A Money-Saving Guide to Traveling

Travel, whether it's to a new place or a favorite one, is one of the best ways to enjoy life. Unfortunately, traveling can take a heavy toll on one's bank account. Whether someone is traveling for pleasure or business, the last thing anyone wants to do is worry about their finances. By employing the right money-saving tactics, however, it's possible to have an awesome and amazingly inexpensive trip.

Create a Travel Budget

Setting a budget will help travelers determine how much money they can afford to spend on a trip and how to allocate that money. In the budget, it's important to create categories of spending. While these may vary somewhat depending on the destination, some basic categories are standard wherever one goes, including transportation, food, lodging, activities, and souvenirs. To plan out each category as accurately as possible, a little research may be necessary to estimate the potential costs. Once this is complete, add the daily cost from each category together and multiply the total by the number of travel days. This important information will help determine how much money needs to be saved.

Be Flexible With Travel Plans

Peak tourist seasons, which are travel-heavy seasons, place the highest demand on the travel industry. What are the peak times of the year to travel? This depends on several factors, such as holidays, the travel destination, and why that destination is popular. A willingness to be flexible with travel plans and avoiding the seasons that are tourist-heavy will help travelers find more affordable airfare and accommodations. Traveling by plane during the middle of the week or on a Saturday is also less expensive than flying out on a Friday or at the beginning of the week. Catching an overnight or early morning flight will also offer lower fares. Travel companies like Priceline frequently offer promo codes, deals, and special discounts to encourage traveling during the slow season so make sure you download your favorite travel apps and check for limited time promo codes frequently.

Consider Alternate Accommodations

Lodging is one of the most important considerations when traveling. It's also one of the most expensive. Hotels are often the go-to for accommodations, but there are other money-saving choices to consider. Renting a room or even a house, for example, has become a popular and inexpensive choice for many, regardless of whether they're traveling in the U.S. or abroad. To find a rental, there are a number of home-sharing or vacation home rental websites to choose from. Depending on the rental, bookings are often available for stays that are as short as overnight or even months long. But while the lack of overhead typically reduces the cost, home rentals aren't always cheaper than a hotel. A rental is often cheapest when housing a group rather than a couple or an individual. They are also cheaper for people who are staying longer than one night.

Other (money-saving) options include staying with friends or family living in the area, at hostels, or at traditional bed-and-breakfasts. For people who prefer hotels, searching discount hotel sites can help to find the best deals.

Research Transportation Options

Renting a vehicle is an added expense that may not be necessary. Before renting a car, research the area and alternate means of transportation. It's possible to eliminate the cost of a rental car, parking, and gas by taking local transportation such as the bus or subway system. If activities are within a reasonable distance from the hotel or rental, walking or bicycling is a great way to save money. When attending an event or going to an attraction that's farther away from one's accommodations, find out if the hotel or the destination offers a round-trip shuttle that's free or low-cost.

Ride-sharing services are another popular option that's available in many locations. This is a good option for people who prefer being in a vehicle but don't like public transportation. Using a ride-sharing app is also handy for times when walking or biking isn't an option and it's too late for public means of transportation.

Eat Like a Local

Eating is often one of the major joys associated with travel, particularly when traveling to a different country. Unfortunately, it can also be expensive. Save money by avoiding restaurants in areas that are tourist-heavy and, as a result, expensive. Also, ask the locals where their favorite spots are to eat. These meals are often both more authentic and cheaper.

Find Free or Discounted Activities

Travelers can find free things to do no matter where they travel. Some locations may offer walking tours given by area locals at no charge. Self-guided walking tours are also an option, particularly when using an app that features an audio guide. Churches and certain historical landmarks are also worth a look, as they are often free or accept donations instead of charging a fee.

Tourism websites often list activities and attractions and are a good place to look for inexpensive things to do. Although many of the activities may charge an entrance fee, there are free events listed as well. Another way to stay active without paying the price of admission is to look for attractions that have free or discounted admission days and plan to visit accordingly.

When buying tickets to popular yet costly attractions, ask if they have any current promotions or if they offer discounts on certain days of the week. Sometimes, ticket prices may also be lower during the slower months. And as with other types of spending, locals are the best source of information on fun, interesting, and affordable activities.

about the author

Tiara Rea-Palmer
Director of Partnerships
As an expert in online savings and an avid deal enthusiast, Tiara heads up retail relations at CouponFollow, where she stays up-to-date on all the best deals, discounts, and freebies, as well as negotiates exclusive coupons and offers for CouponFollow users. In her free time, you can find Tiara writing, DIY crafting on a budget, and traveling with free rewards card miles.