How to Save Money on Travel
Traveling is something on almost everyone’s bucket list, with even more specifics like zip lining over a jungle, climbing the world’s tallest mountain or visiting every baseball stadium in the country. But let’s face it, traveling is expensive and putting together the trip of a lifetime can seem out of reach. It doesn’t need to be though, and with our tips we share below, you can save money on everything from your car rental to your accommodations to your food and fun event.
Some people put together a budget using a tax return, while others finance it on a credit card or deposit a certain amount of money into an account each month in advance. However you do it, you’ll want to be sure you track all of your possible expenditures ahead of time so you don’t end up running out of money before you get home. There are many apps you can put on your mobile devices to allow for budgeting, or there’s even the old-school spreadsheet to tally your estimate costs. (And then add 5-10% to account for unforeseen changes.) Don’t forget to figure in tips for all your help along the way! They add up quickly and frequently need to be paid in cash, so plan ahead to have dollar bills and bills smaller than twenties on hand.
If you’re booking a flight, use a comparison shopping website to get your best rate. It may mean flying at an odd time of day or flying a day earlier or later than you intended, but be flexible when scheduling and you may see a big decrease in your cost. Some experts have suggested that purchasing your airline ticket on a Tuesday around 3pm, when airlines update their rates.
Talk to a travel agent. While they do get paid for their services, they can frequently get a package deal set up for you that saves you enough money to make it worth it, and you’ll still come out ahead for both time and budget.
Consider alternate methods of transportation. Taking a road trip might be cheaper than flying, and the things you can do along the way just make your memories that much better. If time is of the essence, this may not be realistic, particularly if your destination is extremely far away, but even if you have to rent a car, this can be cheaper than flying everyone and you don’t have to worry about packing everything into a carry-on or paying extra luggage fees at airline check-in time. Even a train can be less expensive and provide you the opportunity to be able to walk around and view the scenery while getting to your destination.
Hotel aggregation and comparison sites are wonderful to help you narrow down your choice — and may very well have the best rates — but it’s not a bad idea to give the hotel a call directly. They will often be able to match or beat the rate, and sometimes it’s easier to ask questions when you’re talking to them directly.
Some studies have shown that rooms are the cheapest if you book four to five weeks in advance, so plan ahead if you can, but if not, sometimes hotels will have remaining rooms available, or cancellations and they’ll want to fill them up. This means you’ll get a really good rate if you call at the right time, so don’t give up if you want to plan a last-minute trip and haven’t found your hotel yet!
If you travel via car, it can save you money to pack some of your food on the road and put it in the trunk of your rental car. Even buying a portable cooler can help make your road trip more affordable by saving the cost of fast foods and restaurant meals. Recycle the cooler before you head back to drop off the rental car at the airport and you’ll still be ahead of your budget.
When looking at apps for your accommodations and travel itself, check out some of the deal apps. If you don’t want to load up your phone, you can also find many deal sites online where you can search for discount codes. Even a Google search will help yield codes to apply at time of online purchase for tickets to events, and don’t forget Groupon! There can be limitations so read the fine print, especially expiration dates. Visit our Deals page to check out coupons for rentals, which change frequently so there's always something available to help you save money on your rental car.
However you pay for your travel, sometimes it’s worth spending a little extra to make things go more smoothly. Close airports may not always be the cheapest but the ease of getting to and from the airport – and less worry about traffic delays – may be worth the cost. And above all, enjoy your trip!
Have some suggestions on where else you can save money? Let us know, we’d love to feature your ideas and recommendations!