Traveling on a budget can sometimes feel like an impossible feat because taking a trip isn’t cheap, especially when you factor in all the costs that come along with it. Transportation, accommodation, food, and entertainment to name a few.
But you don’t have to be rich in order to get away and enjoy a nice vacation. Being on a limited budget just means that it’s that much more important for you to be open-minded, creative, resourceful, and smart as you plan your travels.
Start by following these 19 travel hacks that will help you get the most bang for your buck so you can enjoy a well-deserved vacation even when you’re on a tight budget.
1. Earn cash back for booking your travel
Finding a great deal on your travel is awesome but earning cash back on top of that is even better. Make sure to use Ebates to earn cash back when booking your travel. They partner with a number of cruise lines, hotels, and online booking agencies like Expedia, Priceline, and Hotels.com. I earned $344 cashback for booking a cruise through Travelocity a few years ago just by going through Ebates.
2. Use credit card points/cash back to pay for your trip
Using points or cash back from credit cards is my favorite way to pay for a trip. So if I’m planning on traveling then I make sure to exclusively use the one or two cards that will give me the most points for my purchases. I’ve been able to fly for free multiple times and even had enough points to cover a few nights at a hotel. Many credit card companies even offer new members enough points to cover a free flight or two as a sign on bonus so it’s worth looking into only if you can use credit cards responsibly.
3. Buy discounted gift cards
A little-known secret to save money on traveling is to buy a discounted gift card from Raise. They sell discounted gift cards related to travel (and pretty much anything else) including Southwest Airlines, Delta, Hotels.com, Airbnb, and many more. I recommend only buying gift cards if you plan on using them in the near future. New purchasers get $5 off their first purchase of $50 or more.
4. Travel during off-peak season
If you’re able to travel during the off-peak season, you can save a fortune. Not only are accommodations cheaper but tickets to theme parks and events around the city oftentimes are cheaper too. Another bonus is that it’s less crowded which means you get to explore without waiting in a ton of lines.
5. Use Google Flight
Use Google Flights to compare flight prices between multiple airlines. You can even create price alerts to get notified if the price drops on a flight.
6. Sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights
Get alerts for cheap international flights when you sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights. People have been able to save hundreds of dollars by booking the flights found from their email alerts.
7. Comparison shop for lodging
Airbnb has gotten a huge following in the recent years. But according to Business Insider, hotels tended to be a better value in certain cities. Make sure to do your research and check out hotels in the area along with Airbnb and Homeaway. Who knows where you can find a great deal.
8. Rent a place with a kitchen
Aim to stay at a hotel or condo that has a kitchen. Eating most of your meals in while on vacation will save you more than you can imagine. A family of four could easily spend $40 (but most likely more) per meal when eating out which ends up costing them $120 a day! That’s enough money to buy groceries that will last the entire week.
9. Pack kitchen supplies and a cooler
If you don’t have access to a kitchen, bring a cooler, silverware, and some dishes. This way you can eat simple things in the room like cereal for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. You’ll still end up eating out some of the time but at least you’ll have those two meals covered.
10. Use Groupon for deals on activities
If you like taking tours and seeing a lot of attractions while on vacation, Groupon is a great way to get them for a discount. They have a wide selection of popular tours and tickets so it is always worth checking out.
11. Use Uber or Lyft on vacation
I used to think that renting a car was the most economical way to get from place to place while on vacation. But when you add up the parking fees at the hotel, theme parks, and then having to fill up with gas before returning the car, many times it has ended up being more expensive than taking an Uber or Lyft. So unless you plan to see a lot of sites that are further away, it may be best to skip the rental. If you’ve never tried Uber, get a free ride (up to $5). Or take a ride with Lyft.
12. Check prices even after you book
I avoid booking hotel rooms, condos, and rental cars that don’t have a cancellation policy. Nowadays, many places allow you to cancel your reservation as long as it’s at least a week before your arrival (many times it’s as short as 24-72 hours). So when I see a good deal I usually book immediately since there’s nothing to lose. Once I book the room, I still check the prices regularly just in case it goes down. I’ve actually been able to find a lower price at least 50-75% of the time.
13. Take advantage of applicable discounts
Many places offer discounts for groups, active military, veterans, students, seniors, AAA members, and foreign visitors. The company you work for may even be a part of a network that gives discounts to corporate employees like Perksatwork or Ticketsatwork.
14. Pack your lunch
Eating out, in general, is more expensive than packing your own lunch especially when you’re in a touristy area, at a popular attraction, or theme park. However, many places allow you to bring in outside food and non-alcoholic drinks so take full advantage of it. This way you can avoid paying $4 for a bottle of water! Always check their policy right before your trip as it could have changed since the last time you visited.
15. Consider going on a cruise
I’ve always been a big fan of cruises because they’re so much fun and they’re such a good deal compared to other vacations. The price you pay generally includes your room, all of your meals, and entertainment. Of course like anything else there are cruises that are super expensive if you’re looking to go on a new ship or Disney cruise, but there are tons that are affordable too.
Pro Tip: You’re allowed to bring in one standard 750 ml bottle of wine or champagne in your carry on bag as long as you’re 21 or older. Don’t drink it in the main dining room as there may be a corkage fee.
16. Use discount keywords in your search
Before buying anything, do a quick search to see if any coupons or discounts are available. Type in your destination, hotel, attraction, third party booker, rental car, restaurant, etc. with keywords like ‘discount’, ‘coupons’, or ‘promo’ to see what kind of deals or discounts are available.
17. Be flexible
The more flexibility you have the more you can potentially save. If you’re dead set on a date then try to be more flexible when it comes to the location and vice versa. Also, other ways that flexibility can pay off big time is by being open to the airline you choose, the type of accommodations, the time you fly in and out, or potential routes.
18. Avoid booking flights last minute or too far in advance
You would think that booking your flight months or a year in advance would ensure that you get the lowest prices, but unfortunately, that’s not true. Although there is never a perfect time, many people say that booking your flight 6-8 weeks before you travel will help you get the best prices.
19. Go with the company that offers you the most for your money
Many hotels or cruise lines guarantee that you won’t find a lower price anywhere else. Therefore, you’ll find that most times online booking agencies like Orbitz, Expedia, and Travelocity offer the same price. But what’s great about booking through these companies is that they offer incentives like a free room upgrade or credits that can be used on food, beverage, gratuity, or attractions. Plus, a lot of times they offer more cash back on Ebates so really you’re saving even more!
Try some of our tips and hopefully you’ll find some amazing deals that will make your vacation even more enjoyable.
What are some of your best tips and travel hacks that have helped you save enough money to go on a nice vacation?