This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking my links. Please read our disclosure policy
I clip coupons, count pennies and shop frugal almost every day of the year. Vacation is one time when I want to relax and not worry about saving money the entire trip. Of course, I also can’t afford to blow my entire bank account in a week. Thankfully with a little smart planning it is possible to stay in a nice place, eat well, do tons of fun things and still save! My number one piece of advice would be to set a budget, plan ahead and pay for as much as possible in advance. Here are my favorite tips on how to save money while traveling:
When I am on vacation the idea of being cramped in a tiny hotel room with five people doesn’t sound very appealing. After all, we are there to relax. There is nothing peaceful about sharing a small bathroom with four other people. Plus I think all parents deserve their own bedroom after a day at the beach or theme parks to *ahem* unwind.
That’s why I always use Airbnb (get $40 off your first trip when you sign up using this link) or VRBO. These are rentals available straight from the owner so they are able to offer a bigger discount. It enables us to get a fancy condo in the city, luxurious house on the beach or quiet cabin in the woods for the same price of often less than a traditional room. A two bedroom, two bathroom, nice pool and full kitchen are always a must for us and it’s easy to filter by the options you want. Plus having a full kitchen is an automatic way to save on food since you can store snacks and even cook full meals. Always check the reviews and don’t be afraid to ask for a discount especially if you are booking last minute. The worst they can do is decline so there is no downside in asking.
If those sites are not an option, I would suggest calling local hotels directly and asking what the best rate they can give you is. I have always received a bigger discount over the phone than I could ever find online. Try to find one that includes a free breakfast or kids eat free option to save even more!
Need a place to stop for the night and break up the trip? I love using the Hotel Tonight App. It offers discounts on last minute rooms. You can see what’s available, check the reviews and book the room all right from the app. Use code JTOLLETT for $25 off your first booking.
Eating out is often our biggest expense while traveling but it’s also a huge part of the experience. Here are some of the things we do to help ease the cost.
- Pack the car with a full cooler of drinks, sandwiches and snacks so we aren’t paying high convenience store prices during the trip.
- Get a room with a full kitchen. As I mentioned above, we always opt for a kitchen in our room. Eating out for every meal and snack just isn’t feasible with a family. We try to only go out for one meal a day and cook the other two in the room. We bring snacks, drinks and even cereal from home that we have got on sale. It’s also smart to check the sales at grocery stores local to your destination and plan what meals you will eat while there.
- Eat out for lunch. Many busy restaurants have a smaller lunch crowd so you will have less of a wait and usually lower price options.
- Buy discount gift certificates. We always buy several vouchers on restaurant.com. It’s a great way to check out local favorites at a discounted price. You can often get a $25 gift certificate for just $4. Just make sure to check all the restrictions like the minimum spending requirements, gratuity required or time it is valid. You can also buy discount gift cards to chain restaurants on raise.com. Get $5 off your first purchase when you sign up using this link.
Things to Do-
I check Groupon and LivingSocial every day for weeks leading up to our trip. Make sure to change the location to your destination and check out all the discounted vouchers they have to offer. We have toured museums, went to water parks, rode go-carts and several other things at a fraction of the regular cost by using these discount sites. Don’t wait until you get there to check them out as the offers change often.
If your local grocery store offers fuel rewards for buying gift certificates this is a great time to save on gas. I always wait until Kroger is offering 4X fuel points on gift cards then I stock up on Shell cards for my vacation since they also accept the Kroger fuel discount in order to maximize my savings! You can also check Ebay for discounted fuel gift cards and use gasbuddy.com to find the cheapest prices and plan your stops.
Supplies and Souvenirs-
Many basic supplies like bottled water, first aid kits and diapers are very over priced in tourist areas. Make sure to have everything you might need already packed. If you have room you will also want to pack sand toys, floats flashlights or other fun things. Take advantage of those free samples I’m always posting about to pack all your travel toiletries instead of buying them.
We also buy some “souvenirs” at home and give them to the kids while we are there so we don’t drop a fortune on overpriced shirts and trinkets. Don’t worry we still let them bring some of their own money to buy real gifts but you better bet all of their matching Disney shirts and swag were bought at Walmart and Amazon before we ever step foot on the resort.
I also cash out all of the money I have earned from Grocery Cash Back Apps (learn more about them here) that year to use as spending money while we are there. This year I earned over $200 from January to May that will go towards non-budgeted fun stuff.
When you go on vacation you want to splurge and you deserve to splurge! That is why they call it a vacation after all. By following the tips above you can save up to thousands and still have a great time.