I love to travel – I mean, really, who doesn’t? Whether you’re a 9-5 type with only two weeks of vacation a year, a SAHM parent on a tight budget, or work from home full time, or you fall somewhere in the middle, we all have one thing in common: there’s never enough time or money to travel as often as we would like. Now, I can’t do anything about the time part, but I can offer you some advice on saving money while you travel (and stay within your personal finances)! These 25 Money Saving Travel Tips and Tricks are a combination of things I’ve learned myself through years of trial and error, or tips shared by friends in the travel blogging industry.
25 Money Saving Travel Tips & Tricks
When You’re in the Booking Stages…
Don’t let the airlines and hotels take advantage. Enable private browsing before heading to hotel and airfare websites. They often track your visits and may not show new deals or lowered prices if your IP address is recognized!
Book flights when costs are lower. Airfare is less expensive on Tuesday and Wednesdays, so search for flights on those days!
Know where to find the best deals on airfare. Check out sites like Kayak and HipMunk.com for the best airfare deals!
Sign up for Airline newsletters and frequent flier clubs. Airlines send emails announcing promotions, so make sure you’re on the list! Join the frequent flier clubs even if you don’t fly often – those miles really add up over time and you can save yourself some big money by booking flights with miles.
Book your vacation through a deal site. Whether you’re looking for an all-inclusive vacation package or simply a great deal on a hotel, check sites like Groupon. Groupon Getaways offers great deals on hotels, all-inclusive resorts, cruises and international vacation packages that include airfare!
Use promo codes when renting a car. Most car rental companies offer a discount code for signing up for emails, or simply do an internet search for “Alamo car rental promo code” or “coupon code.”
Try car-sharing services. Not sure you’ll need to rent a car? Try using services like Uber or Lyft instead of a taxi cab, or see if the city you’re visiting has car share programs like Zipcar or Car2Go. If you’ve never used Uber before, use my promo code when you register the app on your phone and save $20 on your first ride: uberrebelchick.
Book a hotel downtown. You can avoid transportation expenses all-together by booking a hotel near the attraction you’re visiting, or booking a hotel in the heart of downtown that is within walking distance to museums, restaurants and activities. On a recent trip to NYC, I booked a hotel near Times Square and it was about $30 more expensive a night than hotels farther away, but we never had to take a cab because everything was RIGHT THERE.
Book a hotel with free WiFi or join membership programs that grant guests free WiFi. Most hotels offer complimentary WiFi, but there are some that charge a daily fee. It’s not usually publicly advertised, but some hotels offer free WiFi to their rewards members, so join the program before you go!
Get deals on cruises by joining their email newsletter. Get great deals on Carnival Cruise Lines by signing up for emails – and military personnel get a $50 discount per person if they’re active duty or honorably discharged.
Don’t convert your cash at the airport. Wait until you arrive in your location, as the currency conversion rate that the airport usually leaves you at a disadvantage.
Pro Travel Tip: While we’re speaking of money – make sure you call your bank and credit card companies to let them know when you’re going out of town so that they don’t place a freeze on your account when they notice spending at unusual locations. You might also want to check and make sure that the place you’re visiting isn’t blacklisted – I once found myself in Dominican Republic with no access to my bank account because it was blacklisted by my credit union!
When You’re Planning Activities…
Use credit card points for activities and dining. Do you have a credit card with points that you never use for travel because of black out dates? Check and see if they offer restaurant gift cards or VISA/Mastercard gift card options – use those to pay for your activities and dining while away from home!
Buy an Entertainment Discount Book. Many cities offer a book full of coupons for restaurants and activities. Check Entertainment.com to see if there is a book available for the city you’re visiting! You can usually find buy-one-get-one-free admittance discounts for attractions and up to 50% restaurant bills.
Buy Groupons for activities and attractions! You can find everything from restaurant discounts to activities like food tours, wine tastings, park and museum entrances on Groupon.com. On a recent trip to South Africa, there were even Groupons for cage diving with Great White Sharks and surfing lessons!
Buy sight-seeing package cards. Many cities offer a “Best of” card, where you can purchase one pass to a wide variety of attractions. Miami offers the Go Miami Card, NYC offers the New York City Pass – simple do an internet search before you plan your vacation to see what options are available!
Look for FREE museums and activities. Many cities offer free admittance to museums and art galleries on certain days of the week. Check the local chamber of commerce before you go and schedule your itinerary accordingly! You can also find “free things to do” when you travel, like the Shy Wolf Sanctuary in Naples, Florida – it’s always free!
When Packing Your Suitcase:
Avoid checking a suitcase by packing light. I only use a carry on suitcase and a backpack. Have a bunch of heavy electronics, power cords and pack up chargers to pack? Wear cargo pants or a jacket with lots of pockets and fill them full of the heavy stuff to avoid making your suitcase too heavy!
Pro Travel Tip: Invest in a wrinkle-free wardrobe so that you don’t have to worry about ironing while on your trip. Stuff clothes that don’t wrinkle into your shoes (make sure your shoes don’t smell first!) to save space!
Bring a reusable insulated water bottle when you travel. Fill it with water from the water fountain AFTER you’ve gone through the security checkpoint and avoid the overpriced water bottles in the airport! Refill it often from public drinking fountains and you can skip the bottled water purchases on your trip.
Bring a large tote bag if you plan on shopping. If you plan on shopping on your trip, pack a large tote bag in your suitcase. When you’re packing to return home, use the tote bag as your personal item and avoid paying checked baggage fees!
Pack snacks! Skip the expensive snacks in the hotel gift shop and bring nuts, dried fruit, pretzels and even candy from home.
Pack any medications you might need AND sunscreen. We all travel with a travel-sized bottle of pain reliever, right? Well, don’t forget things like band-aids, contact lens solution, medicine for upset stomach, etc – anything that you may need and already have at home, take a small amount with you just in case. You’ll be glad you did when you see the $15 price tag of that medicine in the drugstore during your trip! I once saw a hotel guest pay $60 for a bottle of spray on sunscreen in Costa Rica because they didn’t pack enough…don’t make that mistake! Always pack just a little more than you need.
When You Get There…
Make the most of the continental breakfast and eat a big lunch and small dinner. Most hotels offer a free continental breakfast, which includes fresh fruit. Grab an extra banana or apple to have as a mid-morning snack and avoid spending unnecessarily while you’re out and about. Most restaurants have a less expensive lunch menu, so fill up at lunch and order small plates or appetizers when you go out to dinner.
Use free WiFi. When traveling, get WiFi passwords by checking comments on FourSquare!
Ask the hotel to lock room charges and avoid paying upfront for incidentals. Many hotels charge a deposit when you check in, which can freeze up funds in your bank account if you’re paying by debit card. Tell the front desk at registration that you don’t want to be able to charge to your room – most will agree to waive the incidentals fee. The downside is that you have to pay for your room service in cash.
Bring cash to stay on budget. I find that if I use my credit or debit card while traveling, I always end up spending more than I planned. Bring cash to help you stay on budget!
I hope that these 25 Money Saving Travel Tips and Tricks help you find a way to travel a little more for a little mess money. Do you have any travel tips and tricks that you’d like to share?