In today’s economy, it’s already hard to enough to scrounge up enough spare funds to take a trip. Then to make matters worse, higher oil prices have sent the cost of airline tickets into the stratosphere and of course driving is no longer an affordable alternative, either. However if you get creative, you still might be able to afford a trip once in a while. Here are 7 ways to save money on vacations – some common while others you might not have thought of!
#1. Skip the restaurants and head for the grocery store
It’s been drilled into our minds that vacations = eating out. But is that really necessary? Even if your hotel doesn’t have a kitchenette, you can still save money by hitting up Trader Joes or a cheap supermarket for some premade dishes – or better yet – bring food with you from home packed in a cooler (if you’re driving). Even if you only do this for half the meals during your trip, you will be saving a tremendous amount of money.
#2. Venture where others don’t want to go
With all the violence in Mexico, package deals for traveling there are looking mighty good these days. Of course, there is a risk/reward thing here, but many claim as long as you stay at the resort you should be pretty safe. If that works for you, then it might be a lot cheaper than traveling to one of those hot Caribbean tourist destinations.
#3. Discounts for students, seniors, military, etc.
If you’re going to a touristy area in the United States – such as Orlando – there’s a good chance that many of the amusement parks, transportation services, and even some restaurants accept discounts for various groups like senior citizens, military, students, AAA members and so forth. So make sure you bring all your cards with you!
#4. Milking a credit card signup promotion
First of all, I would like to say that anyone who has a tendency to get into credit card debt should avoid this tip! That being said, if you can use a credit card without raking up a balance, then there are tons of offers out there for airline and hotel credit cards that might save you some money. For example, the Hyatt credit card is offering 2 free nights at any Hyatt hotel with no restrictions whatsoever. Their rooms can easily run $300 to $500 a night, so the dollar value of the Hyatt credit card offer is significant. For a complete comparison of offers, check out Smart On Money's credit cards page!
#5. Group travel deals
We all know sites like Groupon, LivingSocial and Moolala are all the rage right now for buying restaurant gift certificates and the like. These group buying sites now offer travel packages too, but I must warn you, they are a hit or miss. Sometimes what’s offered truly is a good deal, while other times it’s only a discount on an inflated price that no one pays anyway. Regardless, they are definitely worth checking out. In addition, you can also snag some great deals through more traditional group travel venues, like Apple Vacations (over the years I have personally got a couple amazing offers through them that were not found on any of the travel websites).
#6. Home/apartment swapping
Even the cheap hotels cost a lot these days (in my opinion at least) so why not consider a house or apartment swapping arrangement? There are a number of websites available where you can arrange to either rent someone’s unused room/apartment/house – or – you can do a trade arrangement where both parties will literally switch homes for a week or so. As far as the latter option, I’m not sure I would feel comfortable having strangers in my own apartment, but I wouldn’t mind paying to rent someone else’s if it was cheaper than staying at a hotel!
#7. Avoid souvenirs and shopping!
When I was a kid, we would go on a family trip once every couple years and I would always buy a bunch of junk wherever we went. Do I have any of that stuff now? Nope! Just goes to show what a huge waste of money it was. But fortunately, it taught me early on what a waste it is to spend money on trinkets and other crap that you don’t need (and really has little to do with your vacation spot since it’s probably made in China). The best souvenirs are memories and if that’s not good enough for you, then take a bunch of pics using your digital camera!
This post was written by Michael from CreditCardForum.com, which is a forum and blog for all things credit, including reviews of the best travel rewards credit cards.
The Prudent Planner says
I would recommend a cruise for someone who is looking to go on a cheap vacation. We saw the $70 a night advertising Carnival Cruises does but I would not recommend them, we had a horrible experience. You can get a great deal on other cruise lines for less than $100 bucks a night, which is pretty cheap when you think about it: free entertainment all day, free food, great views, etc. The only thing you have to worry about is airfare. I’ve found that some flights are just as expenses as the 3-4 day cruise itself, so shop around and buy your tickets online ahead of time.
Mr. Money says
We loved going on a cruise – it was a great way to see a bunch of different places, for relatively less money. We cruised on Celebrity Cruises, however, and they were awesome the entire time. Of course I believe they’re more expensive as well, and the fact that it was a mediterranean cruise made it pricier too.
Little House says
When money is tight, camping is a great vacation alternative. I know it’s not for everyone, but even the squeamish can enjoy it if they book a cabin at a national park (not exactly camping, but close enough for some). It is still less expensive than flying somewhere exotic.
Edwin @ Save The Bills says
You can also get your flight/hotel/car at the same time. Bundling saves money.