Vacation on a Budget: Tips to Save on Your Next Trip

With summer right around the corner, it’s only natural to start thinking about that upcoming family vacation—and how to save money for travel. Everyone loves a great vacation, but nobody loves how expensive travel can be. When you add up the price of airfare, lodging, and food, traveling can get really costly in a hurry. Fortunately, it is possible to take your whole family to popular travel spots without breaking the bank. All you need to do is plan ahead, budget wisely, and follow these helpful tips, and you’ll be on your way to a relaxing trip free from the stress of money concerns.

Before You Leave

One of the keys to planning a successful vacation on a budget is actually to try and save money before going on your vacation. If you’re on top of things right from the start of your trip-planning process, you can successfully cut back on expenses at every stage of the vacation. This way, you’ll be saving money even before departing on your trip!

–Choose Your Destination

When it comes to choosing a place to visit during your vacation, no two destinations are created equal. The fact is, whether you’re interested in taking a short road trip with the family or hoping to tour multiple countries in Europe, some trips are simply going to cost more to visit than others. Once you identify the type of vacation you want to take, then you can begin to research specific ways to save money that are relevant to your unique trip.

–Make a Budget

The foundation of successful travel on a budget is to establish your trip’s budget—and then hold yourself to that number. As soon as you have a firm budget in place, you’ll be able to set yourself a savings goal. Arguably, the very first budget details you should put in place are the costs of your travel and accommodations. If you research how much these components of your trip will cost at the beginning of your planning, you’ll have a much clearer idea of how much total money you’ll ultimately need to put together the trip you want to have.

–Plan Ahead

You might have heard the expression “if you fail to plan, you can plan to fail.” Nowhere is that classic phrase truer than when it comes to travel planning. The farther in advance you can plan your trip, the more likely you’ll be to put together a great vacation on a budget. You’ll also give yourself more time to locate discounted rates and special deals on your trip’s most expensive elements (like hotel reservations and airline tickets). Travel experts widely agree that the best way to save money on airfare is to book your tickets at least three weeks before your trip. By planning ahead and putting these details in place well in advance of your trip, you’ll be able to both save money and reduce any travel anxiety you may be experiencing.

–Get a City Tourism Card

If you know that your family wants to visit several of the most popular tourist attractions in the city you’re vacationing in, then a go card is a smart way to save money during your trip. These city passes are perfect for a vacation on a budget, as they offer savings on admission to various attractions, as well as often provide discounts to other local businesses. Sometimes they even allow you to skip long entry lines.

–Pack Lightly

These days airlines need no excuse to hit you extra fees or hidden charges, particularly when it comes to checked or overweight bags. One way to make sure you avoid these expenses is to pack lightly. There are many great suggestions out there for how to avoid overpacking, so take some to think about what you really need during your trip and prepare to save.

During Your Trip

Once your trip has started, you can still find ways to save. In fact, many travelers today are coming up with creative ways to save money at expensive destinations that help them not only stay within their budgets, but actually extend their trips.

–Avoid Eating Out

Few travel expenses add up like eating every meal out. Sure, it can be hard to avoid dining out while on vacation, but there are still ways to cut down on food expenses. Make sure to enjoy as many complimentary meals at your hotel as you can, and if there’s a grocery store located near where you’re staying, consider buying some small items there and putting together a meal from those supplies—it’ll likely be significantly cheaper than a restaurant.

–Reduce Transportation Costs

Sometimes it’s necessary to rent a car or take a cab while traveling. However, if you can eliminate or at least minimize these expenses, you’ll go a long way to increasing your savings. When possible, try take local public transportation or walk to nearby attractions.

–Wait to Buy Souvenirs

Everybody wants a fun souvenir of their vacation; just don’t just buy the first thing you see and like, though. Take the time to look at multiple stores and shops throughout the town you’re visiting—unless the item you’ve got your on is truly rare and unique, it’s quite likely you’ll find it somewhere else at a better price.

–Get Out of the Tourist Areas

When you first select your destination, you’re undoubtedly picking it for a reason—there’s quite likely to be a handful of really popular attractions there you and your family are dying to visit. By no means avoid these spots—just remember that the more popular an area or attraction is, the more expensive nearby amenities are probably going to be. If you seek out less-popular attractions or less-famous places, you’re likely to enjoy getting off the beaten path while also spending less money on food and lodging.

–Save or Splurge

No matter how thoroughly you plan out your trip, you’re still going to have that moment when things are going great and you’re faced with a choice of whether or not to splurge on that special treat. Trust yourself to understand the situation, and know if it’s the right time and place to go for it, or if it’s best to keep your money in your pocket.


There’s no one magic way to know how to save money for travel. In addition to the numerous tips listed above, there are also always going to be outstanding means for saving money while traveling that are specific to your destination of choice. As a result, if you find yourself planning a trip to a place like, say, San Francisco, make sure to keep in mind that there are specific ways to save money in San Francisco that don’t necessarily apply to other places.