Traveling can be very expensive, that’s why many people only take one or two trips a year. I reached out to the biggest A-list travel bloggers to ask what their favorite travel savings tip was and here is what they had to say. I also interviewed the New York Times’ Frugal Traveler and I had author Tim Leffel on my podcast, both of which I highly recommend checking out. Here’s a few of my favorite ways to get the most bang for your buck, without taking away from the over all experience:
Our other favorite way to cut down the costs is to buy and print off a few restaurant.com gift certificates before we go. Their customers have saved over $500 million. You will find a choice of over 18,000 restaurants to choose from. You may have particular restaurants in mind, but it’s worth a look to see if they’re on restaurant.com. However, before you visit the site there are a few things you should know:
As you will see on the sites home page, “you can get $25 gift cards for $10”. First of all you’re actually going to have to spend $35 to be able to use that $25 gift card AND you are required to pay an 18% gratuity. Therefore, you end up paying $20 for a $25 gift card, which is still a great price. But if you want to truly get your best value, give them your email address or look on the internet to find a 80% off coupon, so you will only be paying $2, which will end up being $12 for a $25 gift card. It expires one year from date of issue. These certificates never expire… what are you waiting for?
Be sure to ask everywhere you go if the have AAA discounts. Do your homework and a lot of times you can save a lot of time and money by buying your attraction tickets online, I know this is true many many themeparks such as SeaWorld and Six Flags.
Get a hybrid car and take a road trip. One or two people might actually come out better by flying, not mention save the wear and tear on their car. But a family of four might come out better driving, the kids might also enjoy stopping at the little tourist traps along the way, sometimes it’s fun to plan the trip as you go and not be on any type of schedule. You can save on air travel by buying your tickets in advance, always purchase your tickets at least three weeks in advance, prices can go up $100s of dollars within a few days so keep a close eye on the prices. I prefer to get my tickets from Kayak. Bus travel often turns out to be the cheapest means of transportation so consider it too. I have never been a big fan of rail travel because it is expensive and often inconvenient. When booking flights, sometimes it is cheaper to fly into airports other than your final destination, and then take a train or bus. You can save quite a bit by “dragging yourself through the coals” just a few hours longer and it may just be worth it.
I’ve always liked getting souvenirs from my favorite destinations and getting a few goodies for friends and family too, which can really add up in the long run. But look away from Times Square or Mainstreet USA, go a few blocks away from the action and you will probably find discount stores with the same products at a better price. On my last visit to SeaWorld Orlando I discovered a discount store at the back of the park and really lucked up. The same happened in Vegas, I found a store off the strip in downtown Las Vegas beside the Freemont Street Experience and grabbed a few incredible buys! Leave some extra space in that suitcase for souvenirs!
Try eating where the locals go for a more authentic, lower priced experience. Also consider visiting the local super market to cook dinner for yourself. Always eat at expensive restaurants for lunch (if they are open) and sometimes you’ll find about the same sized meal for half of the dinner price and half the wait too.
Start by always asking for an upgrade when you check in, you’d be surprised to see how often they will do it. While it may be quite tempting to stay in an urban oasis in the heart of a big city or a super cute bed and breakfast with all the comforts of home, it may be putting a major dent in your budget and knocking you out of other great, more rewarding experiences. You wouldn’t even consider sleeping in your car and a camper/RV uses too much gas and requires too much upkeep, so what’s left? Many state and national parks have campsites that you can rent for next to nothing. You can check with a large university to see if they have any dormitorys available for rent, but that only works in the summer months.
Hostels are slowly cathing on in the US…but they are generally pretty hard to find. I did an entire episode on “hostels in America” with the manger of Hostel World, the world’s most popular hostel booking site. So be sure to check that episode out! Also, those traveling with 4-4 people will want to get a suite rather than 2 rooms, as couches often fold out. Those who are going to be in a city for a weak or more will want to consider renting out a furnished apartment, using sites such as Airbnb, Wimdu, Home Away, and 9Flats. Or you can also use sites like Couchsurfing and Hospitality Club to stay with locals for free.
Don’t let them talk you into paying for wi-fi either, I always go to a fast food place (such as McDonalds), a library or Starbucks to take advantage of their free wifi.
Consider traveling somewhere closer and somewhere that would be less expensive. Las Vegas and Washington DC are often great destinations for budget travelers because the offer a wide variety of free attractions. Check out our list of some of the cities with the best free attractions.
City Smart: The Travel Savings handbook!
All that was just the beginning of my knowledge on budget travel! Check out my book City Smart to get the ultimate guide to budget travel!