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How To Save Money On Vacation -- Budget Travel Tips

Updated on May 15, 2012

Time To Live It Up ... But Save Along The Way

Everyone deserves a vacation and everyone deserves to splurge once in a while -- especially while enjoying some time off. However, there's a big difference between saving up your money to finally eat at that fancy restaurant than spending it all on a bunch of shot glasses in Dublin that say, "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" on them ... that were really made in Taiwan.

How to save money on vacation is actually really easy. The following are some things I've done in order to save money on vacations. While I love to live it up, I usually try to spend my cash on things that are actually worth my money -- like for an upgraded room at a posh hotel. Most of the following budget travel tips are simply based on common sense. While no single suggestion will save you tons of dough, everything adds up, especially if you're vacationing for a long time or traveling with a large family. And wouldn't you like to enjoy that day at the spa without feeling guilty about losing money on smaller things?

That said, here are some easy tips for how to save money on vacation.


Cheap Vacation Tips!

Budget Travel Tips

Budget World Travel Tips

Simple Money Savings

Here are a few of the things I've done to save while traveling and take cheap vacations. Not all of them might work for you, but I've found success by following these guidelines.

1. Don't Bother Packing Toiletries: Sound extreme? Well, it's not and is a valuable budget travel tip. Most hotels in modern countries offer complimentary shampoo, conditioner and soap. Many will even give you free toothpaste if you request it, though it's smart to call ahead and make sure. By using what the hotel offers, you can save a few dollars (which adds up if you have four or five people in your family). Plus, if you're traveling to and from the United States, you don't have to worry about putting tiny 3-4 oz bottles in a plastic baggie. Though I've found that some airports in the U.S. don't worry so much about passengers having the correct bottle size for liquids, airports are extremely strict if you're traveling back to the U.S. from another country. For instance, when we were flying home to NY from New Zealand, they made us go through security twice: once with everyone else and once right before we got on our plane. At that second stop, they made us dump EVERYTHING that was remotely liquid, including the little bottles. The same thing happened when we were going home from Mexico City, and my friend had to dump the sunscreen he'd just purchased right there in the airport! Talk about money wasted. That said, it's usually just easier to travel without toiletries if you're flying into the States. That's one easy way how to save money on vacation!

2. Pack Light. These days, many airlines are charging for checked bags. One person I know had a nasty surprise when he went to check his family's bags for a budget airline in Europe -- and learned that it would cost him over $1000. However, if you only bring a carry-on, you can skip this step and as a bonus, not have to worry about standing on a long line. My secret? I streamline my outfits. Unless you're traveling to a wedding or fancy party, you don't need a million different outfits, even if you're traveling for two weeks. Really. When we spent two weeks in Australia, we had to pack clothing that was appropriate for all different types of climates. I brought three pairs of pants (two which were jeans), one pair of sweats, a few T-shirts, a couple of sweaters, a couple of skirts, a light dress, a bathing suit and then underwear. I then made sure to wear a pair of jeans onto the plane (jeans weigh the most and take up space), put on a T-shirt, tied one of the sweaters around my waist and wore sneakers (sneaks also weigh a lot and take up space). I then carried my jacket. By dressing like this, I managed to wear a good portion of my wardrobe on the flight! As for the rest, pick outfits that you can mix and match and roll them into the suitcase so you can get in as much as possible. Another good idea for women is to get a large purse and put some things in there. Most airlines will let you bring on one carry-on and one hand-held item, so a purse qualifies.

3. Mix and match packing. If you absolutely can't fit everything into a carry-on, then make a point to put some of your stuff into your travel companion's suitcase and vice versa. This way, if a suitcase is lost, you're not out and clothes and don't have to rush around buying expensive replacements. This happened to my parents when we were in Mexico. The airline lost my mom's bag; though she eventually got it back, she still had a few outfits to wear that had been packed in my dad's suitcase.

4. Fly during the week and early in the morning. Many airlines offer lower fares for flights that leave from Tuesday-Thursday, and before 8 a.m. Sure, you have to get up at the crack of dawn, but it's worth it if you can save a couple of hundred bucks.

5. Find out if there's complimentary food on the flight, and if there isn't, bring your own -- from home. Most long-distance flights still serve meals, but many shorter flights now make you pay for food. When we flew American Airlines from NY to L.A., they charged about $10 for a salad. Food bought at the airport can also be expensive. So before leaving home, you might want to make a snack to bring with you. But don't bring anything that can be counted as liquid, like pudding...

6. Bring your own headphones. Okay, now we're getting a little extreme in how you can cut corners, but well, why bother paying $1 for headphones when you can just come with your own. On that note, if you do spend the money for the airline's, keep them and use them for your next flight.

7. Be careful when it comes to online vacation packages and Internet savings. While there are many great deals avaiable online, do some checking around before making a purchase. Often I've found that if you look at a vacation package price and then search for all the individual elements yourself -- flight, hotel, car rental -- the latter will come up cheaper.

8. Get a room with two double beds rather than a king-sized. Most hotels in the States have nice-sized double beds that are comfortable for two people. So if you're traveling as a couple, getting doubles is a way to save a little. Plus, you can toss your luggage onto the other bed.

9. Enjoy picnic lunches. A great way to save is to buy some food in a nearby grocery store, if one is available. When we were in Iceland, we enjoyed the hotel's breakfast, then got a grocery store lunch ... and then splurged on a fancy dinner.

10. Ask youself, "Is it worth it?" When I was young, my parents took me on a trip cross-country one summer. Along the way, they stopped at an antique store ... and purchased a gigantic wood-carved owl that was as big as I was. Since we had the car, we didn't have to worry about shipping it, but imagine how much that would've cost or how much it would be to check it onto the plane! Really, did they need it? Ask yourself this when you go to buy a souvenir. It sounds simple, but I've traveled with friends who went crazy buying things on trips simply because the items were there. When we were in Mexico, one of our friends who was with us seriously considered buying an obsidian sword. He ultimately decided that he probably didn't need such a thing, particularly since he couldn't decide where to display it.


One Final Tip

Just one more bit of advice: Enjoy yourself! Have that extra drink at dinner, get that beachside massage ... but at the same time, try to save in places where you won't feel it too much. This way, you can come out of your vacation ahead ... and feel free to start planning the next trip.


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    • profile image


      9 years ago

      You bring up some great points. I gave readers the advise to pack a lot of toileties because I assume that most of them will stay in hostels, but I think you are right that if you are staying in a hotel, why bother?

    • Helen Cater profile image

      Helen Cater 

      9 years ago from UK

      This is a great article I wonder if you would take a look at my Las Vegas article think it works well too.Great job.

    • Organic Thoughts profile image

      Organic Thoughts 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Great article.... I am in 100% agreement with you.

      Save 'where you can' and spend where you get the 'most of what you want'.


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