Traveling is high on almost everyone’s list of dream activities, but it can be easy to be overwhelmed by the cost of vacationing. However, by saving diligently and researching ways to reduce the cost of travel, you can stretch your budget further, enjoy more attractions, and save for your next trip more quickly. Smart planning, creative solutions, and skipping on luxury accommodations are just a few of the ways that you can reduce your vacation spending.
7. Travel in the Off-Season
Traveling in the off-season can save you money and allow you to enjoy your vacation without huge crowds.
For many popular tourist destinations, summer is the busiest season. Favorable weather and school breaks drive millions of people to travel during the summer. Prices for events, accommodations, and travel are several times higher during the peak season — even some restaurants may charge more during busy times. Planning your trip well in advance will allow you to take time off from school and work to take advantage of off-season travel. You may need to contend with less favorable weather if you travel during the off-season, but you’ll enjoy lighter crowds and lower prices.
However, before you book your travel, make sure that you research travel patterns at your destination rather than blindly assuming that November or January will be the lightest times. Seasonal patterns are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere, so you may need to reverse your expectations if you’re traveling to someplace like Australia or New Zealand. In addition, some places actually experience heavier traffic during the traditional off-season. Miami, New York City, and Las Vegas are a few places that still experience heavy crowds and high prices during the cooler months.
6. Set a Budget
If you don’t have a plan, it’s more difficult to set aside money appropriately. Decide on what you’d like to do early so that you can research as many of the costs as possible before you start saving. Travel and accommodations are the most obvious expenses, but don’t forget about all the other expenses that you’ll accrue while traveling. Food costs, admission fees, and souvenirs are other expenses that you should budget for. Also, roaming plans for your smartphone should be a part of your budget.
Include cost overruns and emergency spending when setting your budget. Unexpected expenses are a fact of life, and that won’t change just because you’re on vacation. Including the unexpected in your budget will leave you better prepared if an emergency does come up while you travel. If you don’t end up using these emergency funds, you can roll them over to give yourself a leg up on saving for your next trip.
5. Make a Savings Plan
Once you have a budget, you can make a plan to start saving for your travel. Be sure to put away money at regular intervals, so you’ll always be making progress towards your goal. Sticking to your plan will allow you to take advantage of early booking; if you know that you’ll always be putting away the same amount each month, you can book your travel and accommodations when you find a good deal without worrying that you won’t have enough in your budget when it’s time to travel.
If you receive an unexpected windfall, rolling some of that money into your travel budget can accelerate your plans or allow you to upgrade your experience while you travel. However, you shouldn’t rely on windfalls to get you to your goal. Reducing your daily expenses, such as bringing a lunch to work or opting for cheaper entertainment, are more reliable ways to cut your daily expenses and increase the amount of money you can devote to your travel budget.
4. Take Advantage of the Gig Economy
You can earn extra money for your trip without picking up a second job. The gig economy offers a number of ways to earn money on the side without the commitment that a second job often requires. If you have a car, you can use Uber or Lyft to earn money giving rides when you’re not otherwise engaged. You can also earn extra money on platforms like Etsy or Fiverr, especially if you have any special skills. You won’t get rich dipping your toes into the gig economy, but you can easily earn enough to supplement your vacation savings and accelerate your plans.
3. Stay in an Apartment or House
The costs of staying in a hotel with a large family group can be enormous, especially if you need to rent multiple rooms. Fortunately, renting an apartment or a house is a viable option that gives you more access to the comforts of home at a more affordable price. These accommodations often come stocked with everything you could need, including board games, basic cooking supplies, and laundry machines. Short-term rentals are an especially good option if you’re traveling with your extended family and can split the cost multiple ways.
2. Search Early for Deals
Waiting until the last minute to buy airline tickets can be a costly mistake. Start your search months before your trip to find good deals for your travel and accommodations. Many travel websites allow you to set up alerts when cheap rates are available to your favorite destinations. Being flexible with your travel plans can also save money. For example, flights with layovers are sometimes cheaper than direct flights.
The days of the week can also make a difference. Flights in the middle of the week are often cheaper than those on the weekend. Hotels also frequently offer discounts to fill up their rooms in the middle of the week.
1. Don’t Forget About Reward Points
Many airlines and hotels allow you to use reward points to pay for your flights and accommodations. Take advantage of reward point promos to maximize your points and miles.
To start, make sure to use a credit card that gives you points for your spending. Even if these cards carry an annual fee of some type, the rewards you accrue may justify the fee. Merchants and brands may also offer reward promos that you can exploit to earn more points.
Finally, if you travel for work, don’t forget to sign up for reward programs. Your professional travels may end up earning you enough points to pay for your personal travels.