A few months ago, I published a roundup of tips on how to save money in day-to-day life. A lot of the same contributors are back, this time with tips to save on or save up for vacation. Enjoy!
1. A Jar Full of Money
My wife keeps a coin and small bills jar hidden in our house. She’ll sneak $1 and $5 bills out of our wallets and purses every once in a while and hide them away. I don’t really notice it until we A) need to put it in the bank for safer keeping. Or B) Go on vacation. We actually just jumped on a deal yesterday to go on a get-away ski weekend next week. I bought our tickets, and then found that we had $100 in the change jar for gas and spending money. Even though it’s our money, it felt like free money since it’s not in an account I ever think about.
Update: Check out Wealth Well Done’s post on their ski vacation and the epiphany that hit them on said vacation. And if that doesn’t pique your curiosity, you’ve cleary been desensitized by too much click-bait. But seriously. Check it out.
Check out our adventure to find wealth and happiness at Wealth Well Done
2. Book Cheap (But Not Too Cheap), Spend More On Experiences
We typically opt for the cheapest hotel we can stand. Definitely do some research before clicking “Reserve” on that $20/night place that boasts having a parking lot as an amenity, but when we go on vacation, the hotel room isn’t nearly as important as what’s around it. The savings amount varies, or course, but the money we save from foregoing the fancier hotels goes into experiences at our destination.
Kyle blogs about his payoff journey at Steward and Slave
3. Playing for Keeps
MyVegas Rewards – It’s the only “video” game I play, and I just interact with its auto spin features while I’m doing other things (like grading, writing blog posts, cooking dinner). I haven’t spent a cent other than my own time, but my husband and I rarely pay for meals or shows in Vegas because of it. They’re adding other locations to their rewards, so if Sin City isn’t your thing, you might be in luck anyway!
Penny is a married millennial who crushed $50k worth of debt in two years on two teaching salaries. Penny blogs at She Picks Up Pennies
4. Scanning The Skies
To save the most money on vacation, one of the best places to start is to look at ways to save money on your transportation. My favorite way to save on airfare is to go to SkyScanner, enter your “From” destination, and then for your arrival destination click “Search Everywhere.” Then for the dates, choose “Whole Month ” and then “Cheapest Month.” This shows you tons of places to go to and on the cheapest budget.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner blogs about personal finance, RVing full-time, and more at Making Sense of Cents
5. All-Inclusive Resorts
Not as cool as backpacking perhaps, but with one upfront payment you can get plane tickets, airport transfers, unlimited food/alcohol and miles of sandy tropical beaches.
That price can be as low as $600 per person, per week, or as high as $6000+. If you plan ahead and do your research you can limit your costs without sacrificing much quality. My wife and I now visit all-inclusive resorts often and we typically spend between $1,400 – $1,700 for six days at 4 star resorts. We use Costco Travel for the deals and TripAdvisor for the reviews.
Jake blogs about finding value in life at Valuist
6. A Dash of Meal Prep
When we don’t camp for our vacations, we like to find accommodations with a full kitchen, or at least a kitchenette, so we can buy and prepare most of our own food. Whether we’re driving or flying, we hit the grocery store as soon as we reach our destination to stock up on snacks, water (bottles and gallons), sandwich fixings, and ingredients for a few simple meals. On travel days, we make lunches to pack in the car for a picnic (if we are flying, we take snacks). Don’t get me wrong, we do go out to eat on vacation – we love to find great local restaurants and enjoy a couple of meals out. But, we save a ton of money by not eating 3 meals a day, each day, at restaurants.
Amanda is the creator of Centsibly Rich
7. Paying With Credit Card Rewards
I paid for the expenses around giving birth to our first daughter (C-section mind you), along with three semesters of school on my AMEX. It amassed to $600 in travel miles that we used to pay for the cruise we are going on in 10 days! I typically like to pay cash for everything, but when I have large purchases like these, I use the AMEX and then go on almost free vacations!
Jacob Merkley blogs about life skills, including money management over at his blog Power Over Life
8. Camping, Yurts and Beach Houses
Since we are a family of 9, we need to go the budget route when vacationing. Our family loves camping. Recently we rented a yurt for the first time and loved it! In warmer weather, we do tent camping.
Also, we find that sharing a vacation with the grandparents is a great way to save. Last summer we all rented a beach house – this often turns out to be cheaper, per person, than a hotel (which are hard to find that will accommodate a lot of kids anyway). Because we had a kitchen, we only ate out once – and since the grandparents were there, they babysat while hubby and I enjoyed a nice dinner! Can’t beat that.
Carrie writes about raising 7 kids and homeschooling frugally, developing good habits and being a minimalist, wanna-be French girl at CarrieWillard.com
9. Two, Three, Four or More is a Party
Travel with a group! Not only is it a lot more fun to travel with friends, but it’s also a lot cheaper. A $200/night hotel suddenly becomes $50/night when you share it with three friends. And unlike hostels, you don’t have to deal with strangers or other potentially stressful factors. Instead, you can spend time with people you love in an exciting new location.
Taylor Milam writes about saving money at The Freedom From Money
10. Catching the Gems Along the Way
Recognize that your vacation doesn’t start when you get there – it starts when you leave. A few years ago we had to get to Arizona for a wedding with our three young kids. They weren’t young enough to sit on our laps, so the cost to fly was high. Instead, we decided to turn a 5-day trip with flights into a 10-day road trip. As a result, we got twice the trip for the same cost and experienced amazing things in 11 different states. The key was looking at the journey there as a part of the trip.
Chris blogs about frugality, minimalism, and personal finance spreadsheets at Keep Thrifty
11. The Contrarian Traveler
Off season travel for vacation can save big time money. The same can be said for the day of the week to fly. Most business travelers tend to fly on Sunday, Monday, Friday, or Saturday. As such these tend to be the most expensive days to fly. Flying around a holiday like Christmas can cost 2 to 3 x as much as flying other times of the year.
I’ve also found actually placing your flight booking in the first half of a week will yield cheaper prices. So for example booking on Tuesday for a flight 3 months from now seems to offer better prices than booking the same flights on Friday. There tends to be a sweet spot about 3 months before a flight. Closer or further away and prices tend to be higher.
Full Time Finance focuses on finding your value, and limiting your expenditures to those values.
12. Go See a Friend
My tip on saving on vacations is to head to places where you have a friend! I have a friend who went to the US and he had a friend who was living in the US at that time. So not only could he save a ton on accommodation but he also got a personalized “tour guide” to show him around! This of course doesn’t always work but it saves a ton when you can do it!
Contributed by The Tireless Worker
13. Think Small, Score Big
Quite often when traveling on vacation you need a car rental. One tip that works for me is to always book a compact vehicle online (at no money to reserve, pay when picked up at the counter). Compact/economy models are the most popular to rent because they are the cheapest to rent. Frequently, even though I have a confirmed reservation, they don’t have one of them available when I arrive. When that happens, I get an upgrade to a mid-size or an even better model at no extra cost! If you say something after waiting as short a period as 5 minutes, they will accommodate you. But you have to ask.
This strategy works best at smaller companies that don’t have a huge inventory on their lots. The worst case scenario is you get exactly what you reserved, but in about 50% of my experiences you will get an upgrade.
Gary Weiner blogs about saving money and personal finance at supersavingtips.com
14. A Vacation That Works
A great way to save on travel is to work while you are traveling. We spent about 8 months on vacation traveling through southwest Asia. We funded the entire trip (plane tickets, train rides, taxis, accommodations, food, literally everything) by teaching English 3-4 days a week. We negotiated ahead of time that the school we worked for would pay our airfare, provide food on the days we worked, and provide for housing accommodations in addition to a monthly salary. On the days we weren’t teaching, we were traveling and sight-seeing. After our teaching contract ended, we had saved enough money from our teaching gig to pay for about 2 months of pure vacation– no work included. We spent a good chunk of that time on the beaches of Thailand.
We have had friends who weren’t interested in teaching who found jobs at a fancy spa in New Zealand where they stayed on an extended vacation for several months and funded it all through working part-time at the spa.
Working while your on vacation can offer a fun, extended vacation at a great price! (in our case, free!) All it takes is a little creativity and a little negotiation.
Amber and Danny blog about paying off debt at Red Two Green
When you’re staying in a new town, see if you can walk to your destination instead of booking a car or taking a taxi. You’ll save the
cab fare and get a free walking tour of the city to boot.
When I went on a cruise to Italy last month, the boat docked in Savona, a really beautiful old town. My husband and I took a look at the map to see if we could walk into town and ended up taking a 10 minute stroll up to the stunning cathedral, passing by the long line of people waiting for taxis on our way.
Ellie, a 20-something with $300k net worth, writes about aiming for financial independence at The Chedda
16. Ask an Expert
My wife and I recently were searching online for a great cruise deal. Although they have gone out of vogue, we eventually called a travel agent, who was able to save us a couple hundred dollars while finding us a better location on the ship. With the internet today making it so easy to book travel packages, we had overlooked using travel agents in the past. I’m so glad we didn’t this time. We will definitely call around to a few different travel agents in the future to ensure that we are saving the most money possible when booking our next vacation.
Submitted by Mustard Seed Money
17. Daytrips from home
My wife and I used to spend holidays abroad at least twice a year in the past. We love to travel around the globe. However, with two little kids (three years and eight months), flying by plane and staying at hotels has become more challenging and much less relaxing.
So we decided to take a different kind of vacation and spend two weeks at home for a change. Sound relaxing but unspectacular? The trick is to get out of our comfort zone by organizing a variety of activities in advance and making several daytrips. Living in Liechtenstein, we’ve made nice tours to exciting places in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Italy and France. We used different means of transportation- traveled by car, by bus and by train. We’ve even taken the boat for a cruise.
By staying at home and making day tours we’ve avoided several large costs such as staying at a hotel, eating out at restaurants, flying by plane etc.
Submitted by Financial Shaper
18. Free Attractions
Use TripAdvisor for area attractions that could be free or cheap. We were driving through an area where we needed a break from our driving and had a few hours to kill. We used tripadvisor to locate area attractions in an unfamiliar and unplanned location. We could have spent a lot of money quickly and frivolously in stopping at an advertised amusement park or zoo, but we located a great find in Rapid City (Storybook Island) that was free for the whole family and fit our needs perfectly.
Submitted by Jen Kaisand
19. Find the Booking Sweet Spot
When you can’t be flexible about destination or scheduling, you can still save by booking early (but not too early)! I was once able to snag a $1 bus fare between New York and Boston by finding out how far in advance the bus company was putting routes on the schedule and checking in when I knew new fares would be available.
By contrast, airfares are typically cheapest 1-4 months before departure. I love to use Google Flights‘ price graph feature (accessible when you have departure/arrival airport codes and click on the departure date) to see how low fares can get, and approximately how far in advance you need to plan to get the best deal. Plus, Google can monitor the price for you; lazy savings are my favorite savings. You can also specify preferred airlines (or just select all but the one that you’ll never fly on again because they know what they did), and since flights are booked directly with the airline(s), there is added flexibility if you need to change the reservation.
Felicity blogs at Fetching Financial Freedom, is on track to “retire” by 30, and recently came into possession of a go pro harness for her golden retriever.
What About You?
What are your tips for saving on vacations? Let us know in the comments! And help your friends out by sharing this post with them!
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