7 Tips to Save Money While Traveling
We just returned from yet another trip. Yes, another. I have lost track of how many times I’ve traveled in the last few months. Los Angeles for the Inside Out Event, Dallas for the Dr Pepper Summit, Omaha for fun, New York for Blogger Bash, and Indianapolis for Gen Con. I feel like I’m missing one in there somewhere because it has all become a blur. It’s been a whirlwind, but I’ve completely enjoyed it! When things calm down, I’ll get to reflect on all the trips and the amazing experiences that each one has brought.
While there is a bit of chaos involved with traveling, it’s something I’m definitely enjoying. Seeing beautiful scenery, iconic places, interesting museums, regional foods and of course, unique shopping. When the kids were little, we did trips whenever possible and tried to introduce them to a variety of things. Unfortunately, it was quite an ordeal so our travel was somewhat limited – typically only to see their grandma in Alabama. Now that they are older, we are incorporating more trips into the schedule. Most of what we have planned have been less than a week in length, but jam-packed with as much as possible in that small time frame.
With the exception of my family trips, virtually every time I have traveled for media events my stay has been coordinated by someone else. While my accommodations are usually nice, I’m almost always at a different hotel chain. As someone who is frugal minded, it can be a bit frustrating. There are definitely perks to showing your loyalty to a particular chain. Many people consider this when they fly because they know it translates to free flights, better seats or at least an option for a free upgrade. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t realize that hotels offer similar benefits. Actually, they offer more consistent and more easily attainable benefits.
It got me thinking that maybe there are other travel strategies that people don’t think about. I’m fixing that by creating a list of my favorites.
7 Tips to Save Money During Travel
Travel during off-peak times
Yes, traveling to Wisconsin Dells in the winter (brrrrr) is tons cheaper than in summer months but there’s more to “off peak” than simply the seasons. Rates at restaurants, hotels and attractions can all fluctuate by the day in addition to the time. Think of your local movie theater. A matinee is cheaper than going at night. Keep that concept in mind when you’re working on your travel plans. If you are flexible with your days, mid-week travel will likely be cheaper than a weekend.
Research Gas Prices
Apps like Gas Buddy and Waze can be your friend during travel, but a little research before you are on the road is even more helpful. Not all states are equal when it comes to gas prices. In fact, some are positively horrible for your budget. We live on the border of Iowa and Illinois and traverse the Mississippi River regularly. Let me tell you that the prices are substantially different. When we know we will be driving through Illinois, we top off our tank before entering the state. Our trip to Gen Con further confirmed our dislike of Illinois gasoline prices so we made sure to fill up in Indiana on the return trip.
Service Your Vehicle Prior to Traveling
The last thing you want to do is find yourself needing to call a tow truck because you are stuck on the side of the road. That can not only shoot your budget but also your schedule. A well-maintained vehicle is also important to attaining better gas mileage. Something as simple as the air pressure being off can impact your vehicle’s efficiency on the road.
Pack a Cooler
If you’re traveling by car and have room for a cooler, consider packing one. Fill it with bottled water, soda pop, drink boxes, fresh fruit (grapes are my favorite), cheese sticks and even sandwiches. Have a bag of other random snacks such as chips, crackers, cookies, beef jerky and other easy treats. It’s nice to stretch your legs at the rest area and the cooler will also help you stretch your budget. No room in the car for a cooler? At least make room for the bag of snacks then grab a $1 drink or a glass of water at the McDonald’s drive through.
Get Sly with Souvenirs
It’s nice to have a remembrance of the trip. Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be an expensive one! My favorite travel keepsake costs me a whopping 51¢. Penny squisher machines are available at most tourist destinations, are inexpensive and don’t take up a lot of space. Depending on what you’ll be doing or where you are traveling, souvies for kids can be picked up ahead of time and stashed. As an example, if you will be headed to Disney, pick up some Disney apparel at Kohl’s that you hide from the kids and unveil at the destination.
Find Deals on Events and Attractions
If you know you want to visit a particular museum, check out a specific local attraction, eat at certain restaurants or do certain tourist activities, then do some homework. AAA and Groupon are great resources for finding discounts. Groupon generally offers 2-for-1 deals on everything from food to activities to parking. We scored an awesome B1G1 Balloon Ride at Downtown Disney during our last visit. One of my favorite tips is to purchase a membership to your local museum, zoo or aquarium to take advantage of reciprocal discounts at other locations. You may discover that the membership quickly pays itself off by the money you’ll save on admission elsewhere. As a bonus, you’re supporting your local community and you have a year to continue to reap the benefits of the program. As an example, we purchased an annual family pass to Putnam Museum and received movie and special exhibit passes as part of the membership. One trip to Chicago to the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry and our Putnam membership was more than paid off.
Utilize Frequent Flyer and Loyalty Programs
Take advantage of frequent flyer programs. As I mentioned previously, even hotel chains offer frequent ‘flyer’ programs. They often offer more perks than you realize and quite often incorporate more than one hotel chain under their umbrella. As an example, Club Carlson is the loyalty program used by Radisson, Radissun Blu, Park Plaza, Quarvus Collection, Park Inn by Radisson and Country Inns & Suites. Staying at any of those properties, even though they are different, adds rewards to the same account. You can earn points while saving money when booking one of their hotel deals. In addition to earning free nights, you can also exchange your points for airline miles or get on-site credits for room upgrades, movies or laundry. The one option that I think is especially cool is the option to redeem points for gift cards. There are a multitude of ways to take advantage of the program but the main thing to remember is that factoring in loyalty to the same hotel each time has benefits you many travelers don’t consider.
What is your favorite travel-saving tip?
79 thoughts on “7 Tips to Save Money While Traveling”
Nice tips while traveling!
Awesome tips to save money while traveling! We use GasBuddy ALL THE TIME!, Even just for around town trips. It always finds us the best gas prices! I love that app!
We also always take a cooler packed full of food on our trips. It saves us a ton of money, especially since we are a family of 5, soon to be 6! Eating out costs a Ton now!
Great tips! I especially agree with the souvenir one. My kids always beg for things and those can end up costing us a lot more money than we budgeted for.
These are great tips! We do a lot of travel and saving money is always a priority for us
Your contest for a 3 night stay in a Club Carlson location is definitely too difficult to enter…guess you want to keep everything hush, hush…
I find your comment very interesting, Jack. I’m curious what you find difficult about the process of entering. Did you get an error trying to click through to Facebook or Club Carlson? Those are the only two things required to enter. The rest is totally optional for people who want to increase their chances of winning.
We use gas buddy even at home. We travel a lot and try hard to not spend a lot, these tips are great tips that I will remember on the next road trip.
These are great tips! We are always sure to pack a cooler- makes eating on the road easier AND cheaper!
I’d love to travel to Hawaii someday.
Packing a cooler is a great idea, especially on road trips. This way you always have drinks and snacks on hand.
I would like to visit Prague
I would like to visit either southern Africa for a photo safari or the Great Barrier Reef in Australia
I’m all for saving money, especially while traveling. These are awesome tips you have shared.
Great tips. would love to go to Italy
I have a few business trips coming up this year still. I can definitely use the tips.
I am always looking for good deals when I travel. Vacationing is not cheap!
I would love to go back to the carribean 🙂
I have always desired to travel to New Zealand and Hawaii at sometime in my life.
I would love to travel to Washington.
I’ve never heard of GasBuddy or Waze before. They seem like great apps to have on hand to help research gas prices.
Our family just got back from a trip, and we packed a cooler to take with us. It helped us save money on food, while also being able to eat healthy.
Thanks! We just had our car serviced and I like the penny passports! I’d like to travel to Orlando.
There’s definitely a lot of potential to save – even if you miss out on a few things, or you choose based on price, it doesn’t mean it won’t be a good time.
Thanks for sharing really useful tips! Whenever we travel with our daughter we always have a bag full of different snacks and drinks to enjoy whenever needed. I try to use loyalty programs as much as I can and really love their rewards.
These tips definitely give me a better idea on how to spend during trips. Now I’m looking forward to my next trip!
Where would I like to travel to? My dreams are modest I guess… I’d love to keep exploring the States. I want to go see Sedona! I want to see the Grand Canyon, see Rachel, Nevada, eat the the little Ali ‘Inn.!!
I love the penny souvenirs! My mom used to say it was an odd thing to collect, I’m glad to see someone else agrees with me!
These are great tips, I love the Disney tip of purchasing the items before you go! We use Gas Buddy and Waze all the time when we travel and save so much time and money when buying gas! Thanks for the giveaway too! We have been wanting to visit Malaga, Spain for our next trip.
would love to see europe thanks for the tips
I want to see Portland, OR.
Traveling can be so expensive. I always love when people tell me ways to save money!
I think traveling is something everyone should be able to experience. Being able to save money, just allows more people to be able to travel.
In the U.S., New Orleans. Outside the U.S., London.
i would love to travel to Key West Florida. That would be real nice to go
I would like to travel to Florida to visit my Aunt.
I would love to travel to CA I love it there.
I want to travel to Paris
I’d like to go to Seattle.
Thanks for the contest!
My husband always checks the air in our tires and the oil before we go on any out of town trips. And you are so right packing a cooler full of snacks is a great money saver as well.
I would love to travel to Hawaii
I’d love to go to Scotland to see where many of my ancestors came from.
I want to visit Turkey
I would love to travel to Africa or South America!
My dream trip is a train trip across Canada
I would really like to see Hawaii some day
The African Safari
I want to travel pretty much everywhere! Next trip I have planned is a girls weekend to NOLA!
I would love to visit San Francisco CA
A vacation with the family and a stay at a Carlson property would be fantastic.
I would love to go to Philadelphia to visit family.
I would love to to Denver,CO
I was finally able to join Club Carlson.
I would love to travel to Hawaii or the Caribbean as I have never been to a warm, sandy beach.
Love England and Ireland would love to go back
I would love to visit Italy some day!
I want to travel to Australia hopefully one day
I want to travel back to either Spain, or SoCal.
I would love to travel to Yellowstone.
Id love to go to Hawaii!
I’d love to go to the Dominican Republic!
I would love to travel to anywhere in Europe
Great list! As I have a full-time job, I always find it hard not to travel during peak times (weekend, bank holidays) so I definitely need to look at some other ways to be gentle with the budget! Packing a cooler is a great idea! 🙂 For roadtrips, we chose to pick a wagon so we can sleep in the car: it’s flexible and accommodation can’t get cheaper than that!
Love these tips. I always love keeping a few pennies and quarters in my change when I travel in case I see one of those penny pressing machines. It’s a cheap souvenir, and easy to carry around. For road trip planning I’m also a huge fan of Travel Math, it’ll calculate the cost of a road trip vs flying, which can be really handy if you aren’t sure which would be cheaper.
These are some great tips! Some we do already, like servicing the car before a trip or keeping a cooler in the car, but I haven’t thought about researching gas prices. Smart move!
Fantastic tips – we traveled all over the States and our cooler was one of the first things which was packed into the car. We actually went a step further and purchased a microwave from Walmart for $40 so we could cook our own food on the road and cut down on the costs of eating out!! Works when you’re doing a super long roadtrip through the one country (as we were), though maybe not necessarily if you’re traveling internationally with different power voltages 😀
Great tips – thanks for sharing 🙂
Great tips for saving money on road trips. We usually pack a big cooler if we travel between two points. Most hotel rooms have refrigerators and we can live on food we bring from home for a few days. I wish I could carry more things with me when I travel by plane.
Really good tips! Especially packing a cooler… definitely a cost saver.
Great tips. I love the little coins as well. We bought our niece a travel chest and she fills it up with those “treasures”.
Penny squisher machines, didn’t know there was a passport I could collect those in, what a great idea
We usually pack a big cooler if we travel between two points. Most hotel rooms have refrigerators and we can live on food we bring from home for a few days. I wish I could carry more things with me when I travel by plane.
Instead of spending anywhere from $10 to $20+ dollars in autograph books for your Disney trips, trying making your own. You can get a blank notebook or journal and decorate it with stickers, drawings, etc. It’s personalized that way.