How many times have you wanted to go on vacation, but felt like you didn’t have enough money to afford it? The reality is—you might actually have enough, if you knew how to save money while on vacation.
In this post, we’ll go over 11 easy ideas to help you save money on vacation.
It could take just one great idea to turn that vacation from expensive and out of reach, to affordable and something to enjoy regularly.
Before we dive in, a quick disclaimer…
Though I find stock market investing to be my superpower, passion, and expertise, I’ll be the first to admit that personal finance and saving money isn’t necessarily in my strongest wheelhouse.
That said, I’m lucky to have a girlfriend who is absolutely great at this, and so these tips come directly from her. She really lives this out without even trying or probably even realizing this. I’ll add some notes to these great ideas based on what I’ve observed while on vacation with her and the different conversations we’ve happened to have.
These ideas have been great ways to allow us to vacation more, and save and invest money that might’ve been unnecessarily wasted on things which don’t really add to the quality of a trip. Those savings can compound over time, especially if you’re investing in great dividend stocks and DRIPing those over time 😉.
With that, let’s dive in to how to save for a vacation if you’re on a tight budget, with these 11 quick and easy tips.
#1—Go Saturday to Monday instead of Friday to Sunday (Save a high price night at hotel)
Avoiding the higher priced weekend nights can be a great, easy way to automatically save money on your vacation.
It’s one that might not sound obvious…
But it fits with one of the overarching themes in many of these tips, which is that it pays to stay flexible with how you plan your vacation.
You might not always get complete control of what days you can get off for your vacation, but you might, or you might be able to work around the typical weekend trip schedule.
What if you took a “sick day” on a Monday instead of taking that vacation day on Friday, where you pay two nights of the most expensive hotel stay (Friday, Saturday) rather than just one (overpriced Saturday, cheap Sunday).
The more nights you are on vacation, the more this could potentially save you, especially the more flexibility you have around what days you actually want to be on vacation.
#2—Don’t bring your dog (or use Rover)
As a dog owner, hopefully this will be one of those tips that gets outdated for more accommodative hotels/Airbnbs, as it seems like more and more people are getting dogs.
It’s amazing how much some hotels will charge as a pet fee to bring him/her, which can really add up, especially over multiple nights.
One thing we have done before was to use the “rover” app to find a dog sitter for the night.
If you’re doing a road trip, you can save even more by bringing your dog in the car with you, and hiring a dog sitter in the same town you are staying at.
You could maybe pay $30 or $40 for the night instead of the $90 or $100+ pet fee the hotel would charge you.
Maybe another idea is to make friends with another dog owner at the dog park, and offer to both watch each other’s pets once a year for vacations. Free sitting, and the dogs get a pal for a few nights? Win, win.
#3—Be flexible with flight options (flying red eye, or not flying direct)
You’ll see another theme with many of the tips in this post, and it relates to how much money you can save if you intentionally plan things ahead.
Just because check-in is at 3 and check-out is at 11 doesn’t mean you have to plan your flights to meet these exact times, especially because when you fly can so widely vary in price.
If a red eye saves you a few hundred dollars, why not take it and have a flexible plan?
You can still Uber to your hotel, leave your bags at bellhop, and get a head start on some vacation activities.
Worried about feeling tired?
Start the day at a café, and just relax with some coffee. You could hang out there for hours and no one would bat an eye.
Still feel awkward about having nowhere to hang out?
Go to a local bookstore, and browse and then sit down with a book of your choice. Or you could visit the local library for some free and relaxing reading time, even without a library card. Why not spend the morning outside at a local park, with your Kindle or a book?
Then, once it’s time to check-in, head to the hotel and take a nice cat nap.
Sounds like a pretty relaxing start to a vacation for me, and you probably saved a good chunk of change just for the slight inconvenience of flying at the less popular times.
#4—Google cheap/free things to do (museums, parks, and outdoor festivals for example)
Keeping with the theme of vacation activities, you DON’T have to spend money on all of the classic tourist traps just because that’s exactly what everyone does when they’re on vacation.
You can absolutely get the tone and culture of a city or area while still saving lots of money by planning ahead and finding cheap events before you go.
Depending on the museum, some will have very reasonable entry fees and can be a fabulous way to learn about a city’s history.
Outdoor festivals can be lots of fun, which you can search in google. Just type “Things to do in X city”.
#5—Make a pack list so you don’t forget to bring anything and end up having to buy it
The classic problem of forgetting to pack an essential can really add up, especially because airports and hotels know about this exact problem and will overcharge quite a lot on these kinds of items.
Without a car to drive to a Target or Walmart for these things, you’ll probably be forced to pay these higher prices and it can add up depending on what you forget.
One of the big ones is sunscreen; expect to pay an arm and a leg if you’re on a tropical vacation and forget that very important thing.
Nobody wants to get a nasty sunburn on what’s supposed to be a relaxing trip, and you can bet the touristy areas know all about that and will profit on your forgetfulness.
Even if it sounds obvious, just make the list, because it’ll probably help you remember something that you would’ve forgotten otherwise.
Also, remember the rules on flying—you usually can’t get away with items that contain more than 3 oz of liquids for example. Hair product can be expensive especially if you tend to make this forgetfulness a habit.
#6—Take public transportation (Don’t rent a car)
Renting a car can be one of those highest expenses for your vacation, right up there with flying and a hotel.
With the low prices of ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft these days, there’s really no excuse to get fleeced at the local Hertz for a car which you might not use as much you thought you would.
Take the city in and ride along with the locals; it could be fun and is definitely cheaper.
If you’re in a place like New York city, you’d be a fool to not take the subway (parking anywhere is another ridiculous expense anyway).
Or if you’re in a hip city like Austin, why not take one of those electric scooters for a ride?
As long as you’re careful, that’s a fun way to explore the city and get from place A to place B, with one of those new apps like Lime.
#7—Stay outside of downtown. Even with Uber it may be cheaper
If you want the downtown convenience, be prepared to pay the downtown prices. With the right planning, you can still save on trips to downtown even without a car and without staying downtown.
Combining this tip with the last one, try to find an Airbnb or hotel that is walking distance to a train or subway which leads into downtown.
That’s a win, win, win—as you get convenience, money savings, and again another way to immerse yourself with the locals.
#8—Eat at hole-in-the-wall places, they usually have the best food
Here’s where Google or Yelp can be your friend again. With a little smart planning, you should be easily able to find affordable dining which can really add up over a long trip.
These places will tend to be favorites for locals anyways, and for good reason. The food will be excellent.
Part of the fun of vacation is trying new foods and restaurants, but it doesn’t have to be a crazy expensive part of the experience.
Tip “8a”: Save your leftovers to eat the next day
This one is more of a girlfriend thing to me, because I never leave leftovers. But this can be a great way to save some money on your food budget while out, especially if you go to restaurants known for their big portions. Having an Airbnb or hotel with a microwave as an amenity will be key here.
#9—Don’t drink, or pregame before you go out
It’s amazing how much money you can burn by drinking heavily when you’re out and about. This is especially true if you have a heavy tolerance, or like to stay out til the bars close.
Of course, if you naturally don’t drink, this is an easy tip which you can skip to step 10.
But for those of us with this expensive vide—the idea of “pregaming” is to drink at the hotel before you go out, so that you don’t have to spend as much money on drinks when you are out and about. The idea is that if you tend to drink until a certain level of intoxication, you can save money by getting part of the way there with cheaper alcohol during the pregame instead of at the ridiculously overpriced bars and restaurants.
It also goes hand-in-hand with tip “9a”, which is to buy beer instead of liquor when you are out and about. Again, if you usually drink to a certain level of intoxication, you could spend lots of money on liquor especially when you have no control over how much a bartender will pour you.
When you buy a beer, which is usually cheaper than liquor, you know exactly what you’re going to get, which helps against you getting skimped at the bar.
#10— Bring snacks to avoid having to buy them (make your own to save even more!)
Here’s another one which can depend on the person, but if you’re someone who knows how to make tasty snacks, why not do some preparation and make some ahead of time?
I love snacking on vacation, even though I don’t tend to in my “regular life”.
Having a new snack recipe to try, and taking that extra effort to have it ready for the trip, can be a nice way to treat yourself (literally).
#11—Have coffee at your hotel/Airbnb
I know this can sound like blasphemy to my fellow coffee people out there, but over a long vacation even something like coffee can add up.
You might be surprised at how calming a coffee on the patio can be in a brand new environment, especially if you’ve picked the right place to stay.
It’s amazing how much you can forget to soak up your environment when you’re on vacation, and having a coffee in the place where you’re already at will force you to do just that.
Having a fun vacation doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money to do it.
A little preparation and effort before your trip can have a huge impact to your saving and spending during the trip.
And if it makes that vacation possible, or allows you to do more or stay longer, isn’t that worth it?
Remember, be flexible and get creative. And have fun with it!
That’s how to save money on vacation, by taking the path that’s different than everyone else who is on vacation.