If you know me, you know about my passion for travel. Adam and I try to take one to two international trips per year, with a lot of domestic trips in between. If you know me, you also might know that I’m very budget-conscious— hence this budget-focused beauty/fashion blog. I absolutely hate spending money when I don’t need to. I’m very thrifty and proud of it… so how do I manage to still save money while traveling the world?
Even in college, Adam and I always prioritized travel and were able to go on some amazing vacations such as the Caribbean, London, and Orlando for a Disney & Universal trip without breaking the bank. Throughout the years, I’ve done so much research and have learned from experience how to save the most money while traveling. Today, I’m sharing my best tips on how to travel on a budget so you can have a leg up when planning your next trip.
1. Compare Vacation Packages to a la Carte Options
Sometimes, bundling your flight can save you hundreds of dollars. Other times, flying a budget airline like Southwest or Frontier and booking your hotel separately is the cheapest option. Be sure to compare your options to see whether a package deal works in your favor. The sites I like using for vacation packages are including Orbitz, Hotels.com, Expedia and Travelocity.
2. Use Cash Back Apps While Booking
I use Ebates to earn cash back on my travel bookings. Sign up and add the browser extension, which will flash when you’re on a site that offers cash back (it works on all the travel sites I mentioned in #1!). Even if you’re scoring a great deal on these sites, you’ll get a little extra cash back in your pocket. Plus, the extension works on hundreds of sites that you probably already shop at. Use cash back from your normal online shopping to save as a vacation fund!
3. Sign Up for Travel Rewards Programs
Make sure you’re enrolled in the free rewards programs for the sites you use to book travel. For example, Hotels.com’s rewards program offers a free night at any of their properties after you book 10 nights through their site. The 10 nights don’t even have to be all on one trip, or at one place. Orbitz also has their program called “Orbuckz”, where you earn travel dollars on bookings and can apply them to future travel.
4. Book with Air BnB in Expensive Areas
Air BnB has gotten extremely popular for budget travelers, because you can typically get more space for less than a hotel room, especially if you’re sharing the cost with friends and family. You have the option of renting out an entire house/apartment, a guesthouse, or a room in a space with the host. I love using Air BnB in metro areas like Los Angeles because you can get more specific about what neighborhoods you want to stay in, and the cost can’t be beat. Plus, they are international! We’re staying in an Air BnB in Canada next month.
Air BnB also recently started offering “experiences”— access to attractions and tours in the area you’re staying for affordable prices. Use my link to get $40 off a booking of $75, and $15 off an experience of $50— total savings of $55! Once you sign up, be sure to share your referral link with friends and family. When they book through your link, you’ll get credit to use for your future stays.
5. Book Full Vacations or Individual Experiences Groupon
Groupon is an amazing way to travel cheap. Not only do they have discounts on individual hotels, but they also have complete vacation packages. We actually did our honeymoon to Thailand through a Groupon deal, which included airfare, hotel stays, two meals a day and access to all the attractions for about $1300 a person. They have a ton of vacation packages for traveling across the world, you may find something right up your alley in your budget. Be sure to look up reviews of the actual tour company the promotion is with, first!
Aside from travel packages, Groupon is a great way to discover and save on attractions once you’re in your destination. In London, we logged on to Groupon and found local discounts for Beatles walking tours as well as a tour of Stonehenge! Groupon is available in 48 countries, so it’s definitely worth checking for deals in your destination.
6. Use All Available Student Discounts
Even if you’re in a totally different state or country as your school, try using your student ID for student discounts if they’re offered. We did it all over London— despite our California student IDs— and never ran into any problems. We saved a ton of money this way, since almost all of the attractions offered student discounts at $5-$10 less than general admission!
7. Take Advantage of Free Activities
Having a full travel itinerary doesn’t mean spending a ton on activities. Did you know that most national museums are free or donation-based? There are also endless outdoors activities with free access such as hikes, trails and waterfronts. I literally always google “Free things to do in (my destination)” every time I plan a trip, and try to add as many of the results to my itinerary.
8. Utilize Public Transportation
Getting familiar with public transportation can save you a ton in cab fees and Uber rides. Some cities offer transportation passes that are valid on all types of rides across busses, trains and trolleys. Most cities have pre-paid options that will offer not only convenience, but also a discount per ride vs. paying for each one separately. Check your destination’s public transportation website for more details. If using public transportation makes you nervous in a new town, see if the city has any mobile apps that will help you plan routes.
If you do decide Uber’s the way to go, Use the code “ubertheblindspot” for $2 off each of your first 3 Uber rides.
9. Get Groceries to Save on Food
Whether you’re staying in a hotel or an Air BnB, there is always room for swapping restaurant meals with groceries you pick up at a local market. This will save you a ton of money, since food is probably the biggest vacation expense after airfare and lodging. Breakfast is the easiest meal to swap, since it can be prepared with or without a full kitchen. Grab some bagels, cream cheese, fruit, and coffee for a filling beginning to your day without spending an arm and a leg.
10. Pack Light and Avoid Baggage Fees
Baggage fees are often overlooked when traveling, and can cost you an extra $60-70 round trip! Packing light can remedy the situation. Take advantage of your free overhead bag and personal item that most airlines offer. If you feel like you must check a bag due to the length of a trip, try sharing one checked bag between two people plus your carry-ons if you are traveling with a companion. Read my tips on how to avoid overpacking here.
11. Travel Mid-Week or Off-Season
This one might be obvious but is worth saying: traveling mid-week or off-season can save you hundreds of dollars! It’s always cheaper arriving/leaving somewhere on a Tuesday or Wednesday vs. the weekend when everyone else is traveling. Want to go to a popular Summer vacation destination? Try going a little earlier than the typical “school’s out” season… think: May or early June.
Do you have any other budget travel tips you swear by? Share them in the comments!