There’s no greater joy than finally arriving at your dream destination – except for arriving there knowing you’ll have no trouble affording it! And although travel may feel like a luxury only some can fit into their budget, learning how to save money while traveling – and how to save for a vacation in general – can make it accessible to nearly everyone.
So whether you already know exactly where you want to go or are just itching to get on a plane, these 13 ways to save money on vacation will ensure you can enjoy every minute of your trip and won’t dread looking at your bank statements after you get home.
Set a Goal and a Budget
As soon as you decide you want to travel, start preparing. A little research can give you an idea of how much your trip will cost, and how much you’re able to save each paycheck will determine when your trip can happen. Remember: the better you budget, the sooner you can go!
Expert tip: If you’d rather learn how to travel with no money, see if there are any travel opportunities through your job that could pay for your trip entirely!
Track Flight Prices
The more flexible you are on times, airlines, or even destinations, the cheaper your trip will be. Use services like Google Flights or Skyscanner to easily compare different flights and prices, then set price change alerts so you can book as soon as the price is right.
Holidays, spring break, and summer typically drive up the price of traveling. Certain destinations will also have their own busy seasons depending on what attractions folks typically travel there to see. Do your due diligence to determine what time of year will be the least expensive for you to visit. During the off-season, many tourist attractions or hotels may even run specials to encourage people to visit!
Consider a Travel Credit Card
Responsibly using a travel credit card can save you a lot in the long run, so look into options to find the rewards that are right for you. Airlines and hotels will have their own cards with specialty perks, while more generic travel cards can earn you cashback to pay for food and other expenses while you’re away. Just make sure to pay your balance in full every month to avoid spending unnecessary money on interest!
Compare Lodging Options
Hotel or Airbnb? The choice is yours, but consider what you’re looking for in lodging, then price check your options. Will you be spending a lot of time in your room, or do you just need somewhere to sleep and shower? If you really want to save money, hostels can be great options as well. Because less money on accommodations means more money for other fun stuff.
Don’t Forget Anything!
The easiest way to spend a bunch of unnecessary cash during your trip? Forgetting things! So if you’re looking for how to save money on vacation, start by packing everything you need, then double and triple checking you haven’t forgotten anything. Because the most expensive place to buy the worst headphones and neck pillow on the planet is always at the airport.
Oh, Groupon, how we love you. You never know what kind of great experiences you’ll find on the site, and the prices are often unbeatable. Go in with an open mind and start building your itinerary around the great deals in the area. Then secretly laugh at all the people there with you that are probably paying full price!
Ask the Locals
The tourist attractions are popular for a reason, but it’s the places the locals love that will give you the best bang for your buck. Ask locals (on the internet or otherwise) for their top picks on restaurants, grocery stores, and activities. You’ll get the most authentic experience and avoid the tourist tax.
Research Free Attractions
Not everything in the area will cost an arm and a leg, so do some research on local attractions that are either free or cheap. Parks, shopping centers (for window shopping, of course), street fairs, local music, or even an organic walk through nature are just a few options, but you’d be surprised what some cities offer for free to get folks to visit!
Bring or Cook Your Own Food
Nothing will drain your budget faster than going out to eat for every meal. So instead of playing foodie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, consider spending the equivalent of one fancy dinner on a week’s worth of groceries. Some hotels may have kitchenettes, or you can opt for salad or sandwich supplies to avoid cooking altogether. Drinking the disappointing hotel coffee is an optional part of this strategy.
Take Advantage of Lunch Specials
Avoiding restaurants altogether probably isn’t ideal, so instead plan to be strategic about your restaurant meals. Most places will offer lunch menus (or all-you-can-eat buffets, if you’re lucky) so you can try the best food in town at a price that makes your wallet sing. Happy hours during the week have this same benefit, so you can still get the full foodie experience during your trip!
Take Pictures of Your Receipts
No matter what tricks you have up your sleeve, traveling ultimately means you’re going to spend money. And if you have to spend it, you deserve to make the most of it! Apps like Receipt Hog will give you cash back on any purchases you make – and all you have to do is snap a photo of your receipt!
To make traveling on a budget even easier, Receipt Hog will also store your receipts, making it easier to keep track of your purchases throughout the day and plan for what you’ll spend tomorrow. And if you do end up with buyer’s remorse after getting talked into that souvenir you definitely didn’t need, you can pull up the receipt for easy returns as well.
So before you hop on that plane to fly far, far away from all of your financial worries, download Receipt Hog from the App Store or Google Play Store so they don’t catch up with you when you get back. Happy traveling!