Traveling is an indulgence that I love. It’s expensive when you’re away from home and you feel like you’re constantly opening your wallet and the money is flowing out. These are the methods I use to keep our travel costs as low as possible – so I can travel again sooner rather than later. By planning ahead, considering creative alternatives, and making the ordinary into an event, you’ll definitely save money on travel. Some of these tips are for before you go and other tips are for while you’re on a trip. These tips are how to save on travel and still have a fabulous trip whether you’re having a stay-cation in your hometown or you’re traveling to another country.
How to Save Money on Travel
- Use Kayak and/or Orbitz to compare fares. Once you’ve found the lowest fare, check the individual air carriers site to see if it is even cheaper.
- Start researching fare prices a couple of months ahead to get a sense of what the ballpark cost will be.
- If you can be flexible with your dates, fly on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Flights are almost always cheaper on these days.
- Purchase airline tickets on Tuesday at about 2:00PM or 3:00PM EST. I have heard varying theories for why this is (it’s something magical and mysterious about when the carriers set their prices but I honestly don’t know), but regardless, it does seem to get the lowest price.
- Consider alternatives to standard chain hotels. Most big cities in Europe have well located, safe, modest, inexpensive family run places that are small but great, since you are not spending most of your time in the room. If you are willing to accept a room with shower and toilet down the hall, you can save even more money. Many rooms do have sinks.
- Hostels are another great option. For singles, couples or families most hostels have moved beyond the “only for college age backpacker” type. Our experience in Prague, Czech Republic at the Hostel u Melounu was excellent for our family and the cost was very reasonable – oh, and it included breakfast.
- Try a home exchange. Both within the United States and overseas a home exchange gets you free (you can’t beat that price!) lodging and a kitchen to boot.
- Camping. In the US and Europe, camping makes any trip a fun adventure. Camping in Europe is not rustic and it’s the only time I put on lipstick while camping!
- Apartment rental is another option. We have not done this but many friends have and their experiences have been excellent. Much like a home swap, you have a place to stay and a kitchen. Airbnb and 9flats are sites that help individuals renting out their apartments, homes, and rooms.
- Use public transportation whenever possible.
- For a family traveling in Europe, many times the train is too expensive and car rental becomes a more economical choice. We have had great luck with AutoEurope for our car rentals. Check countries you’ll be driving in to see whether you need an International driver’s license or not.
- Always bring a water bottle and fill it up whenever you can. Do you want to pay those prices?
- Public and street markets are great places for fun and relatively inexpensive meals. Market shopping turns the need to eat into entertainment and an event.
- Picnic. The absolutely least expensive way to eat, see, and experience the place you are visiting. Whether it’s in a park or town square, grab some meat, cheese and vegetables or fruit and make a spread. Napping after your picnic is a requirement.
- Always keep snacks with you in a backpack. You never know when hunger will strike. Nuts, pretzels, carrots, bread, cheese or dried fruit always satisfy while on the go and you won’t feel the need to run into a restaurant.
- Free concerts: Whether in your own neighborhood, across the country or the world, especially during the summer months, there’s usually a free event scheduled. Ask around and you won’t be disappointed.
- Free museum days: Many museums have times set aside that are free. It may be crowded, so you’ll need to weigh crowds vs. cost but it’s worth checking into.
- Parks and playgrounds. We all need to stretch our legs and run and if you’re traveling with kids, this is especially true. When we traveled to Paris and had a tour of Versailles, our then 7-year-old son wrote in his journal, “Versailles is great except there’s no place to play.” The language of play is universal. We try and find a playground daily when traveling.
- Sights and architecture: Look up and around and don’t forget to bring a sketch pad. Sketching while vacationing is a gift for you and your kids. Take time to enjoy what’s around you.
- Hikes and scenic walks: Free and especially lovely with that picnic lunch you have tucked away in your backpack.
- Public pools: Great for kids and families and always refreshing on a hot summer day.
- Libraries: don’t overlook your local library for books, music, and DVDs. Don’t hesitate to ask if you can get a card while traveling, too. I’m happy to say that we are card-carrying-members of the San Francisco Public Library system as of our home exchange there this past spring.
So, plan ahead, consider creative alternatives, and make the ordinary into an event, and you’ll definitely save money on travel. You may even find yourself enjoying your trip more.
What’s on your travel list this summer?