Is it safe for me to assume that you are curious about ways to make travel a part of your life? And save money while you are doing it?
You’re here. You’re reading.
Many people that I talk to say that one of the BIGGEST barriers to travel is the cost. Especially if you are interested in traveling overseas.
(Well, and Covid. But I believe you will begin to see travel destinations open up.)
Would you agree?
HOW DO YOU SAVE MONEY ON TRAVEL?
What you really need are practical tips and suggestions on HOW to save money for travel that honestly work.
And I know they work, because my husband, Chris, and I implement all of them.
My first 2 tips start you on the “save money for travel” road long before you ever board an airplane.
You can begin to plan and dream about travel BECAUSE these two tips are in place.
And just an FYI, these tips work just as well if you are planning travel overseas or a little closer to home.
TIP #1 Create a Vacation Fund
An ancient Chinese Proverb states, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The next best time is now.” The same goes for starting a vacation fund and creating habits to save money.
“The best time to start a vacation fund was twenty years ago. The next best time is now!”
The goal when you create a vacation fund is to establish the habit of saving money each month.
If you travel regularly, you will find that you build up your vacation fund, plan a trip and use up your fund, and then start to build again. So starting today versus twenty years ago is still do-able.
For many, traveling, especially traveling to international destinations, is a once-in-a-lifetime event. If you start to save money today, your vacation fund will begin to grow until you are ready to go.
Where do you find the extra money to add to your vacation savings account?
Making travel a goal in your life might mean that you begin to make sacrifices in other areas—going to fewer movies, plays or musical performances, eating out less often, and limiting clothing splurges. These sacrifices all support your dream of traveling and are worth the effort.
You do not have to have excessive wealth to travel, but you do have to make saving for travel a PRIORITY.
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TIP #2 Sign up for Travel Rewards or Travel-Specific Credit Cards
You might have seen the article I wrote about 6 Steps to Plan Travel with Reward Points. It outlines the goal of signing up for hotel rewards programs, enrolling in frequent flyer programs, and choosing which rental car agency to use on a regular basis in your goal to save money.
“… you should decide which airline, hotel chain, and rental car company you want to accrue points with and then stick with them as much as you can.
My husband, Chris, actually signed up primarily with Hilton and Marriott since some international cities only have one or the other brand (both chains have plentiful options across Europe with dozens of brands in their portfolios).
Consider which chain will work best for you.
“Over the years, we’ve gone on many vacations where we have only paid for food and activities because reward points covered the hotel stay, our airfare, and the rental car. It has been a blessing and has allowed us to travel to a lot of amazing destinations.”
If you aren’t a frequent traveler, then you might want to consider a travel-related credit card that will begin to accrue points with your purchases that you can then use for booking flights and accommodations.
Here’s a BONUS TIP if you plan to travel with children or teens: Have them earn “FUN” money before the trip for the mementos and souvenirs they wish to buy.
TIP #3 Minimize Your Packing to Save Money
Some airlines charge baggage fees—fees you may not have been planning on—which add to the cost of your flight.
Some carriers have even started to charge for carry-ons!
Check Airfarewatchdog for an overview of major airline carriers’ baggage fees when flying from the United States and Canada.
Do your research and pack lightly. If you fly within Europe, you will most certainly encounter baggage fees.
Consider the weight of your suitcase. Luggage today is designed to be ultra lightweight making it easy to travel with, stow in overhead bins, and lift as you travel.
Now, to minimize your packing.
For those of you who typically plan an outfit where the pants and top match but don’t really go with anything else that you have packed, you need to adjust your thinking when traveling.
Choose neutral pants, skirts, shorts, or capris that will match with more than one shirt and can be worn multiple days before being washed. Realize that wearing the same shirt a couple of times over the course of a vacation is perfectly acceptable.
I’d recommend packing an extra pair of underwear and socks and go light on matchy matchy shorts, shirts, and pants. Your effforts to coordinate outfits will definitely help you save money on baggage fees.
Oh, and rolling your clothes instead of folding them really does keep them less wrinkled.
TIP #4 Bring Your Own Snacks
It is totally doable and acceptable to bring your own snacks. We typically pack a duffel bag or backpack with snacks and as the snacks are depleted, the bag or pack is refilled with souvenirs and mementos.
There are some members of our family (me included) who need to eat regularly otherwise we crash with low blood sugar, no energy, and crabbiness.
If this is you, you might be affectionately called “hangry”—a combination of hungry and angry!
We travel with snacks. Snacks that we like to eat. It cuts down on the “Mom, can I buy…” as you travel. Another way to help you save money!
Our girls like Goldfish Crackers and some types of gummy treats that come in single-serve or small packs. Chris also includes Peanut M&Ms, power bars, microwave popcorn, trail mix, nuts, applesauce pouches (ingenious), and Crystal Lite single-serve drink mix. You can find all of these items listed on My Favorite Travel Things page.
We have tried a variety of power bars, and no doubt whichever kind we pack, we are pretty sick of them by the end of a two-week trip. But when you need food and miss meals due to travel, AND that is what is available, the whining is minimal…never mind, the whining still happens.
We also travel with Clif Bloks energy chews and Jelly Belly Sport Beans as well as electrolyte packets, and ZipFizz powder to add to water for a quick burst of energy when we are lagging after a long, hot day of walking and being tourists. You’ll find these on My Favorite Travel Things page under Snacks!
The food on planes is not always great, so be sure to add some snacks to your carry-on as well.
Oh sure, they still get hungry as we travel and sightsee; we often treat them to local snacks.
TIP #5 Bring a Camelbak Hydration Pack Reservoir
Now, I know some of you may prefer other options than this, but this is something that works for our family.
One of the must-haves on our family vacations is a 3.0L Camelbak Hydration Pack Reservoir with a high flow, self-sealing, bite valve.
Say what? Sounds weird and strange, I know.
Chris’ carry-on backpack with the padded laptop section is perfect for transporting his electronics on the plane to our destination, but transforms to a day pack which we fill with snacks, the Camelbak, and extra water bottles once we begin sightseeing.
The laptop section of Chris’ backpack is padded enough to keep the water in the reservoir cool and minimizes any leaks to other sections of the backpack.
I will say, you REALLY have to like the people you travel with to use this method. We all drink from the same bite valve!
If you are traveling solo, or with people you’d rather not share with, consider investing in a smaller sized Camelbak reservoir.
We fill the Camelbak reservoir each night with water and put it in the fridge in our hotel room if a fridge is available. (If a freezer is available, only fill the reservoir half way and lay it flat.) If no fridge is available, add ice to the reservoir and fill it with water in the morning before you head out for the day. On a hot day, we refill the Camelbak at least once.
Hint * If you stop for lunch at a restaurant, ask for water and refill the reservoir. That is a SUPER EASY way to save money over buying bottled water.
Chris also notes that the chilled water keeps his back cool throughout the day, and fortunately, it gets lighter as the water is consumed.
Another bonus—our girls are big enough that they each get a turn to carry the backpack too.
We have not encountered any tap water in Europe that is not safe to drink. If you are concerned, ask.
It is also common for us to bring a couple of empty water bottles from home (and we usually collect more during our travels) and fill those for me to tuck into the external side pockets of my backpack. Having the water bottles makes it easy to add a single-serve Zipfizz (peach mango is our favorite flavor) or Electrolyte pack to a bottle.
When you are in the hot sun and walking all day long, water is essential.
TIP #6 Use FREE WiFi to Save Money
If you can handle only using your phone when you have free WiFi access, you can save money. Many cafes and public places offer free WiFi; it is definitely becoming more accessible throughout the world.
Just be mindful of the websites you visit and the login information you use on public WiFi. Hackers set up imposter networks surprisingly similar to legitimately offered networks in an attempt to steal your data.
To save on fees when making phone calls, I recommend that you connect with family and friends using Google, Facetime, or Facebook Messenger as long as you have a reliable internet connection. It is not quite as convenient, but a whole lot cheaper.
To avoid international cell phone bill shock for those of you who are infrequent travelers, for those who just need a reminder, or for those who may be traveling with kids who are normally glued to their devices, it is worth your time to research your provider’s international phone plans. Contact your provider’s customer support if you have questions.
FYI, many international plans are offered at slower speeds.
Consider setting up a VPN connection to establish a secure connection between the internet and you.
“When you connect to the internet through a VPN, all your data traffic is sent through an encrypted virtual tunnel. This has multiple advantages:
1. You’ll be more anonymous on the internet: your IP address and location won’t be visible to just anyone anymore.
2. You’ll be safer on the internet: the encrypted tunnel will keep away hackers and cybercriminals and your device won’t be as vulnerable to attacks.
3. You’ll be more free on the internet: by using different IP addresses, you’ll be able to access websites and online services that would otherwise be blocked.”VPN Explained
If using a VPN is an option for you as you travel, you will want to do some research before you leave home to get it set up.
I hope that I have sparked your thoughts with some ideas on SUPER EASY Ways to Save Money on Travel that you hadn’t considered before.
Now, let’s talk about how to save money on some of the activities you would like to experience as you travel.
TIP #7 Try FREE Walking Tours
Chris and I love the Rick Steves Audio Europe free audio tours (though our girls aren’t always so enthusiastic about them). These tours aren’t available for all countries.
Be sure to download the specific tours while you have WiFi access before you leave home or your hotel, and don’t forget headphones. Our family listens on separate devices and communicates with each other to “Start now” so everyone stays in sync.
You may also be interested in walking tours hosted by guides who share information and history as you walk around a city in a tour group. While these tours may be advertised as FREE, it is good etiquette to tip your guides.
The cost for these tours will generally be less than an excursion-type tour.
Check Pinterest as well. I have found self-guided tours created by kind individuals who share their tour itinerary. The tours require you to follow their outline and read the information yourself, but you can still learn a lot…and save money!
TIP #8 Plan for The FREE Museum Day in Europe
We planned our visit to Pompeii on a Sunday!
Do a little research and find out if there are museums close to your travel destination that participate in this program (not all do). Also, check to see if the “FREE” day falls on another day besides that first Sunday of the month.
Thanks for sticking with me. Let’s wrap up these SUPER EASY ways to save money on travel with Tips #9 and #10.
TIP #9 Skip The Taxi – Travel as The Locals Do
Taxis are typically a last resort for our family. If you do need to take a taxi, note that you can pay the driver with a credit card, but ask first.
If the meter isn’t running, agree upon a price before you get in, otherwise the driver could just come up with a random amount to charge you. Don’t be afraid to get out of the taxi if you aren’t comfortable with the arrangements (before the driver starts driving).
Instead of a taxi, take the train. Train travel is a fabulous way to see Europe. And it is often a great way save money. Other options include taking a bus, the subway, or a tram.
Chris’ favorite site to book European train travel through and to save money on train travel is Trainline.com.
Trains are safe, plentiful, and affordable. Don’t be shy about booking train travel in your itinerary. Trains are an important consideration when establishing the anchor points of your trip.
We took trains on many of our day trips in Italy, Spain, France, and Belgium. Here are a few related posts for reference:
Train stations are centrally located within each city or town and make a great point of reference (but make note that larger cities will often have more than one train station).
Once I pinpoint the cities Chris and I wish to visit (and our anchor flights are arranged), Chris takes care of the travel logistics within the country. When traveling internationally, we have found that it is so much cheaper to purchase train tickets months in advance if you can. You can definitely save money here.
In fact, first class fares on an InterCity (IC) train are often cheaper than 2nd class fares when purchased a couple of months out. If you wait until the last minute or change your mind, the cost jumps tremendously.
Chris looked once at buying four train tickets in Italy that he had noted were $40 a few months in advance. Our schedule wasn’t locked in, so we opted not to purchase them at that time. The four tickets jumped to $280 to purchase them at the last minute.
Buying in advance does mean you do have to stick to your schedule since most tickets are non-refundable and non-changeable, but it is a great way to save money.
Check travel forums in your planning to determine your best transit options. Some hotels include transit passes with your stay. Many cities also offer an easy-to-use day pass package. You have to weigh the cost with the amount you might use it along with the number of people in your group.
Uber and Lyft are useful for short trips and generally safe; you don’t have to worry about language difficulties or having enough cash as all transactions are conducted via the app. You choose where you want to be taken and select the vehicle according to your group size. No minimum fare is charged. Note, Uber and Lyft are not available in all European countries.
And finally, #10 in my list of 10 SUPER EASY ways to save money on travel.
TIP #10 Plan for Picnic Lunches
Normally, when Chris and I travel, we love to eat simply for our afternoon meals. We can definitely save money this way.
Usually we find bread, cheese, meat, some carrot sticks, drinks, and fruit. Of course, the lunch fare tastes a little better in the Italian countryside, but we enjoy this simple fare while traveling within the United States too.
When I know that we have planned to have a rental car, I pack a Foldable Insulated Cooler in the bottom of my suitcase. It does not take up much space and is super handy to have as you travel.
Fill the cooler with drinks and lunches as you take day trips. I also pack a gallon-size Ziploc bag and fill it with ice from the hotel’s ice machine. It works like a charm to keep snacks, lunches, and water bottles cool.
Final Thoughts on SUPER EASY Ways to Save Money on Travel
Well, there you have it. SUPER EASY Ways to Save Money as You Travel.
Does it make you excited to travel?
Still need a little more guidance?
You’re in luck.
The SUPER EASY Travel Planner online course is launching soon.
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This course is packed full of the essential advice you need as you begin your travel adventures.
The SUPER EASY Travel Planner online course will guide you through the process of planning your trip and give you confidence to:
- Book air travel
- Find lodging
- Make transit reservations
- Collect the necessary documents
- Plan your day trips
- Fine tune your packing for luggage and carry-ons
- Make use of travel apps and websites
- And so much more