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 *
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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 *
- 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.
- 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.
- Meals Carryover – Want a breakfast that cost nothing? Ask for some bread to-go at the restaurant the night before.
- 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.
- 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 *
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Coupon Codes – Sometimes car rental companies have coupon codes that can be used. Search the Internet.
* Transportation *
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 *
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 *
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 *
- 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.
- 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 *
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 *
- Bid Your Own Price – Priceline.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.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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
- 32 Sensible Tips for the Holiday Shopping Season (Written for the holidays but many are actually timeless advice)