There’s no doubt about it — traveling can be expensive — especially if you book the first price you see. Without knowing what to look for, traveling can certainly eat up your budget.
After handling the corporate travel at my previous job and exploring international cities myself, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to get the most value for my money.
While being patient and flexible are essential ingredients, here are sixty other travel hacks to help you save money on your next vacation.
This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure.
1. Bundle your flight, hotel and car
Using websites like Expedia can save you up to $300 when bundling your flight, hotel and car. Compare prices by seeing how much it would be to book separately versus together.
2. Check flash sites
…such as Groupon or Travelzoo for travel deals on hotels, flights, cruises, attractions or vacation packages.
3. Visit under the radar destinations
This is a great way to save money, avoid crowds and explore off the beaten path destinations.
4. Travel during the off-season (or shoulder season)
…to save money on flights, accommodations and avoid the big crowds.
5. Book at the right time
The best time to buy your flight tickets is usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays. On average, the best time to book your flight is two months before your trip.
6. Cancel within 24 hours
In case you change your mind, make sure to cancel within 24 hours after booking. Most airlines and hotels will give you a full refund.
7. Shop around for travel insurance
Instead of paying for insurance each time you book a trip, check to see if your bank, work or credit card offers travel protection and insurance packages.
8. Look into travel packages
Sometimes travel packages can save you a ton instead of paying for everything separately. Think all-inclusive or packaged tours.
9. Avoid traveling during holidays and events
This is the busiest time to travel so airlines and hotels tend to double (or triple) their rates.
10. Have a staycation
Consider being a tourist in your own city or do a day trip instead. Chances are lots of people from around the world pay to visit your city, so why not explore your own backyard! Daily deal websites, such as
Daily deal websites, such as Groupon, are great for finding discounts on local restaurants, entertaintment and spas.
11. Travel with a group
…to save money on accommodations. Solo travel is great, but it’s a lot more affordable to split a hotel room between 2-4 people.
12. Travel slowly and compare prices
Most all-inclusive resorts are based on seven-night accommodations. Staying only 3 or 4 nights may not be as cost efficient as staying for one week. The same applies to vacation rentals (two weeks may cost only slightly less than one month).
Related: 7 undeniable benefits of slow travel
13. Book in advance
Booking your flights, accommodations and car rental in advance offers you more options (before things get booked up). Sometimes you can find deals or “advanced booking” discounts too. Just make sure that you are aware of their cancellation policies.
14. Be aware of all the fees (and hidden fees)
Understand what’s included in your room rate before booking (breakfast, parking, wifi, resort fees can all add unpleasant surprises to your final bill). The same goes for flights and other transportation costs. You may see a great deal on a third party website, but be aware of any hidden fees. Some websites charge extra for credit card payments.
15. Check for last minute travel deals
While booking in advance usually offers the best deal, sometimes you can lucky with last minute savings.
16. Follow travel websites on social media
…to get updates when sales or special promotions are available.
17. Sign up for email alerts on travel websites
…to get exclusive travel deals right in your inbox.
18. Pack according to the weather at your destination
Check the weather before leaving so you’ll know what to expect. That way you’ll avoid packing unnecessary clothing and save money by not having to purchase items at your destination. Bring a travel umbrella with you too if rain is in the forecast.
19. Be flexible with your travel dates
Flying on Tuesdays is usually cheaper than flying on Mondays. Accommodations might be cheaper at the end of the month rather than the beginning. Compare prices and be flexible with your travel dates.
20. Take advantage of free WiFi and avoid roaming charges
When traveling I usually set my phone to airplane mode and use the free WiFi around town. Most restaurants, cafes or hotel lobbies offer free WiFi. I even use Facebook Messenger app to make free phone calls. If you’re out on the road, think about getting a prepaid phone card for your trip. Compare prices and see which option works best for you.
21. Skip the travel size products and fill your own containers
Head to your local dollar store and pick up a pack of empty travel containers and fill them up with your own supplies at home. You’re paying a premium for those convenient travel size products when it’s easy to bring your own — or use the ones available at the hotel.
Related: 25 free things you can get at hotels
22. Make a budget and stick to it
Determining a realistic budget and sticking to it is easier said than done. But this is one of the most important steps that people forget to do. Outline a budget that you can afford and plan your trip accordingly. If Paris is out of reach right now, consider visiting a cheaper destination instead like Quebec City.
- How to budget for any trip
- The ultimate guide to visiting Quebec City on a budget
- How to visit Paris on a budget
23. Check rates at different times during the day
You’ll be surprised how rates can fluctuate during the day. What you see in the morning might increase in the afternoon.
24. Book round trip tickets
Sometimes airlines charge more for one-way tickets, so it’s a good idea to compare prices before booking.
25. Book unpopular flight times
Booking red-eye flights, weekdays and off season usually offer the best deals. Again, flexibility is key.
26. Don’t pay to pre-book your seats
When I went to Istanbul, British Airways wanted to charge me $60 to pre-book my seats to London and $30 to pre-book seats from London to Istanbul (I had a layover). $90 each way was a bit steep so I decided to take my chances and select my seats for free 24 hours before check-in.
27. Book directly through the airline’s website
I use Skyscanner to compare flight prices, then book directly through the airline’s website that offers the best rate. This also comes in handy in case you need to make changes after booking since third party websites can get complicated.
Related: 23 secrets to booking cheap flights
28. Get email alerts from Skyscanner
Once you have an idea of your travel dates and destination, sign up for email alerts from Skyscanner. They will let you know if the price has increased or decreased so you’ll know when to book. This works well when planning at least two months in advance, otherwise prices may keep rising.
29. Fly into a nearby airport
Most major cities have more than one airport nearby. New York City has three for example: EWR, JFK and LGA . Compare prices and determine which option is best for your budget.
30. Consider traveling by bus or train instead of flying
Flying is quick, but sometimes taking a bus or train is more affordable. Check what options are available and go with the one that fits within your budget.
31. Travel with carry-on only to avoid baggage fees
Many airlines are now charging for checked baggage. If you are just doing a short trip, consider traveling with carry-on instead. I’ve done this many times with great success.
32. Book directly through the hotel’s website
Sometimes the hotel’s website offers discounts or special promotions for customers who book direct. Compare prices with third party websites and go with the option best for you.
33. Check out Airbnb
34. Try couchsurfing
Join couchsurfing.com and get in touch with other members.
35. Become a loyalty member
Many chain hotels offers loyalty memberships that allow customers to collect points, you just need to sign up. New members may be entitled to free WiFi, daily newspaper, etc.
36. Book through Hotwire or Priceline
I just recently used Hotwire to book my hotel for my upcoming trip to Washington DC. Regular price of rooms started at $420 per night and I got a deal on Hotwire for $200 per night.
Hostels are a great place to meet other travelers your age. Some hostels even offer private rooms and bathrooms if you prefer. These are usually more affordable than hotel chain rates.
38. Boutique hotels
Sometimes you can find great rates at boutique hotels. This past December I stayed a 4 star boutique hotel in downtown Chicago for only $70 per night.
39. Vacation rentals
I like using TripAdvisor to search for vacation rentals. When staying at a destination for two weeks or more, consider booking a vacation rental. This can save you a lot of money compared to staying at a hotel. Plus you’ll be able to cook your own meals if you wish.
40. Stay in neighboring cities
Compare prices of hotels in the city versus outside of the city. Sometimes hotels outside the city are half the price and offer free parking. Consider your options and what works best for your budget. Keep in mind that transportation costs back and forth between the city and your hotel can add up.
41. Check TripAdvisor for top customer-rated hotels within your budget
Input your travel dates and TripAdvisor will show a list of hotels, their price and customer reviews. This is a great way to find an affordable hotel without sacrificing quality.
42. Consider camping
Instead of staying at a hotel, try camping. This is great during the warmer months and most places only charge a small fee (or are free).
43. Sign up for a frequent flyer program
This is essential if you travel a lot for pleasure or work.
44. Use your memberships
Check discounts available with your AAA / CAA, Costco membership, etc. Sometimes government staff, military or teachers can get extra discounts too.
45. Use your travel reward credit card
Sign up for a travel reward credit card and earn points. Research a card with no annual fee that offers the most rewards. You can redeem points for flights, hotels, attractions, car rentals, etc.
46. Compare prices on Rentalcars.com
Enter your pick-up location, date and time then book a car in your budget. You don’t have to enter any payment information and cancellation is free.
47. Rent a fuel efficient car
That last thing you want to do is pay a fortunate for gas on a road trip. Make sure to rent the most fuel efficient car to avoid this.
48. Refuel the car before you return it (unless they offer a better rate)
Before leaving the rental agency, check to see how much they charge to refuel the car when you return it. Sometimes their prices are good, sometimes they’re not. Usually it’s best to refuel the car yourself before returning it to avoid getting overcharged.
49. Take public transportation instead of taxis
One of the best money saving tips I can give anyone is to get to know the public transportation system. Most major cities have a good transit system that will suffice for your needs and is more affordable than riding a cab.
50. Cook your own meals
Let’s face it — eating out every meal is not only unhealthy for you, but it’s expensive. One way to cut down costs is to cook your own meals if your accommodation has a kitchenette. If not, bring granola bars with you to replace breakfast (if it’s not included in your room rate).
51. Eat heavy at one meal (a big lunch and a light dinner)
Lunch usually offers the best value which is why I like to make it my one big meal of the day and have a light dinner in the evening. Some restaurants offer huge portions so you may want to consider splitting an entree between two people.
52. Eat like a local
Skip the guidebook recommendations and head to where the locals eat. These places are usually cheaper and offer a more authentic experience.
Depending on your destination, I like checking for local dining deals on Groupon. It’s a great way to save 50% off or more when eating out.
53. Pack a cooler or snacks with you
If you’re heading on a road trip, I highly recommend bringing a cooler to pack snacks and drinks. This is a great way to keep your costs down since sometimes there’s few food options along the highway.
54. Inquire about tax refunds
Depending on your destination, you may be entitled to a tax refund on your shopping purchases. This was the case in Italy. Check to see if you apply and inquire about any immediate discounts for tourists (usually 10%).
55. Avoid souvenir shopping
Of course you may feel inclined to bring home a souvenir from your trip, but make sure it’s something genuine and useful. You don’t want to bring home an “I <3 NYC” tee shirt since this is kind of cheesy and unoriginal.
56. Take advantage of free museum days
You’ll be surprised how many museums offer “pay what you wish” or free hours. Do a little research and you may get a free visit.
57. Check activities online
…to see if it’s cheaper to buy tickets in advance. Sometimes theme parks or museums offer online discounts for those booking in advance. Many cities offer a discount pass to multiple attractions around town. Check to see if your destination has one and what it includes.
58. Search for free events and walking tours
Ah, the feeling of free.
59. Check for attraction discounts
Many attractions offer discounts to youth or free admission for children, check online to see what’s available.
Sometimes cities offer attraction or museum passes to get free entry to popular places. In North America, I like using the CityPASS to save money and skip the line at attractions. Check to see if your destination offers a discount pass to visit attractions.
60. Live like a local
Lastly, explore off the beaten path. Skip the tourist hot spots and check out where the locals go. You may discover a cozy cafe or a beautiful park to have a picnic.
Over to you — how do you save money when booking a vacation?
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Vacation Budget Printable
Enjoy your next holiday while staying on budget with my FREE Vacation Budget printable!