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The Backyard Blog

Unique take on popular topics, useful resources and financial advice by renowned writers, specialized experts and experienced bloggers.


December 21st, 2015

101 Ways To Save Money On Travel

Travel is a great luxury. Who doesn’t love visiting new destinations, experiencing new cultures, and getting in plenty of fun, relaxing downtime? There is one distinct disadvantage to travel, though: it can be wildly expensive. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to save money on travel costs while maintaining the quality of your . Read on for over 100 ways to trim your travel expenses and get the most vacation for your bucks.

Choosing a Destination:

1. Rather than picking a specific place to visit, pick the type of vacation you want to have, and then look for a low-priced option. For example, if you want an island beach getaway, you could spend a lot and visit Hawaii, or you could spend a lot less and check out Puerto Rico.

2. Flying standby is often a cheaper alternative to flying to a specific destination. If you can be flexible and open to adventure, this is a fun way to save on airfare.

3. Cruises can often be a good deal for a week away. The key to paying the lowest prices is to book them far in advance (like, more than six months) or at the very last minute.

4. Save on the cost of getting there by not going very far. Pick the nearest city or interesting destination and go exploring near home.

5. Travel off-season for lower rates (and smaller crowds). For example, a visit to Florida in June costs significantly less than January.

6. Choose destinations that are somewhat less famous or popular than nearby hotspots. For example, New York City is great, but it’s not cheap. Try nearby destinations in New Jersey, like Atlantic City or the smaller towns along the shore, to save a few bucks.

7. If you’re going overseas, make sure the exchange rate at your destination is in your favor to avoid overpaying for just about everything.

Packing Up:

8. Be sure to carefully consider what you might need, as forgetting something can cost you. Forget toothpaste, and it’s probably not a big deal, but forget a warm jacket, and you may find yourself with an unexpected charge to stay warm.

9. Most airlines charge for checked backs, with extra charges for bags that weigh more than 50 pounds. Pack light to avoid extra fees, and wear your heaviest clothes rather than stuffing them in your already heavy suitcase.

10. Invest in lightweight luggage. There are full-sized suitcases that weigh as little as three or four pounds! This helps ensure that you pay for your stuff and not your baggage.

11. Most airlines allow passengers to carry on two bags for free, so take advantage of this. If you’re traveling for just a few days (or even a week to a warm destination), you may be able to get all your stuff in a carry-on and avoid checked bag fees altogether.

12. Reading on vacation is great, but lighten your load by using e-books instead of paperbacks or heavy hardcovers. Plus, most e-readers double as a tablet for internet surfing when wi-fi is available.

Getting There:

13. If you can, start tracking flights a few months before you’re ready to book. Then, pounce on low fares when you find them.

14. Be flexible when it comes to airports. If you’re departing from or arriving in a city with multiple airports, try all your options, including coming and going from different airports.

15. Many travel discount sites offer great deals if you book your hotel and flight together. Check the math to see if you can save some money by doing this.

16. If you’re buying just a plane ticket, check the airline’s site, as many guarantee the lowest fares for their tickets.

17. Use a website like to indicate exactly what you’re willing to pay. You might have to put up with a connecting flight or an odd flight time, but you can save a lot of money this way.

18. Connecting flights can often be cheaper than direct flights. If you have the luxury of time, adding an extra take-off and landing can add up to big savings.

19. Airfares are often lowest when booked mid-week. Check Tuesday afternoons or Wednesday mornings for flights rather than Fridays or Saturdays.

20. Fly a red eye! Not only are overnight flights often less expensive than daylight ones, but the airports are less crowded, and you won’t have to pay for a hotel room for that night.

21. Fly the first flight of the day. It may be early, but pre-dawn flights can be harder for airlines to fill, so they cost less. You also decrease your odds of a flight delay because of backed-up air traffic.

22. Fly in the middle of the week instead of Friday through Monday.

23. You’re going to get hungry when you travel. Bring your own food for snacks en route instead of paying high prices for buying them on site.

24. It may be tempting, but don’t pay for drinks on a plane. You’ll pay a hefty premium for that.

25. Look into getting an airline-backed credit card. You can often get a lot of frequent flyer miles just for signing up — sometimes enough to cover your entire ticket

26. Consider taking the train. If you have the time, it’s almost always cheaper.

27. Have lots of time and not a lot of money? Try taking a bus.

28. If your car is reliable and efficient, and if it’s possible to do with your destination, driving yourself may be your cheapest and most convenient option

Staying There:

29. Instead of a hotel, look into a VRBO, or Vacation Rental By Owner, home or apartment. These are often the same price as hotels, but with more room and better amenities.

30. Consider an Airbnb accommodation. These are rooms and dwellings rented out by local people, often for much less than a hotel room.

31. For free lodging, consider Couchsurfing, a hospitality exchange community of members who offer travelers a free place to crash.

32. For hotels, stay a block off the main drag, or even in the next town, and pay much less for your room.

33. Go bare bones with hotel services. If all you need is a clean bed and a shower, try to avoid places that offer enormous pools, spas, and other services that you probably won’t use.

34. Look into smaller, independently owned motels instead of large national chains. They often cost less.

35. If you have the option, you can save money on accommodations by agreeing to use a shared bathroom down the hall rather than a private one.

36. Bed & Breakfasts are warm, cozy, and can be a great deal. They are often the same price as a hotel room, but with a great breakfast included. Plus, many include coffee and tea throughout the day and leave snacks out for guests, which can save you a lot in meal costs.

37. Try staying at a hostel. They’re low-frills and cheap, but you get a clean bed and a place to wash up. Once an option only for the young, some hostels now don’t have age limits, so they’re open to everyone.

38. Book a hotel room at the very last minute. Apps like Hotel Tonight offer amazing deals if you book the morning of your stay.
39. Book an inexpensive room, and then when you check in, ask if you qualify for a free upgrade. It never hurts to ask, and the worst they can tell you is no.

40. Go camping! For a nominal site fee, you can stretch out and sleep in the fresh air under the stars.

41. If you plan on driving to your destination, look into renting an RV. You’ll always have your bed just a few steps away.

Eating There:

42. Coffee shops are great, but a few bucks a day for a cuppa joe can really add up. Make your own coffee in your room or rental to save money.

43. Eat your big meal at lunch time. Restaurants often jack up prices during the dinner hour, but lunch portions can be just as hearty and cost significantly less.

44. Instead of eating three meals a day, try just two: brunch and an early dinner. Not only will you save by not paying for a third meal, but lots of restaurants offer discounts for dining on the early side at dinner time.

45. Try ethnic cuisine: it’s often cheaper than more high-end places.

46. Wherever you eat, order the daily special. It’s often a lot of food for less money than menu entrees.

47. If you’re in a non-English speaking country, avoid restaurants that cater to English-speaking tourists. Instead, try the local cuisine made by folks who many not speak English, and consider the language barrier a delicious challenge.

48. Scope out the cheaper options near you, including the unconventional ones. An upscale Mexican restaurant may look like a tasty option, but the taco shack around the corner might have similar food for much less.

49. Eat street meat! Street food is enjoying a Renaissance in many parts of the world, and for good reason: it’s amazing regional food that usually doesn’t cost much.

50. Make up a picnic. Twenty bucks at a nearby grocery store can typically get you enough food for a great meal on the go.

51. If you have lodging with a kitchen, eat in at least one meal per day. Even if it’s just simple sandwiches for lunch or bowls of oatmeal for breakfast, this can save you a lot.

52. Try to find a hotel that offers free breakfast for guests, and take advantage of the spread.

53. Don’t eat breakfast at the hotel if it’s not included in the price of the room. These restaurants are often overpriced and not very exceptional.

54. If you’re in a hotel, try to get a room with a refrigerator, or bring a cooler. This gives you a place to stash restaurant leftovers, which you can use for another meal.

55. Buy snacks, bottles of water, and small items at a local grocery store rather than at more expensive hotel shops or tourist destinations.

56. Instead of drinking at bars or restaurants, buy a bottle of wine, a six pack of local beer, or some liquor and a mixer at the grocery store, and enjoy them in your room.

57. Visit a local farmer’s market for good food at fair prices. As an added bonus, you’ll be supporting the farmers and local economy where you’re staying.

58. If you’re on a cruise, skip the added-charge restaurants on board. Instead, stick to the food that’s included with your fare, which is often fantastic and plentiful.

59. Also on cruises, if you plan to drink, consider buying a package that lets you drink a certain amount (or an unlimited amount) at a discount, rather than paying for each drink individually.

Getting Around There:

60. Walk! It’s easy and free.

61. Rent a bike, or, if you can, bring your own.

62. Avoid taking a taxi if you can. It’s the most expensive way to get around any city.

63. If you absolutely need to take a taxi, find another traveler or group headed in the same direction, then split the fare.

64. If you’ll be renting a car, look for discounts and coupons a few weeks ahead of time.

65. Rent the smallest car that will suit your needs. Not only will the rental fee be lower, but you’ll almost always use less gas too.

66. When you’re renting a car, use a credit card that will cover your insurance. You will want to look into this before your trip, but it’s good to know that many credit cards include insurance on rental cars. Chances are high that there’s one in your wallet.

67. Return rental cars full of gas. Companies charge a premium for filling up any tanks that aren’t topped off.

68. Avoid renting a car, and instead, look into public transportation. Get maps, figure out your routes, and save a lot of money on simply getting around.

69. If you’re taking the train on a multiple-city trip, check to see if a rail pass is cheaper than single destination tickets.

70. Don’t go first class on the train. Sure, the lower class cars are a bit less cushy, but you’ll get to your destination just the same for a lot less money.

71. If you’re on a cruise, pay attention to the cost of off-boat excursions. Leaving the ship to explore a port city is often free, but prime excursions to more high-end destinations can run up your bill quickly.

72. Use guidebook-type websites and borrow guidebooks from your local library to scope out great deals at your destination.

73. Skip the tourist traps, like overpriced wax museums and large expensive theme parks.

74. Natural attractions are often inexpensive, and many or free. Check out local beaches and lakes, go hiking in the mountains, or walk along trails.

75. Visit National Parks. A National Park pass is only $20 per year (or $10 for one week), and it gives you access to tons of great things to do and explore.

76. Sporting events are fun, but going to see a professional one is expensive. Instead, go see minor league games for inexpensive, family-friendly fun.

77. Look for and take advantage of free tours in big cities.

78. If you’ve got the kids in tow, playgrounds are fun and almost always free.

79. Many big cities have museum passes that allow you to visit multiple places for a single fee that’s less than buying an individual admission to each place.

80. Look for free hours (or days) at places like museums, amusement parks, zoos, and other attractions. Many are free and open to the public for a few hours one night per week; make that your time to visit.

81. If the weather’s agreeable, and your hotel offers a good pool, don’t underestimate the relaxation and cost-saving value of a few hours lounging poolside with a good book.

82. If you’re in a casino-filled destination, figure out ahead of time how much you can safely gamble, and then stick to it. Casinos can drain your wallet before you even know what hit you.

Souvenirs and Such:

83. If you’re out of the country, hit the duty free shop for low prices on all types of goods.

84. Avoid shopping in places that cater to tourists, as their prices are often marked up.

85. If you’re shopping in another country, you can often apply to get some or all of your sales tax back.

86. Outlet malls are everywhere, and they can be a fun destination in and of themselves. See if there are any nearby, and take advantage of their lower prices on all kinds of items.

87. When shopping at outdoor markets with local artisans, don’t be afraid to bargain and negotiate.

88. Buy things that are small and practical; remember that you have to bring it back with you. That three-foot, locally-made glass sculpture may be beautiful, but the cost to get it home may not be worth it.

A Few Other Tips:

89. Make a budget. Stick to it.

90. Keep a running list of what you spend each day and review it each night, thinking of ways to spend smarter the next day.

91. If you need to withdraw money from an ATM, avoid paying as few fees as possible by taking out large amounts rather than many small amounts.

92. Take advantage of free wi-fi where you can! Many hotels, coffee shops, and restaurants allow you to get online without paying for it.

93. Watch the school calendar, and if you can, travel when classes are in session. All aspects of travel are almost always more expensive during school vacation weeks.

94. Always ask if you qualify for any discounts. You might save money by being a student, senior, AAA member, or military personnel.

95. Take advantage of frequent flyer and frequent traveler programs, especially if you travel for work. Your time on the road for work can potentially equal free or discounted flights and hotel rooms on vacation.

96. If you use a credit card that offers a points or rewards program, see if you can use it toward your travel expenses.

97. Look into travel deals available via sites like Groupon and LivingSocial.

98. Sign up for email lists from your favorite hotels, airlines, and more. You’ll be the first to know about upcoming sales, discounts, and anything else that can save you money.

99. Work or volunteer in exchange for free accommodations, travel costs, and more. Options include house sitting, working on a farm or ranch, and more.

100. Remember that cash is king. Many times, if you have cash in hand, you can negotiate a lower price on most things.

101. Keep in mind that it never hurts to ask for a lower price on anything.


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