. For your convenience these items may be checked at curbside, the ticket counter, or at the gate.” (www.delta.com/baggage) {just one example…no other US Carrier charges for children’s items}…no other US carrier…even Spirit Airlines who charges you to carry on baggage is not charging for strollers or car seats. Renting a car seat with a car rental agency runs you about $10/day or more….so….if you are doing a 5 day rental or more, even if you HAD to pay to check your car seat, which is cheaper? The only thing you are paying for…is the convenience of not having to lug it to/from the airport or risking it being lost, delayed or damaged in transit.

As a former airline agent, I HIGHLY stress caution when using discount websites, #1, most of them are scams READ THE FINE PRINT. If you see something to the effect that your reservation will be confirmed after midnight, steer clear and avoid those sites, those are SCAMS. They have your credit card info and can charge you whatever the fare is at the time the finally get around to ticketing your reservation, OR, if your reservation is in queue and isn’t ticketed by midnight, it gets dropped, and a lot of times, I’ve had passengers come to the ticket counter with only a reservation and NOT a confirmation. ALWAYS go directly to the airlines website after searching for the lowest fares on other travel sites. IF you do mix airlines, DO NOT check your bag, 80% of those..if not more, end up lost, or delayed because inter-airline transfers are low priority. One way you can make sure your bags travel with you on a connection that involves more than one airline…short check it to your connection point if you have 3 or more hours between flights, depending on how large the airport is. That can be risky too if there are inbound delays that don’t jive with your outbound flight, so ask questions first and always use that as an option. But….avoid connections that involve other airlines at all costs if you can.

Flying from a hub more than likely is going to yield a cheaper fare for non-stop flights a majority of the time. Southwest is one exception because they are not hub and spoke but a point to point style airline. ALWAYS check your connection options first when considering your flights. IF you are flying to an airport that you are unfamiliar with, and you have 30-45 minutes to connect and you have to change terminals, consider a longer lay over. If you have never been to Atlanta, or JFK…30-45 minutes can barely have you at the connecting gate on time if you have to go from T-Gates to D-Gates if you don’t know where you are going and have to run from the end of the concourse to get to and from the train. So…do your research. Most flights arrive and depart from the same gates every day, so go to the airline or airports website and see where that flight came in that day, and where the connection departed…see how far they are apart. That will give you an idea of how to gauge your time. Secondly…keep in mind that they can and do change.

When using websites like Hotwire, or Priceline or any other that hides the hotel, airline or rental car agency from you, make sure you understand that these are binding agreements that can not be changed. For airlines, you can not change your flight…if you miss it, you are at the mercy of that website, airlines can not and will not touch those tickets to change them. The only change they can make is if there is a delay due to a weather delay or mechanical delay, but if you show up late, or want to get on an earlier flight…too bad. I had one lady show up 15 minutes late for check-in for her flight…had a Hotwire ticket and she was going to Africa, she missed her flight, and I couldn’t change her ticket…cost her $4000 US to have Hotwire rebook her flights. I’ve used Hotwire for Hotels, and that is it…NEVER for flights. Rental cars I can say use caution using Priceline or Hotwire if you have a debit card or a low limit credit card. Some agencies, such as Avis and Hertz can charge you as much as $500 for the deposit as well as the full charge of the rental, so make sure you have ample room on your card to cover the cost of the rental and any other expenses you will have. My suggestion is carry more than one card, and put your travel on one card (hotel, rental car deposits…etc) and your food and other items on another. Many people don’t pay attention to the fine print there either and end up stuck paying for a rental car that they can’t use. Again..Hotwire, Priceline=non-refundable/changeable.

ALSO make sure you check with the airline often. The website will give you the confirmation number from the airline itself..so go to the airlines website and keep track of your flight information. If you book it far in advance, flight times and numbers can change, as they do every season…as well as flights being completely eliminated. Also, make sure you take notice if it says in small print “Operated by….such and such airline.” Airlines sell seats on each others flights with their flight number, it’s called a Code Share…so make sure you go to check in with the right airline.

(I know this is more than just commenting on the article, but as a former Airline Agent…it’s important to educate the flying public as well. Many of these blogs are articles are written by people who have never worked in the industry, and just write from experience or what they have been told or read. So..here’s my on going effort to fill in some blanks …sorry for the length)

Reply

IC July 21, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Real nice tips. I especially liked the ‘eating’ part. These are good for first time travelers to avoid the mishaps my cousin and her family encountered. When Disneyland Hong Kong was opened, her kids were too excited to go there. She saved for it and finally talked to a travel agent. Although it was their first time, they got good ticket rates and landed on a good travel package. They were so excited about Disneyland they forgot one major necessity- the food. It was not included in her travel package and she was confident because she had money. When they got there they didn’t know where to dine. She went into hotels and like you said the food was expensive. She went to small restaurants but didn’t like the food. They enjoyed the Disneyland experience alright but when they finally got home for the day McDonalds was the only option, not very healthy right?. Luckily when they went to Singapore a year later for a holiday they had relatives there who guided them to good food.

Reply

Antony Hayes September 9, 2010 at 6:34 am

Thanks for including these tips. Im a traveller and writer and could have done with some of these a few years go when I was touring Australia.

Reply

Ventzislav Tzvetkov September 21, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Great tips. Very good article. I am using most of the tips already, but there are some new, of which I did not think before, or did not get to there yet. Thanks for them.

For the rent of cars, here the rule for gas is – you take it full and return it full, so this tip would be – fill the car tank up, until the fuel meter goes to max. Some cars have extra space for fuel, even when the meter shows max, so watch out for this.

Reply

Benjamin II September 26, 2010 at 3:03 pm

This is an excellent resource. Stumbled it. Thanks.

Reply

joeschmo October 12, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Might I suggest when renting a vehicle that you DON’T rent it from the airport? We are planning a trip to Phoenix and found out that a rental car in the city is about 50% cheaper than the ones at the airport. The price is higher at the airport because of airport taxes, fees, service charges, etc. Just take a taxi downtown or to their non-airport locations and you can save BIG BIG bucks. And these are major brands I’m talking about (Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, etc.)

Reply

Jamie November 9, 2010 at 10:19 am

Excellent point, Joe — and spot-on true. Airports charge concession fees and special taxes that aren’t present at off-airport rental counters. On the other hand, you need to take into account how you’re going to get from the airport to the rental location.

Reply

lifeisdynamic February 1, 2012 at 1:55 am

I use the very reasonably priced shuttle buses – airport to motel or anywhere you want to be dropped (coach terminus, train, etc) in the city of airport.

Experience in Australia is between $14Aus return trip for this service and there are many competitors in the game. The mini buses are more comfortable than taxi’s and the drivers are more obliging with baggage assistance. Door to door service at any time of night or day. Good value and I feel safe with the drivers even when I am a lone passenger.

Google ‘airport shuttle buses’ in your city of destination. You can book in advance on line and know they will be there to meet your flight – both ways if you are flying out of same city.

Reply

Saver October 24, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Great list. I’m a big fan of CouchSurfing and AirBnB.

Reply

Overstock Coupon Code October 29, 2010 at 5:13 am

The website will give you the confirmation number from the airline itself..so go to the airlines website and keep track of your flight information. If you book it far in advance, flight times and numbers can change, as they do every season…as well as flights being completely eliminated. Also, make sure you take notice if it says in small print “Operated by….such and such airline.”

Reply

Mary November 3, 2010 at 8:52 pm

We saved a lot of money on travel to Puerto Rico by booking it in July. Also, we try to carry on our luggage so we can avoid any of the additional fees charged for checked bags. Another way we save is to try and stay in a hotel with a refrigerator. We buy things that we can use for sandwiches and we take picnics where we go.

Reply

Jamie November 9, 2010 at 10:18 am

These are generally good tips but they tend to include a lot of essentially baseless claims (i.e. “it really doesn’t take that long” to return a car versus getting a one-way rental, etc.).

On frequent flyer programs, do NOT sign up for every program you can find. Most large airlines are affiliated with one of the alliances (Star Alliance, SkyTeam, or oneworld). Sign up with one program within each alliance and do all of your earning in that one program. With elite status comes free baggage.

Reply

Marianne November 28, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Sometimes you do have to factor in how much your time is worth. While we often take flights with layovers, we spend a lot of time sitting and waiting and driving further to another airport for a cheaper deal. Sometimes it works out to be about the same when your time is precious.

Reply

Stephanie Mojica December 1, 2010 at 1:27 pm

A great way to “budget travel” is to become a prolific online/print writer or blogger and then get onto press trips.

I’ve enjoyed free trips to Nova Scotia, Virginia Beach (twice), Montana, and beyond in the last year alone. In Nova Scotia, the tourism board rented me a car as well.

Plenty of people, even those writing for general content sites like Examiner and Associated Content, are doing the same thing.

Yes, you are placed on other people’s schedules and are expected to write. You may not get a ton of free time on some trips.

But I’ve experienced so much food, adventure, and destination wise for no out-of-pocket investment that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

I highly recommend pursuing such avenues if you have even a slight affinity for writing.

Peace, love, happiness, and prosperity,
Stephanie

Reply

Hotel Torquay December 20, 2010 at 5:01 am

I think everyone should read this post before going to a vacation. These are great tips to save money. No one wants to spend too much in a vacation. I am so glad that I found this post.

Thanks for posting. Keep it up.

Reply

agnes dailey January 24, 2011 at 1:58 am

Tips on moving between concourses and noting gate changes are especially important. Forget the food and drink until you are sure you are in the right place.

Reply

Elizabeth April 7, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Nothing beats bringing your food with you. We barely ate out at all on our Grand Canyon trip – except one grand night at the El Tovar. The experience was fun, & so was the venison. Eating our own food the rest of the time was great, too. We brought all the things that we normally enjoy in a big cooler.

Reply

Georgeann April 17, 2011 at 5:38 am

We are planning a two week road trip vacation in June which includes about 5 stops in different cities. I added each of these cities to my Groupon account so that I can get alerts on good deals for restaurants and activities. So far, I got a riverboat ride for me, my husband and two kids for just $30. It normally would have been around $60. I also bought several gift certificates from restaurant.com. One thing to add on restaurant.com. Be sure to read the requirements on the certificate and look at the menu before buying. I paid $10 for a $25 certificate, and the requirement is a minimum purchase of $35… so you should check the menu and be sure that you are going to be able to meet this requirement, otherwise they won’t take your coupon..

Reply

Amanda April 27, 2011 at 11:17 am

Great tips. A couple of mine are:

1. request a fridge/microwave in the hotel. Sometimes, hotels give me both with no extra charge and that way, I can bring leftovers back to the hotel to reheat for a second meal, or I can stop at the grocery store and pick up a few things for cheap breakfast or lunch.

2. I always keep my eyes open for deals with free samples and often get shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, etc. I usually bring those instead of stocking up at a drugstore beforehand.

3. Like some other people, once I have plans to visit a new city, I sign up for Living Social, Groupon, etc, and I check out Restaurant.com to see if there are any deals for things I’d want to do anyway.

Reply

Witty Artist August 1, 2011 at 12:52 am

Great tips indeed! Thanks for sharing. :)
I was in Greece two years ago and as you probably know there are all kind of trips for visiting the surroundings. Me and my partner chose one trip, the tour of the island. It was very nice, but tiring and a bit in a hurry ( I would have loved to stay more in a few places). One evening at dinner, another couple told us they had rented a car for a few days and had gone wherever they wanted on the island. Not only was it cheaper, but they made their own schedule without all the hustle and bustle.

Reply

Vazir Mukhtar September 12, 2011 at 10:52 am

Good, sensible advice. I’d like to comment only on 3 tips.

#23. Driving may be all right in the States, Canada, and a few other places. But I do not recommend it in the large cities in the UK, France, or Italy. If you’ll be spending most of your time away from London, Paris, Rome, Milan, Florence and are adventurous, you might want to try it. I find it easier to drive in Germany, Austria and Slovenia, where other drivers pay considerably more attention to the rules of the road than drivers in Paris or large Italian cities.

#30. Accommodations. What the Brits call a self-catering apartment is often the least expensive way to spend 5-7 days in a European city. Many have washer/driers, TV with CNN or BBC, plus other conveniences. Many now also have Internet sites: you can preview what you’ll most likely get. Shopping for food doesn’t have to be a problem if you do not know the language because unless you are in a village or hamlet, there are supermarkets. Buying food in smaller shops can be an enjoyable adventure — besides, if you don’t mind spending a bit more — the greengrocer, fishmonger, baker, etc., may suggest sites to see or things to do that your guide book does not include.

#39 My wife and I try never to travel in-season, unless there’s something we want to do that can be done only then: Bayreuth for Wagner, Edinburgh for the festival, London for the Proms, for example. But “hump” travel — just before the season — or strictly off-season can be not only cheap(er) but also more interesting. Not everyone would want to visit Vienna, Prague or Budapest in December or January, but it’s much easier to get concert, ballet, and theatre tickets when the cities aren’t packed with tourists. You can also see the architecture better when the trees have no leaves. Yes, I know you may have to bundle up and take shorter walks, but stopping in a cafe for coffee or tea and pastry or cake when it’s chilly or worse outside, feels so good.

Reply

Shipping Baggage January 9, 2012 at 9:56 pm

I like the tips. #1 is especially fantastic, I hadn’t thought of that! I’m always trying to thin out my huge wardrobe, so I’m going to try that on my next trip.

Reply

Brenda Dawe May 28, 2012 at 7:20 am

I LOVE garage sales and thrift stores! When I fly on my own, not only do I want to avoid the extra luggage charge, but the need to “man-handle” them once I arrive. For extended visits, I pack light (quantity and weight) then seek out thrift stores. This way I can look for clothing based on what I want to see and do rather than pack for the “WHAT IF I DECIDE…”s. Plus, you never know what gems you will find when touring swanky places like LV, LA, or Palm Springs. NEW donations for Under $5 or tourist trap souvenier shops for $20? Ever pack a heavy coat /sweatshirt and not need it? YEP…me too…but not in last few trips. (Too soon old…too late smart!)

Reply

lana January 20, 2012 at 6:31 pm

I just booked our vacation for this year. We’re driving 6 hours and staying at a house I found on vrbo.com. We will enjoy doing things around the area, but plan on doing some cooking as well as free activities. The whole trip for our family of four should be less than $1K for the week.

In this state of our economy I feel like an expensive trip would not be prudent. We have taken the kids to many countries in Europe and all over the USA, but now seems like a good time to buckle down.

Reply

lifeisdynamic February 1, 2012 at 1:37 am

Any tips for lone female, non-seasoned travellers, please?

My first overseas foray will be to Greece and Italy. I want to experience the local way of life. Not prepared to bicycle or hike. Happy to catch ‘safe’ buses, boat trips, trains etc to see parts of the country. Wary of taxi’s (overcharging, vulnerbility). Would consider home-stay accommodation and fits well with local living.

Is there anyone who has experienced travel in these countries on a budget but in relative comfort? Would love to hear from you.
JEM

Reply

physcodog February 1, 2012 at 8:15 am

I will be heading to Miami later in the year and these tips will help out for sure. Thanks

Reply

jkcook February 13, 2012 at 9:02 am

Please do NOT tell people to leave their car seat at home. Kids in their own car seats on planes are much quieter and more comfortable than those without. Be nice to the other passengers and let your kid be strapped into their car seat just like they’d be in your car.

Reply

Christine February 27, 2012 at 9:12 am

I’m forwarding these tips to my son and future daughter-in-law who have their hearts set on a visit to Disney World for their honeymoon in 2013. I sure wish there were some serious money saving tips for them.

Reply

Cleo March 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm

I am planning on splitting two sandwiches for lunch amongst 2 adults and 2 children and one to two entrees at dinner whilst at Disney World. After consideration, I have decided to NOT save money by renting a car (and exposing my credit card number to unwanted charges – already happened with Hertz locally) and not going to buy groceries locally (I am packing cereal from home) so as not to lose precious time and not to expose ourselves to unforseen altercations in off Disney property.

Reply

Paydayswift March 18, 2012 at 11:33 am

While saving money on travel is great, it has to be weighed against the amount of ‘pleasure’ that would be lost on the trip. I would rather stay home than have to watch every penny!

Reply

Debbie June 22, 2012 at 4:38 am

I totally agree. My husband and I are mindful of our expediture while on holidays, but not to the point of watching every dollar! Would rather stay at home also, than not be able to enjoy a nice holiday.

Reply

Davao Information March 25, 2012 at 6:23 am

This is a very useful information for a traveler like me. It’s true, when you are going to travel for a vacation or an escapade, it’s really worthy to make your own research on things you need, compare prices and you will get to save a lot. As long as comfort and fun is not sacrificed, then I go for those with lesser cost when travelling.

Reply

Kallin March 31, 2013 at 6:59 am

I agree that we should do some research before booking for the airline, hotel rental car and restaurants. However, if you are going to worry about money , then I suggest you stay home and watch tv or go to the beach. I always try to save more money one year advance before taking any trips. When I come back from the trip, I always make sure I save again for the next one.

Reply

Jesh Lee March 30, 2012 at 4:17 am

The biggest saver during travels, IMHO, is the discounted plane and accommodation fare! I usually grab my plane tickets way ahead to get a discount. Sometimes airline companies have fare promos, so if you are keen on travelling, subscribing on their updates is well worth it.

Reply

Dan April 9, 2012 at 1:00 am

Don’t forget to inform your banks about your travel plans.
Telling your banks about your travel plans can prevent you from experiencing something inconvenient when it comes to using you credit or debit cards in a foreign land. This is because, some banks may put a fraud hold on your cards, once they realize that the cards are used overseas. By informing them where you would go, they can put a note on your account, so that you can continue using your cards, without hassles.

Reply

Brenda Dawe May 28, 2012 at 7:26 am

This also goes for credit cards not associated with your bank… we almost lost out on a 4- person chartered bus tour to LA (from Carlsbad) because the two cards we brought had not been alerted. Fortunately, one in the party had enough cash to cover us. There was no time to make the phone call in that situation, but it taught us a valuable lesson.

Reply

sofia airport April 17, 2012 at 3:13 am

Good list and still relevant for anyone planning a trip. Also, good tip by Dan (above) about informing your banks, just in case any suspicious transactions appear while away.

Reply

Erik April 27, 2012 at 11:00 pm

If you’re travelling within the US, you can conserve a modest amount of luggage space and weight by omitting basic commodities like toothpaste, toiletries and kitchen utensils, and buying them instead from dollar stores and other cut-price retailers located in your destination city. There are chains of these operating under the names of Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Family Dollar and Big Lots (among others). Check their websites when you’re in the trip planning stage to see if any of them are located in the city you are travelling to.

This tip is probably most useful for families travelling, since they can expect to be consuming the greatest volume of such items.

Reply

Dana G. May 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Another good reason to purchase a round-trip vs. one-way ticket (#5 above) is TSA. One-way tickets set off alarms with those guys and you’re far more likely to be singled out for “special” treatment.

Reply

Brenda Dawe May 28, 2012 at 7:34 am

Another tip: When selecting connecting flights (especially in seasons with high cancellations) select one with longer layover time than short ones. A delay on leaving the home airport can eat up that shorter time only to have you be told, “Sorry, your flight left 15 mins. ago… next one out is in 7 hours.” This happened to us going from Nashville to Ga on to San Diago in March. Our daughter flew from Detroit and was meeting up with us in Atlanta… her flight was on time, but ours was delayed on the tarmat for over 1.5 hours and she had to fly on without us. DON’T time your flights too close from arrival to take off.

Reply

East Grinstead Car Hire June 2, 2012 at 10:47 am

In regards to renting a car, choose a local company. Other than rates usually being cheaper, the requirements and policies would be a lot friendlier than foreign companies. Local fellas tend to know better tips on where to go and what better route to take. Always ask for the mileage, not all car rental companies are offering unlimited mileage and you don’t want surprises when you return it.

Reply

Lawrence Ying June 2, 2012 at 11:30 pm

I have got myself a holiday which includes flights, hotel, transfers and day tour to Hong Kong with these tips. One unfortunate requirement for my deal is no changes, though.

Reply

mig June 15, 2012 at 12:34 am

These are great tips, and I do agree that planning and cooking your meals do save a great deal of money while out of the country. Carrying enough amount of cash and credit card(s) is much convenient for me, having your money exchanged with that of the currency of the country you’re going to visit to.. less hassle for me, and I’m sure that I’m getting the right exchange rate.

Reply

Kallin March 31, 2013 at 7:01 am

I am on your side. Thanks

Reply

Jim August 13, 2012 at 12:10 am

We just have to take a few simple & practical steps to save money on travel. Holiday travel expenses can be disgraceful and can reduce the amount of fun we have on our trip. It is important to know the most common ways to save money on our holiday travel costs, so that we can save money and enjoy our trip without worry. This blog is estimably explained, thanks for sharing.

Reply

Owen Glendower August 24, 2012 at 11:29 am

“If take a side trip somewhere (an amusement park or a national park), we go to the local market and buy sandwich stuff and fruit and brown bag it so that we don’t have to buy the more expensive food at our destination.”

Great advice, but if you’re traveling by car, you can take it a step farther.

1. Buy a small rolling cooler and stock it with bread, milk, sandwich meat, condiments, yogurt, fruit, etc. Re-stock as needed during your travels. Saves a great deal of money AND time, because when you stop to gas up or take a break at a rest stop, you can also have a quick sandwich…made with your favorite bread and sandwich meat. Another example: when we were ready for lunch while visiting Mt. Rushmore, we simply strolled back to the parking garage and opened the trunk of the car.

Most budget motels have a refrigerator & microwave in the room these days, so you can re-chill everything and re-freeze your blue ice every day.

Usually, the continental breakfast at the motel where we’re staying is enough to get started on the day. That, plus our lunch cooler, allows us to splurge on a nice dinner any time we feel like it. We enjoy our vacations!

2. We also travel with a small shoulder bag which will hold a 4-cup coffeemaker, coffee, a few utensils, and a bottle or two of our favorite wine (and a corkscrew, of course). Our favorite fresh-brewed coffee in our room every morning, a glass of our favorite wine in the evening…life is good.

Reply

Travel Food May 12, 2013 at 11:54 am

The best about eating is to cook by yourself, sleeping with couchsurfing, moving hitchhiking!

Reply

Gousalya February 13, 2014 at 8:42 am

Great tips – we once stayed in a RV as part of an experience while visiting Mount Rushmore and it was the best experience ever. We found it through airbnb.com and it included breakfast too. For 4 of us and $50/night on peak season was very helpful!

Reply

lana March 2, 2014 at 5:42 pm

We usually try and plan around expenses. If I can find cheap or free flights with miles we go that direction. I usually can use points for free car rental. I use Hotwire a lot for hotels. I try to find hotels with free breakfast. DH has memberships to airlines and hotels, so frequently we get bumped up on flights, free hotel rooms, free happy hour etc.

Our last trip was to Europe for eight days. We spent about $800. We planned ahead and applied for a hotel credit card and put all charges on that, DH stayed at the hotel chain as much as possible and we ended up getting a hotel for free! It’s value was $1785. It had free hot breakfast and free evening reception. The reception was pretty much dinner. We did go out several times for dinner, but not heavy dinner.

Flights were free! Three out of five were bumped up. We also go to reasonably priced attractions, from exhibits, museums, tours, churches etc. I also leave clothes at the destination because I love to buy souvenirs for myself and loved ones.

A lot has to do with planning. If you can’t plan ahead, try lastminute.com.

Our last family trip was to and around Oregon. So many activities were to state and national parks. We do occasionally get family passes. We also check out towns, books stores, etc. Sometimes we’ll go to a grocery store and buy fruit and vegetable platters etc along with light groceries.

Traveling should be fun, not a burden to pay it off when you get home.

Cheers!

Reply

Sam October 30, 2014 at 11:58 pm

Great Tips….Saving while spending helps to spend at more options :)

Reply

Leave a Comment