1. Travel on the Cheapest Days: Search for flights through skyscanner.com to find the cheapest airfare in a given week, month, or year. This is a great tool to plan your vacation. Take a look at the screenshots I took to show you how to search for these time periods.
2. Travel in off seasons: Off seasons vary for different destinations but generally speaking you can find the best deals from mid January to mid March and mid October to mid December. Vacationing at these times is also much less stressful because you are not constantly battling the crowds.
3. Search for the Cheapest Destination: Skyscanner.com also has a great tool to allow you to search for the cheapest destinations from any airport. The button took me a while to find at first so I included a screenshot to show you exactly where it is and what the search results look like. The prices are in pounds but it is still useful for knowing where your cheapest destinations are.
4. Use Regional Airports: Before you look to the major airports and airlines, search for flights from regional airports. Discount airlines typically fly more out of small regional airports so you may find some cheaper flights. You may have to drive farther to get to these airports but parking rates are cheaper and you can get from your car to the gate much quicker.
5. Avoid Traveling on the Weekends: Whether you are flying or driving; you will save money by traveling during the week instead of the weekends. Both flights and gas are typically more expensive on the weekends. If you decide to take a road trip be sure to check out our article on Gas Saving Tips.
6. Make Lunch Your “Eat Out” Meal: While on vacation there is nothing wrong with eating out at a nice restaurant. Choose lunch as your “sit-down, nice meal” instead of dinner. Restaurants often offer lunch specials or cheaper prices at lunchtime rather than dinner.
7. Seek Hotel Alternatives: Rather than going the traditional route of staying at a hotel; consider a hostel, house swap, or rent from a local resident.
Hostels: Hostels are great for young adults. I was able to travel throughout Europe and some major US cities at around $20 a night. The social aspect of a hostel also beats a hotel every time. Sites like hostels.com and hostelworld.com can help find hostels for your destination.
House Swaps: Check out swapmycitypad.com for help finding a house to swap with.
Rent from local resident: Sites like couchsurfing.org, airbnb.com, campinmygarden.com, and bedandbreakfast.com link travelers with locals who are renting everything from a part of their yard to camp on to entire apartments.
8. Factor in Currency Rates: When deciding on a destination overseas, factor in currency exchange rates. Some destinations may cost more to get there but you will spend less money once you arrive. Other destinations like many countries in western Europe will be more expensive once you arrive because of the exchange rate.
9. Exchange Currency Only Once: Find the place with the best exchange rate then exchange as much as you need all at once. Exchanges with no conversion fees often offer worse rates. Sometimes it is better to pay the conversion fee if you are getting a better exchange rate. You can maximize your savings if you exchange your money all at once rather than every couple days. Also look at your credit card to see what their foreign transaction and exchange rates are. You may be better paying with your credit card instead of cash. This is not always the case so be sure to check with your credit card company first. Airports usually offer the worst rates so plan ahead and exchange somewhere else.
10. Maximize Public Transportation: Public transportation is usually the cheapest way to get around. Use public transportation as much as possible so that you can avoid needing a rental car all together. If there is something that you want to see that requires you to drive, only rent a car for that day instead of the entire time.
11. Be Smart with Taxis: In a foreign country, never let someone approach you and offer to take you to a taxi. This usually happens right outside customs at the airport. If these people see you looking at a map or asking directions they know you may be an easy target to rip off. They will tell you how much it will cost to get to your destination and offer to pay the taxi driver for you. They will then pay the driver a fraction of the money that you gave him and pocket the rest. If you need a taxi, go directly to the driver. It is also best to find out local rates beforehand to prevent you from being overcharged.
12. Bring Your Own Food: If you are driving then you can bring a cooler and pack food for your trip. This may not be possible if you are flying but you can at least bring food for actual travel days to avoid paying overpriced airport prices.
13. Buy Local Food: When you arrive at your destination shop at a local grocery store for food to eat while you are on the go instead of eating at a restaurant for every meal.
14. Buy Event Tickets in Advance: Whether you are going to a sporting event, museum, festival or show; buy tickets in advance to save on admission fees. Search for promotion codes to get more savings. Printing your tickets beforehand will also save a lot of time waiting in line. Grocery stores and Walmart will also sometimes sell discounted tickets for water and amusement parks.
15. Weigh Your Luggage: Make sure you weigh your luggage before you fly to ensure you are under the weight limit. If needed, you can cross load between other people traveling with you to avoid having to pay extra fees. If you are underweight, try to consolidate as much as you can to reduce the pieces of luggage that you will need to check in.
16. Turn Off Utilities at Home: Before you leave make sure you’re not wasting money on utilities back home. Unplug everything but your security alarm and refrigerator/freezer. Also consider turning off the water to your entire house. In the summer turn off the A/C and water heater. In the winter turn the water heater and house temperature down to a level that will prevent the pipes from freezing, but won’t waste money maintaining a room temperature.
If you have your own money saving tips for vacation please include them in the comments section.