How to Save Money on Vacation

How to Save Money on Vacation
BY John Russo
May 28, 2019
Key Takeaways:
  • Create a budget to avoid overspending on vacation.
  • Pack light to avoid baggage charges.
  • Travel like a local -- eat in, use public transportation and skip the silly tourist trinkets.

Summer is just around the corner, are you excited for your vacation yet? Whether you’re traveling abroad or visiting one of your favorite cities here in the United States, summer vacation can be expensive. So, before you book your flight or start packing your bags, check out the following advice on how to save money on vacation.

Create a vacation budget

Before you start planning your vacation, you should know how much you have to spend. Take a look at how much you’ve set aside for your trip, then set up a vacation budget outlining how you’ll use that money. If you haven’t yet created a general household budget, this would be a good time to do so (and you can base your travel budget on this).

Make sure your budget covers:

  • Flights, cab or bus fare, car rental fees, and gas

  • Hotels, AirBnb, VRBO, or hostels

  • Restaurants, grocery stores, and snacks

  • Shows, museums, and other excursions

After creating a budget, it will be easier for you to decide where you can afford to go and how much you can spend when you’re there. There are also plenty of resources focused on traveling as cheaply as possible.

Pack light, but not too lightly

Checking bags at the airport can be expensive. Most airlines charge $25 to $35 per bag (or more), which could add up to $75 or more for a round trip flight—money that could be better spent elsewhere. You’ll want to take the time necessary to make sure you’re only bringing what you truly need. If you’re only going on vacation for a few days, avoid baggage fees by limiting yourself to a carry on and personal item.

Knowing how to save money on vacation by traveling light comes with a caveat, though. If you end up saving in the long run by bringing extra luggage, then you’ll want to compare those savings to the cost of checking an extra bag. For example, maybe bringing along extra clothes will keep you from buying too many new outfits while traveling. It’s a balance.

Take public transit or walk

Taking public transit only costs a few dollars, and compared to a cab, Lyft, or car rental, it’s a cheap way to get around. Plus, it offers you a great way to experience life like a local and, depending on the route, could even provide a scenic tour of the area. Depending on where you’re visiting, you also may want to consider renting bikes to get around town.

If you booked a hotel in the heart of the city, you may want to walk instead of opting for public transit. You can find great walking paths by doing a little online research. For example, if you’re headed to sunny San Diego this year, Circulate SD has some great walking maps to help you get around.

Watch what you eat

Although checking out the local culinary scene is a great way to sample the local culture and experience something new, food can be a huge expense when you travel. You don’t want to deprive yourself of this, but you also will want to plan ahead so you can strike the right balance.

To save money on food while traveling, follow these tips:

  • Look at the time. Most restaurants’ lunch and dinner menus are similar, but the price point changes depending on the time of day. That’s why you should eat out at lunch instead of dinner.

  • Eat like a local. Don’t be afraid of food trucks and carts when you’re in a new city. The food is usually delicious, and easy on your wallet, too.

  • Go grocery shopping. If you booked a room with a kitchenette, use it. Buying groceries and having a few home-cooked meals could save you a ton.

Use coupons and look for cheap or free local events

Sites like Groupon, local newspapers, and travel guides could have some great deals on local attractions—so make sure you’re checking them during your trip. You can also find coupons and deals on tourism websites. It only takes a few minutes to do the research, but it could really pay off.

Speaking of local attractions, did you know you could get into some of them completely free? National parks, historical sites, and museums all offer free days—and it’s super easy to find out when they are by doing a simple online search. For example, here’s a list of all the free days for Portland museums.

Don’t use an international phone plan

You may be considering an international phone plan if you’re traveling to another country. But, as those who really know how to save money on vacation already know, it could cost you a small fortune. These plans could cost anywhere from $15 to $100+ per month, plus roaming fees or additional charges to send text messages.

Unless you’re traveling for months on end, there’s little point in getting an international phone plan. Your smartphone can make calls, send texts, and do everything else using the internet. Using publicly available Wi-Fi services (or purchasing a Wi-Fi plan) could be a better way to save money while still having access to your phone during your next vacation.

Use a travel credit card

Want to avoid foreign transaction fees and get rewarded for spending during your vacation? You may want to consider getting a travel rewards card. While there may be yearly fees associated with these cards, the points, and rewards that could offset these costs. Just make sure to stick to your budget, use these cards responsibly, and pay the balance in full each month so that you don’t get into debt.

If you follow these simple tips, you’ll know how to save money on vacation without missing out on a good time.

Learn how to save money on vacation and more

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