Yesterday, I posted about wrapping up a long weekend of swimming and mentioned how expensive those swim trips can be. Today, I wanted to share a few tips to save money traveling.
When traveling, there are five primary expense areas:
1/ Getting there
2/ Getting around
3/ A place to stay
Often, one of the most significant expense items when traveling is the cost of getting there. But if you’re willing to work a little and be flexible, you can still save money traveling.
The cost to get where you’re going comes down to time vs money. Typically, the less expensive the form of transportation, the longer it will take to get where you’re going.
Most likely, you’re either flying, driving, taking a train, or taking a bus.
Flying gets you there quickest unless there are significant delays. But flying limits your flexibility – what you can carry, travel times, airport waiting, and more. You’ll also need to figure out how to get around when you arrive at your destination.
If you do decide to fly, remember your costs are a factor of both when you buy and when you fly.
First, book in advance. Unless you want to pay full fare, booking at least two weeks prior to travel is a necessity. But two weeks isn’t nearly enough advance time if you’re going somewhere popular. For instance, when booking trips to south Florida, especially around spring break, we often book six months or more in advance.
Also, traveling on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are often less expensive than other days. Monday is a big day for business travel and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are big days for leisure travel. Try to avoid those days to save money traveling.
And if you can travel during off times of the year, you’ll save even more. Traveling to Disney World the first week in December is much less expensive than traveling around the Christmas holiday.
Also, because airfare can be expensive, look for ways to save. Use credit card rewards or frequent flyer miles whenever possible. I traveled so much in my prior job that we haven’t paid for a domestic flight in over 5 years.
If you decide to drive to your destination, getting around while you’re there is covered. But otherwise, you’ll need a form of transportation to get around your destination.
Public transportation such as buses, trains, and taxis will work. Uber and other ride-sharing options are increasingly popular. Or you can rent a car for even more flexibility.
There is more room for negotiation when renting a car than any other travel expense area. If you’re a big guy like me, renting a tiny economy car isn’t going to work for you. You’ll probably need an intermediate if not a full-size car, especially if you will be driving the family around.
When you arrive, make sure to ask if there are any upgrades or specials going on. Rental car agents have a significant amount of discretion with respect to the cars they rent and for how much. Don’t be afraid to haggle.
A Place to Stay
Your choice of where to stay can have a big impact on the overall cost of your trip.
In our case, we almost always stay somewhere with a kitchen. We prefer to make most of our own meals. We also typically want more room than is found in a typical hotel room.
Also, factor in where you’ll be going. Staying far away to save money is fine as long as you don’t mind spending money on gas and time driving from place to place.
And be sure to check out any added fees – resort fees, parking fees, extra taxes, etc. Hotels are famous for massive amounts of upcharging.
So much socialization revolves around meals, it’s no surprise that the world is getter fatter.
Have you ever been on vacation eating breakfast talking about where you will be going for lunch that day? Our lives focus on meals and the time in between them.
So when you’re traveling, the cost of meals can quickly and easily get out of hand.
Again, your choice of where you stay impacts meal cost. Eating three meals out every day is very expensive. I would prefer to save money by cooking and save eating meals out for special occasions.
Finding unique local restaurants can be a great experience adding to the fond memories of your trip. Utilize resources such as Yelp and Google to find highly-rated places that will create lasting memories.
Most of our entertainment on this trip was sitting poolside watching out kids. But that’s not always the case.
My recommendation is find forms of entertainment that you cannot get at home. For example, I’ve never understood why people go to the movies when they’re on vacation. Can’t you just as easily go to a movie back home? Instead, find something unique in whatever city, state, or country you’re visiting.
A great form of free entertainment is walking the area.Whether you go on a nature hike or hit the urban jungle, seeing an area on foot (or by bike) is a great way to connect with locals.
The key to save money traveling is planning. What is it you’re looking to accomplish with this trip? It’s when you’re sitting around with nothing to do that spending money suddenly becomes more attractive. Instead, make sure to plan out your activities. You can leave some open time for spontaneity, but have an idea of what you might want to do during those times.
Readers, have you made any recent trips? In addition to other ways to save money traveling, I would love to hear some destination recommendations from folks.
Jim @ Route To Retire says
We’re actually in the middle of planning a big trip to Panama this summer and I’m quickly learning how some of the costs of travel can quickly add up on an international trip. We’ve already booked the lodging at two different places across the country. We ended up booking some wonderful places right on the beach for 3-room condos for just over $100/night. That part’s awesome and a good deal, especially since we’re actually splitting the place (and cost) with my brother and his wife.
We’re also going to try to eat and live like the locals so that should help keep the costs down as well.
However, now we’re learning that 1-3 vaccines needed aren’t covered by insurance and can be about $100/each (and we need them for me, my wife, and daughter). The flight, which we haven’t booked yet, is also ridiculous.
The one tip I’d add to your list is to use Kayak for tracking flight prices. Their site will email you every day and let you know how the price of the flight you’re looking at is doing. For our flight, I’m just hoping we get an email saying it’s dropped dramatically or this is going to be one pricey trip!!
— JimView Comment
Financial Slacker says
I’ve never been to Panama. I can’t wait to hear how it is.
I haven’t used Kayak but I’ll check it out.
Another resoruces for hotels is hotels.com. In my previous corporate role, I used the site for almost all of my travel.
Martin - Get FIRE'd asap says
Every one of my trips is preceded by significant least-cost planning. If you’re travelling across country by yourself, often flying is cheapest especially if you’re not relying on having a car at the other end. If there’s a group or family, unfortunately, four wheels is usually cheapest although that does give you the opportunity to break the trip up and do some sightseeing along the way doesn’t it.
And definitely, having a kitchen will keep those costs down even if you have to pay a little more for the accommodation. Eating out whether at home or away costs the same so if you can’t afford to eat out for every meal at home, you sure can’t while you’re away.
And spot on with avoiding buying anything from your hotel. It will cost at least 100% more than if you buy it at a local store. I always empty the mini bar fridge into a drawer and stock up with my local bought beverage requirements. Great work there from Frugal Traveller/Financial Slacker.View Comment
Financial Slacker says
Having to buy airfare for the entire family is a big reason most of our travel has involved going places where we can use frequent flyer miles. When we look at buying tickets for everyone, it pretty much eats away the travel budget.