I recently surveyed you, my readers, on a variety of travel related topics to better understand how I could help you make your travel dreams a reality. One question was “Please choose your top 3 frustrations with travel.” The response that tied at number 1 was: Finding the money to afford a trip. Now, I have some ideas on how to save money for travel and how to make travel more affordable, but who better to tell you than a Finance expert (that just so happens to love travel and moves frequently due to that military lifestyle)? So I reached out to Christine from Her Money Moves to get her take on how to make travel more affordable and learned some new things myself.
When I vacation, I want the best possible accommodations and experience, and I want it at the best possible price too. I hate leaving money on the table. Whether I’m going on a vacation to find adventure, seek relaxation, or explore a new culture I want to get make the most out of my budget without breaking my budget.
There’s absolutely no reason to go into debt to take an awesome vacation. These six tried and true tips below will help you take the vacation of your dreams without spending your life savings. Next time you travel, try out a few of these tips to see where you can save some extra dough.
Ways to Save Money on Flights and Hotels
Airlines have been known to change their ticket prices based on your browser search history or if you log into their site with or without your frequent flyer number.
Whenever I’m on the hunt for the best fare, I always search in “incognito mode”, clear out my computer’s cookies/cache, or I search from a different browser. This allows me to search for the best prices without the airline knowing that I want a specific ticket. The incognito mode in Chrome has more uses than you thought.
Leverage Credit Card Rewards Programs
I’m a huge fan of credit cards with travel perks. I use credit cards. I travel. Put them together and I get some wonderful perks. If you travel a lot with the same hotel or airline, go for a branded card. If you’re not stuck on a specific brand, go with a card that will give you great travel perks in general. Make the credit card work for you.
I love my American Express Platinum card (read my review here), like love it. Some of the best perks are the annual $200 travel credit, free access to lounges, instant upgrades and credits with specific travel brands.
Daina flies Southwest a lot, so it makes sense for her to use her Southwest Premier and Plus credit cards to earn mega points and the coveted companion pass (where a designated traveler flies free!). Read about how she did it here!
FYI: Just because I’m using a credit card doesn’t mean that I’m not budgeting and saving for my vacations though. I pay my credit cards off monthly and never pay interest on them. Some people and credit cards just don’t mix. If this is you, then skip right to the next tip!
Know the Baggage Policy
You just found the holy grail of airfares. You can’t believe the deal you got. What a bummer when you figure out that the bags you’re planning to check or carry on are going to cost more than the price of your ticket.
Before you book with an airline, know their baggage policy. Different airlines have different policies on size, weight, and price. Depending on who you fly with, sometimes it’s cheaper to carry-on a bag and sometimes it costs more than checking your luggage. I once paid $75 for my oversized bag on a $30 ticket, it about killed me. Need a recommendation for a tried and true carry-on bag that can handle it all? Check out Daina’s pick for the one she’s taken all over the world.
FYI: Remember to always weigh your baggage before you leave home to avoid paying baggage overage fees.
Ways to Save Money on Accomodations
Skip the hotel and try out a site like AirBnB or VRBO and choose whether you’d like to rent out someone’s sofa, room, or an entire house. Likewise camping, hostel stays, and even home-swaps are other methods where you can be a little adventurous and save some major change too.
When my friends and I were making plans for our reunion trip, we were shocked at how much it was going to cost us to stay in San Diego, and it was only for a weekend! Instead, we rented an AirBnB house, right on the beach. We had tons of space, a kitchen, privacy, beach access, and nobody had to sleep on a pull-out couch. Plus, it ended up being way less than if we would have split hotel rooms.
Off-season travel is an easy way to tighten up your vacation budget without much effort. Many popular destinations often have a high season and a low season for travel.
When we wanted to take a trip to explore Kauai, we were initially shocked by the prices, especially at hotels. We found out that our hotels’ costs would be about a third of the normal prices if we decided to go in the low-season, during early March. We avoided all the winter holiday vacationers, spring breakers, and summer vacationers. The ocean temperatures weren’t quite as warm as I would have liked, but we enjoyed a less expensive and less crowded time on the island.
Find the travel brands that you like the best (or who give you the best perks) and stick with them.
When I can, and especially for business travel, there is a specific hotel chain I always stay with. As I build status with them, they keep pushing me up the tiers of their rewards programs. Aside from the great perks I receive with them like free wifi, 4 pm check-outs, upgraded rooms, and comped meals, I earn points and free stays with them faster. The higher up I get in their rewards program, the faster I earn and that means more free vacations for me each year. I also enjoy all the perks from their “travel partners”. Even though my real status is with a hotel chain, I also enjoy free upgrades with a rental car agency and an airline.
Ways to Save Money at the Destination
Act Like a Local
Get off the beaten path and hang where the locals hang. You’ll avoid tourist traps, borings restaurants and in the process actually get a real glimpse of your destination.
We skipped the hotel luau in Hawaii and walked down to the main road and found ourselves at a dive karaoke bar. We sang, we drank, we learned local slang and we made fast friends. If the place you’re going sells merch, has pictures of the food on the menu, gives you a pager while you wait or you found it from a coupon book in your taxi – stay away, there’s probably a better experience to be had elsewhere.
Eat Like a Local
What are the locals eating? Eat that. It will save you money and will surely be much fresher and tastier than eating the foods you’re used to eating back home.
I love American comfort food just like anyone else but I don’t fly half-way around the world someplace to eat a hamburger and fries. Just like your Mama always said, “how do you know you don’t like it until you try it?”.
What are ways you make travel more affordable? Comment below, we’d love to hear!
Founder of Her Money Moves
Christine Maxwell is an Army wife, mom, and personal finance junkie. She is the founder of Her Money Moves, a blog about personal finances, career, and military lifestyle for military spouses and their families.
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