All of us want to experience a dream vacation – without spending a fortune. The good news is, it’s possible. Yes, traveling can be expensive. But with the right approach, you can bring down the cost. You just have to be smart and read some great tips on how to save money while traveling. Here are 4 really helpful tips on how to save money while traveling.

How to Save Money While Traveling

1. Save on Food

Want to eat out and taste local food specialties and delicacies? You can do that yet still save money. Just take note of these money saving tips:

  • Navigating grocery stores and bakeries

Shopping for food at supermarkets, groceries, and farmers’ markets will allow you to save money on food. Buying meat, cheese, fresh bread, vegetables and fruits will just cost you a few dollars.

Order small quantities of pay-by-weight items – what you realistically can eat. It’s a great way to sample a wide variety of local foods.

Try going to markets and small bakeries during late afternoon. Some sell their products at a lower price during this time. They do this to prevent unsold items from spoiling.

  • Putting restaurant meals to work for you

Trying out restaurants is part of the fun of traveling. Read travel guidebooks for lists of the best affordable restaurants in a city. “Let’s Go” and “Rough Guides” are good choices.

Many people tend to eat their largest meal of the day at dinner, when menus are usually most expensive. So you may want to consider making lunch the biggest meal instead. Another great way to save money when eating out at restaurants is to find one that offer a “kids eat free” promotion.

  • Be a restaurant bargain hunter
Salmon and Vegetables on a Plate

Many restaurants offer coupons and discounts. Some of the best places to look for special deals include:

– Discounted gift certificates from Restaurant.com.

– International restaurant booking sites like TheFork.com, which offers a network of 12,000 restaurant partners across Europe.

– Search your location plus restaurant discounts on Google and see what comes up. There are many international dining sites with local discounts available.

– Offers from promotional sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial.

– Become a member of AAA or AARP to enjoy restaurant discounts.

– The official tourism website of your destination.

– Find inexpensive restaurants on Yelp.

  • Choose a hotel that offers a kitchen and mini-fridge

For budget travelers, a hotel room could be a good enough place to prepare your meals. All you have to do is choose hotels that offer full or half kitchens. This is particularly helpful if you have children traveling with you as they may not have the patience to sit in restaurants for long periods. Meanwhile, backpackers can benefit from hostels, which usually have communal kitchens.

Cups of soup, ramen noodles, and sandwiches are easy to prepare. If your hotel room has a mini-fridge and a coffee maker, that’s great. It means you can eat and prepare a wider variety of foods. If you do not have a mini-fridge, you can consider basic non-refrigerated staples such as peanut butter, jelly, and bread.

  • To drink or not to drink?

One way to keep on budget is to avoid alcoholic beverages. But if you like a good cocktail, seek out happy hours. Some bars offer free food during happy hour. For instance, some establishments in Spain serve tapas whenever you order a drink.

If there’s one beverage that you can’t do without, it’s water. If you wish to buy bottled water, buy from a supermarket or a grocery store. It’s less expensive than those sold by street vendors (and probably safer). Be sure to carry a collapsible water bottle with you and save tons of money at airports. (Here is our favorite!)

2. Save on a Cruise

Some people are reluctant to go on a cruise because of the price tag. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to save money on a cruise with these tips.

Cruise Ship Ovation of the Seas
  • Timing is everything

Book early – at least 4 months before your desired sailing date, most especially if you are aiming for high season. You get your choice of date, cabin, and dining times. You can also take advantage of early savings promotions which toss in extra goodies.

Try to book during “wave season” which is between January and March. This is when cruise lines usually provide their best deals and offers. Deals promoted during this season require booking during this 3-month period. Travelers can save up to 75% and find extras such as kids sailing for free and onboard credits.

Prices can double if you cruise during peak time. To get a bargain, consider traveling between Thanksgiving and mid-December, after New Year’s, and after Labor Day. As much as possible, avoid spring and summer breaks. Yes, weather can be a gamble, but in exchange, you get smaller crowds and tickets that cost hundreds less.

  • Shop the discount sites

You can find limited-time offers, impressive wholesale rates, and extreme discounts off brochure prices at sites like Travelocity, Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz, CruiseDirect, LastMinuteTravel, and VacationsToGo.

Other sites like CouponCabin lists promotional codes and gets you cashback when you book. Likewise, Upromise members earn 5% cashback when reserving a Disney, Celebrity, Carnival, or Royal Caribbean cruise.

  • Use a travel agent

Cruise agents can save you time and give you plenty of helpful tips on how to save money while traveling. Plus, they can get you the best discounts, amenities, gifts, and shipboard credits. Agents can offer these because of volume. If you are looking for a good one, contact us and we can give you suggestions. 

  • Stay loyal

Once you’ve found a cruise line you like, stick with it. Returning customers get great deals. Most cruise lines offer loyalty programs and rewards such as drink packages, shore excursions, and onboard credit.

  • Look beyond the mega-ships

If you look beyond the massive ship companies, you will see that they're other cruising experiences to be had, often at a better value.

Small ships offer an opportunity to experience charming, off-the-beaten-path locales that bigger ocean carriers could not reach. Although large liners definitely have their perks, smaller ships offer savings. In addition, perks that are usually a la carte on larger vessels are included such as unlimited premium beverages and shore excursions.

Still another way to save money is to look for repositioning cruises (those with unconventional itineraries). For instance, sailing between the Caribbean and Alaska has a lower daily rate than a cruise within the Caribbean or Alaska.

3. Save with a Large Family

Large Family walking on the beach at sunset
  • Extra carry-ons

Paying for every bag you carry can add to your travel costs. The good news is, every person gets the same luggage allowance. In many airlines, your three-year-old is allowed a full-size carry-on and a personal item. Rather than checking luggage, split your stuff with a bag for each member of the family and let the kids carry personalized little backpacks. Check out some of our favorite inexpensive travel gear. 

  • Rent a house

The rise of online home rental services has been really beneficial for vacationing families. Instead of booking a hotel room, rent a house through sites such as Airbnb, VRBO.com, or Homeaway.com to get more space for your dollar. Aside from a lower average nightly price, you’ll be able to save more by cooking your own meals and avoiding any parking costs. This helpful tips on how to save money while traveling could save you hundreds of dollars!

  • Stay where you can cook

If you and your family want to stay in a hotel, there are still ways to cut back on costs. The key is having food storage and preparation options. Extended stay hotels like Residence Inn and Homewood Suites have basic kitchens. At other hotels, verify if the room has a mini-refrigerator that you can use.

  • Take food to go

Eating at restaurants during family vacations can be fun. The problem is, those tabs for 3 meals a day (especially for a large family) can quickly add up. To save money, eat out just one restaurant meal a day. For the other meals, rely on grocery store foods or go on simple picnics. If you have enough room in the car, bring a cooler and pack it with your favorite foods.

  • Kids stay or eat for free

Some parents don’t know that many hotels don’t charge for kids under the age of 12. The same goes for restaurants; many restaurants offer free food for toddlers and small children.

4. Save When Getting Around Town

Bus on a busy city street

Catching the bus or hopping on the subway can translate into considerable cost savings. Of course there are other ways to get around town that are more comfortable and hassle-free.

You can use Lyft (click to get $5 credit) to get an affordable ride in minutes. Lyft operates in approximately 300 US cities as well as some areas in Canada. This ride-sharing app lets you request a car and get picked up by a nearby driver who will take you to your destination right away. The Lyft app is easy to use and it will surely save you money when traveling with a large family. Lyft has 2 types of promotions for passengers: ride discounts and Lyft credit. Promotions can be claimed using promo codes or automatically applied to your account. To learn more about Lyft promos and discounts, click here.

Another thing you should consider is CityPass. They offer guided tours, with pre-determined routes and stops. Enjoy authentic travel experiences in such cities as New York, Chicago, Tampa, Houston, Atlanta, San Francisco, and more! And yes, they offer discounted rates. Click the links to learn more.

Conclusion

Traveling can be an exciting adventure, whether it’s just a few states away or to faraway countries. The best way to keep your trip stress-free and within your means is to plan ahead. Hopefully, these  tips on how to save money while traveling will enable you to experience a memorable vacation without going over budget. To find out how to book the cheapest flight possible, check out our show notes page.

Download our checklist on how to save money while traveling.

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