This post is about how to save money traveling and how to travel on a budget. Learn how to make a travel budget and where to find the best travel deals and discounts to stretch your dollar and have an amazing trip! Updated: August 21, 2016.
About five years ago when I was 20 and in college, three friends and I decided to go to Panama City Beach, Florida for spring break. Without hesitation, we instantly went online and in minutes booked a hotel on the beach for 7 nights. A few weeks later we all piled into a car and made the 20 plus hour drive from Wisconsin. We had a blast partying on the beach and getting kicked out of clubs. The trip was really cheap too. The entire trip including gas, food, the hotel stay, alcohol, and everything else cost me just over $500!
A year later when I was 21, we decided to go to Vegas for spring break. The only thing was spring break had already started and we left the same day we booked our hotel and flight. An extremely impulsive last minute trip and a very cheap one as well. Including everything, food, alcohol, the flight there and back, and our hotel for 3 nights on the stripe had only cost around $300!
It was insanely cheap and I’m not sure how we managed to swing that, considering we booked everything only hours before we left. Also, back then we were more concerned about partying than hitting the slot machines or blackjack tables, otherwise I’m sure I would have spent much more than $300 on that trip.
Everyone needs a vacation now and then. A chance to get away from everyday life, a change of scenery, to meet new people, and experience different cultures. Unfortunately, a lot of people think traveling is expensive but truthfully it really isn’t, or at least it doesn’t have to be. There are so many different resources to use and options to choose from, (thanks to the internet) that traveling or taking a vacation can be done cheaply without blowing your budget.
It’s quick and easy to find cheap deals, whether you want to travel domestically or to another country. You can use companies like Priceline (Priceline.com), Hotwire (Hotwire.com), OneTravel (OneTravel.com), and TripAdvisor (Tripadvisor.com) to compare and find the best prices on hotels, fights, car rentals, and even restaurants.
1. Know Your Travel Budget!
This article is about being able to travel for “cheap” and on a “budget”. Traveling on a budget works best when you have a budget and know what your budget is. I know budgets are unexciting and boring, but the benefits are worth it. If you already made a budget for traveling, great! If not, just download our free “Travel Budget Worksheet” below and fill it in!
Download Our FREE “Travel Budget Worksheet” by Clicking the Link Below!
While you’re having fun and getting caught in all the excitement of traveling and seeing new things, it’s easy to lose track of your spending. Avoid this by monitoring and tracking all of your spending online and from your smartphone by signing up for a free account with Personal Capital.
You’ll be able to link any credit cards, bank accounts, or other accounts you plan to use while on vacation and traveling. Periodically sign in to your account from a computer or smartphone and monitor how much you’ve spent, that’s it! You can also schedule it to send you email alerts. Create an account by going to PersonalCapital.com, then it will walk you through the steps to sign up for your free account and have you fill in your information.
2. Don’t Overpay for Airfare!
If you plan on flying make sure you compare prices from competitors. Check the price of fares regularly and sign up to receive email alerts whenever a price change occurs. Bookmark and use these sites: Hotwire.com, Priceline.com, and OneTravel.com.
3. Beware of Discount Airlines!
Many times you can find cheap one way flight tickets from discount airlines but watch out for hidden fees. Discount airlines have been known for luring customers in with cheap flight tickets, but then charge insanely high baggage and carry-on fees.
Discount airlines generally don’t allow you to pick your seating. So you may not get to sit with the person you’re flying with. You won’t get a “complementary” cookie or refreshments and have less leg room with a discount airline than you would with a full-service airline.
4. Compare Rates & Reserve Airport Parking in Advance
Become more efficient and save yourself money by comparing the best airport parking rates and reserving a parking spot in advance! AboutAirportParking.com can really simplify your life and save you money in the process (which your budget will love!), by finding the best deal on airport parking and reserving your spot in advance.
5. Don’t Overpay for Travelers Insurance!
It’s always a good idea to protect yourself when traveling by having some type of insurance, especially when traveling to foreign countries and overseas. The unexpected happens and not having any insurance to protect yourself will not only ruin your trip, it can also be expensive — killing your budget.
When Travel Insurance is a Good Idea. It’s always a good idea to have travel insurance anytime you travel. It’s especially important if you’re leaving the country to travel to foreign countries or overseas!
Travelexinsurance.com offers travel insurance that can cover unexpected things like flight delays, trip cancellations, lost or stolen luggage, medical expenses, and emergency transportation whether you’re traveling domestically or overseas. Travelex also has 24-hour travel assistance and concierge services you can use encase anything should happen to you on your trip.
6. Drive if Possible!
You can save money by taking advantage of the low price of gas by driving. Make it a family road trip or gather up some friends to go with you and have them pitch in for gas.
- Monitor your Gas. Use TripAdvisor.com‘s “Tank of Gas” tool by telling it where you are and how much gas you plan to use (half tank, quarter tank, etc.), and it’ll let you know of any destinations you’ll be able to reach.
- Can’t think of a destination? A very affordable and scenic option is to go check out a national park. You could camp or just go for the day. You can find a national park near by going to nps.gov.
7. Find a Hotel that Won’t Break Your Budget!
Staying in a hotel can be very affordable and easy on your budget. Never pay the regular rate for a hotel room, instead use websites like Hotels.com and Booking.com to compare prices. You can also try calling a hotel you wish to stay at to try negotiating a lower price in agreement for staying a certain number of nights.
Where to Compare Hotel Prices:
Rent a Vacation Home. Staying in a hotel isn’t for everyone. A vacation home offers more space, comfort, privacy, and amenities than a hotel. Vacation homes are surprising inexpensive. Sometimes cheaper than a hotel, especially if you plan on staying awhile. You can compare and find great rates on vacation homes at TripAdvisor.com. You can search for condos, full home rentals, beach rentals, villas, cottages, or cabins in a 190 different counties!
8. Don’t Blow Your Budget on Cab fare!
If you flew and didn’t take a vehicle on your trip, you’ll have to figure out how you’re going to get around when you arrive at your destination. To save money avoid taking a taxi as much as possible. Instead, consider taking public transportation like the city bus, subway, or a train to get around.
Rent a vehicle. Renting a vehicle is also very affordable and cost much less than most people think. It’s easier to explore your destination and you’ll have more freedom to come and go without relying on public transportation. Priceline.com allows you to pick your desired price, location, and type of car.
Find the Best Deal on a Rental Vehicle:
9. Eat at the Best Restaurants without Hurting Your Pocket Book!
Dinning out while traveling can be really expensive, but you don’t have to sacrifice good food to save a buck. Instead use TripAdvisor.com to find the best deals at great restaurants in your area by comparing and reading the restaurant reviews.
10. Get a Steep Discount on a Cruise!
You can get great deals on cruises during “low” peak times when business is slow. Your best chances at getting a deal is September – November (hurricane season), the first two weeks of December (pre-holiday season), and during the first two weeks of January. Use Priceline.com to find the best deal on a cruise.
11. Go Camping for FREE!
Go camping for cheap or even free. Enjoy nature and the fresh air. Camping can also be a great bonding experience for a family or a group of friends. Campfires are a must when camping. You can also fish, find good biking trails, swim, hike, or just relax.
Camp for Free. I think this is the best type of camping. It’s free and generally it’s remote from everyone else. Since it’s free you won’t have electricity, water, or sewage connections. Depending on the park you choose there may be bathroom facilities but chances are slim, you’re truly camping in the wilderness. Find public land for recreational camping: fs.fed.us, blm.gov, campendium.com, and freecampsites.net.
Camp for Cheap. If you prefer camping at a more traditional campground you can still find great deals where ever you decide to camp. Find the best deals on campsites by going to Booking.com.
12. Book a Trip that’s Prepaid for in Advance!
Booking an all-inclusive trip keeps costs low by including all your meals, planned activities, and room into one package. Not only does this keep your costs down, but you’ll have a better idea of how much the trip will cost ahead of time.
All-inclusive Trips Include:
- Cruises. Find the best deals on all-inclusive cruise packages by going to Priceline.com
- Tours. Give your budget a heads-up in advance by booking and paying for a group tour before arriving at your destination.
- Resorts. You can find all kinds of all-inclusive resort package deals. You’ll save money and make your budget happy! Find and compare the best deals for all-inclusive resort packages at Hotwire.com, Priceline.com, or OneTravel.com.