11 Easy Ways to Save Money While on Vacation

by | Jan 7, 2020

The average Millennial will spend nearly $7,000 on their vacation this year. Frankly, there’s no excuse for spending so much on a vacation (or two, for that matter). The truth is, you can travel anywhere in the world and live comfortably while also giving your wallet a much-needed break—that is if you can manage your finances wisely. 

There’s ample evidence to suggest that budgets flat-out don’t work. Instead, you need to learn the nitty-gritty skill of discipline and expense-management. When traveling, however, maintaining a disciplined money management system can be, well, difficult to say the least.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can keep some extra cash in your pocket during your vacation. If you’re interested in learning how to save money on vacation, read on and discover the best tips and tricks for money-conscious traveling. 

Where the Journey Starts: Packing

Vacations don’t start when you step foot on the plane. No, the financial aspect of your vacation kicks in far earlier, during the packing phase. Below, we’ve listed some of our best advice for saving money during this crucial pre-departure leg of your journey.

Pack the Necessities

Far too often we find that travelers have left out travel essentials such as sunscreen, bug spray, and tanning lotion. Usually, these items are skipped because the traveler assumes they can find a better deal at their destination. However, this assumption is totally off-base. 

Unless you’re traveling to an obscure destination where the exchange rate heavily favors your currency, then you’re far better off buying these items back home at the dollar store. Virtually all popular tourist destinations and resorts will slap a steep premium on these small yet necessary travel items.

Keep Two (Light) Bags

As a rule, fitting everything in two carry-on luggage pieces should suffice for a standard week-long vacation. Not only will this trick save you money by not checking a full-sized suitcase, but it will also help prevent theft and having your airline misplace or lose your luggage. 

Don’t Go Overboard on Clothes

If your destination has a washer and dryer (and, let’s face it, most do), then there’s no need to bring more than a couple of outfits with you on your trip. Making time to wash and dry your clothing mid-vacation can help you cut back on the number of clothing items you pack. This trick can help you slash your luggage in half and save you some serious cash at the airport.

Eating, Drinking, and Shopping

Aside from lodging, the biggest expense when on vacation is your food and drinks—and, of course, the souvenirs you decide to bring home (more on that later!). Follow the savings tips below to help curb sky-high food and drink costs.

The 1 Meal Rule

Unless you’re staying at all-inclusive resorts, you will be left to fend for yourself when it comes to food and beverage purchases. Even in the cheapest of destinations where the cost of living is low, spending money at restaurants and food carts can add up quickly.

To keep food costs low, pledge to eat at least one meal per day in your hostel, hostel, or Airbnb. Not only will this save you a hefty restaurant bill, but it will also give you the chance to buy groceries and cook like a local for an enhanced cultural experience. 

Skip the Breakfast Bill

Many hostels and hotels offer free continental breakfasts to their guests. When looking around for lodging and accommodations, be sure to select a venue that includes at least some form of breakfast with your stay. Even a complimentary tea or coffee in the morning can save you a fair amount of money over the span of a week. 

Eat (and Shop) Like a Local

Whether you’re in Mexico, Thailand, or the South of France, you can find local food markets and bazaars in every town or city. These markets are operated and frequented by locals who often haggle vendors for the best price. Try buying your groceries, souvenirs, and keepsakes from these local community markets to keep your expenses low during your vacation.

Use Reward Points

We’re not going to tell you not to shop while you’re on vacation. After all, shopping is part of the experience. Before you set out on your dream vacation, be sure to bring a credit card with a loyalty or reward points program. 

For instance, some Chase and American Express credit cards offer travel perks and airfare discounts, as well as 2 percent cash back returns on eligible expenses. Not bringing a travel credit card with you on your vacation is like throwing away free money.

Transportation: Flying and Riding

There’s no denying that airfare and ground transportation are massive expenses. Often, airline tickets alone take up most of a vacation budget. If you’re looking for ways to save on airfare and taxis we’ve got you covered with our top money-saving transportation tricks below. 

Book Smart

There’s more to flight shopping than looking for last-minute deals. Before booking your next trip, you’re going to want to take note of the following plane-ticket-buying essentials that could save you hundreds of dollars on your next flight.

  • Buy plane tickets on weekdays—prices hike during weekends
  • Book 5-7 weeks out from your planned departure date
  • Always search for flights in your browser’s Incognito Mode
  • Compare airfare from multiple websites and vendors
  • Set automated email price alerts from various airlines 

Fly Red-Eye or Early Morning

Most travelers opt for mid-day flights because, well, they’re more comfortable and convenient. However, flying after 8 p.m. is often way cheaper and offers all the same conveniences as flying at noon. The only downside is that you will likely sleep during your round-trip flight, which can be a bummer if you want to take advantage of your window seat and enjoy the scenery below.

Take Public Transportation

Uber rides and motorcycle taxis may sound tempting when you’re enjoying yourself during a night out on the town, but they can add a high cost to your travel budget. A budget-savvy traveler should opt for public transportation wherever possible. 

Although the subway or streetcar may not be as convenient or luxurious as a private taxi, they can save you a pretty penny over the course of a week. Plus, taking public transportation gives you insight into the lives of the locals who rely on it every day to get to and from their work.

You Probably Don’t Need a Rental Car

Rental cars are often a luxury, not a necessity. Between public transportation and taxi rides, you can skip on rental cars. If you’re planning a day trip out of the city, ask around about rideshare programs to get to your destination without having to pay for a rental car, gas, and insurance. 

Vacation Responsibly: Manage Your Expenses

Whether you’re heading home for the holiday or embarking on an international adventure, the same principles apply. If you want to give your wallet a vacation this year, you must practice self-discipline when it comes to tracking and curbing unnecessary expenses. 

Don’t let your vacation make your savings account disappear. Instead, be budget-smart by following the tips and tricks outlined above. This way, you can enjoy a guilt-free vacation without having to worry about how you’re going to make up for your losses once you’re back home

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