We’ve all asked the question: How do I save money while on vacation? The standard responses we get are: “Visit somewhere where the American dollar goes far,” or “Travel during the off-season.” But let’s discuss some other ways to save money when traveling. The suggestions below might just be your ticket to having a fantastic holiday without spending a lot of money.
Price match, even if it isn’t technically offered.
Sites like Expedia, Orbitz, and Kayak have dramatically changed the world of travel, and they have seriously pissed off hotel chains and airlines. Nowadays, most companies offer price-matching or other goodies for booking directly on their site. Always be sure to take advantage of it, even if it isn’t technically offered. I’ve had times where I’ve found a better price on Orbitz and simply called the hotel 1-800 number, telling them I found a better deal. Chances are, they’d love to take the sale from one of the online aggregates. By booking on the site directly, you can usually gain more points, get a better chance for upgrades, or get breakfast thrown in.
Think before you buy
It’s really tempting to jump and book the cheapest flight you find. But remember, the upfront cost you see is very deceiving. For example, If a Spirit flight is $40 dollars cheaper than a Delta flight, keep in mind that Spirit doesn’t only charge for bags, but they charge for carry-ons too. They also don’t serve snacks onboard, so you’ll have to spend money in the airport or bring your own. Don’t be fooled by the sticker price!
Another example is in New York City. A flight landing in Newark might be cheaper than a flight landing in JFK or LaGuardia. But keep in mind, NYC taxis have a flat rate to JFK, whereas taxi rides and Ubers from Newark can skyrocket to $100 or more. Doing a little research before booking your travel can lead to excellent savings.
Don’t be afraid to book the cheaper hotel
I know, I know… You really wanted to stay at the Four Seasons. You wanted that glass tile shower that fits ten people and the toilet with the bidet. But ask yourself this… How much time will you actually spend in your hotel room? Did you fly all the way from Denver to Tokyo just to sit on your toilet? No, I didn’t think so. If it’s a sturdy structure with a bed and a bathroom, then you will be just fine, and you’ll save literally hundreds of dollars per night.
Or, if you do splurge, then make the most of it!
If you do spend money on a nice resort, then be sure you use it! So many people book nice hotels and then head out and explore and do activities outside of the hotel, which only costs more money. If you spent all that money on a nice resort with the great fitness center, the numerous pools, the cabanas, the manicured walkways, and the private beach, then use it! There’s no shame in taking a day where you don’t leave the hotel.
Choose cheap local food over that fancy restaurant
The hole in the wall, the greasy spoon, even street food. You don’t need to eat overpriced food to eat good food. In fact, in my experience of life, the best tasting food is rarely ever at the fancy places. The other problem with high-priced restaurants is that they’re pretty much designed for the upper-class residents and tourists alone. You want good food? You want to go where the locals go? You want to save money? You know what to do…eat local and support the small businesses.
Skip the tour and go for a walk
It’s true, if you don’t take that guided bus or walking tour, you’ll miss out on that really crowded tourist trap, and that super crowded fountain that all the tourists take photos of, and that one historical site that’s now being ruined by how many tourists are there. A great way to save money and enjoy a destination is to explore on your own. Accidentally wander into a wonderful cafe. Get lost and improve your language skills by asking a local for directions, or wind up somewhere you never thought you’d ever be. 100% true story for you: One time, when I was wandering the streets of Hangzhou,China, I accidentally stumbled into a cave full of female monks surrounded by candles who were performing a ceremony. No joke. That’s travel. And it was completely free!
Christmas and birthday gifts!
Pretty much every airline, hotel chain, and restaurant brand offers gift cards now. This year, ask for the gift of travel. It can really help you save a lot when it comes time to take your trip! You can even ask for gift cards to group travel organizations like Sierra Club Outings or Outward Bound… Or, I suppose you could always unwrap another pair of socks.