Vacations come with an expensive price tag. But you don’t have to explode your budget to enjoy a fun and relaxing trip. With a few smart tweaks to your travel plans, the price can be
significantly reduced. Here are 17 money-saving travel tips to help you cut your vacation costs without sacrificing quality or comfort.
1. Buy airline tickets from a consolidator
Rather than buying airline tickets through a travel agent, book directly with a wholesale consolidator that buys tickets in bulk for resale. You’ll save the most money if you’re booking international flights and first-class or business-class flights within the U.S.
2. Purchase airline tickets far in advance or last-minute
The further ahead you book your flights, the lower the fares you’ll find. Fares increase gradually from months ahead until the day of departure. Some airlines cut fares two weeks, one week, or three days before the departure date. The last-minute savings can be excellent if you don’t get shut out by a surge in demand.
3. Fly on the cheapest days of the week
If your travel dates are flexible, search for flights a few days before and after your preferred date. The cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. The best days of the week to shop for low fares are Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Late night and early morning flights are cheaper than middle-of-the-day flights.
4. Travel through airlines’ hub-city airports
Every major airline has a hub city—Atlanta, Houston, New York, and London are examples—where lots of its flights arrive and depart. Flying into and out of yo
ur preferred airline’s hub, even if your ultimate destination is elsewhere, can save you money on your flights.
5. Compare flights from multiple airlines
Whether your top priority is ticket price, departure/arrival time, or booking a non-stop flight, it’s important to compare options from multiple airlines. By doing so, you can be confident you’re getting the best deal you can get based on your specific needs.Travel sites like TripAdvisor, Travelocity, and booking.com make it easy to compare flights and quickly find your best available option.
6. Research cruises and English-speaking tours on foreign websites
Shopping for travel in foreign currencies rather than U.S. dollars can save you a bundle, says Phyllis Stoller, president of The Women’s Travel Group, a national tour operator for women.
“When the (British) pound dropped significantly, 1,000 pounds became $1,300 versus $1,550 just days before,” Stoller says.
7. Stay further from the city center
Rather than staying at tourist-centric hotels, book places on the outskirts of town. You’ll pay less, have a more relaxing experience, and get access to local color, culture, and cuisine, says Tom Spagnola, senior vice president of supplier relations at online travel agency CheapOair.
8. Explore local shops and restaurants
Tourist areas are more expensive than places the locals frequent. That means traveling to places that are off the tourist map can save you money.
“Be different,” Spagnola suggests. “Explore local neighborhoods, and you’re guaranteed to save on food and shopping.”
9. Travel during your destination’s offseason
It’s no secret that offseasons are cheaper than peak seasons. But did you know that “peak season” isn’t the same everywhere?
“Business cities like New York and Washington have higher rates during the week versus the weekend when leisure travelers come into town. Orlando and Miami have lower rates during the week,” says Isar Meitis, president of Last-Minute Travel, an online travel booking service based in Orlando, Fla.
10. Travel during shoulder seasons
Skipping the peak travel months doesn’t mean you have to go at the least popular time. Opt instead for the so-called “shoulder seasons.”
“Traveling to touristy places right before or after ‘peak season’ can be a great way to save up to half the cost and avoid crowds,” Meitis says.
If you’re shopping for travel insurance for your trip, compare plans and find the best one here.
11. Shift your weekend to Saturday through Monday
Sunday is the least expensive night of the week for hotel rooms and other accommodations. That means staying Sunday night instead of Friday night can save you a bundle.
Use Hotels.com to find the best hotel prices for your trip.
12. Rent a vacation home instead of a hotel room
If you’re traveling with other people, sharing a vacation home can save everyone’s budget. Staying where there’s a kitchen can also mean big savings on meals since you’ll be able to prepare your own rather than eating out as often. Find vacation homes online at Airbnb and VRBO.
If you do prefer to stay in a hotel, check out the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit card from American Express. With a large sign-up bonus and generous rewards program, this card could make your travels more affordable.
13. Use ride-sharing services instead of rental cars
“The average one-day rental of a mid-sized car is nearly $100,” Lauderdale says. “If your longest trip in the car is from the airport to your hotel, it’s cheaper to just get an Uber.”
If you do need a rental car, check out Budget Rent a Car.
14. Avoid paying parking fees
Grabbing an Uber or Lyft instead of a rental car also lets you zero out your parking expenses.
“Parking could cost $20-$25 a day in some places,” Lauderdale says. “When you use ridesharing services, you don’t have to worry about paying for parking.”
If you do need to park a vehicle at an airport, Park ‘n Fly can help you find a convenient spot.
Elizabeth Avery is the founder of Solo Trekker 4 U, a travel service based in Washington, D.C. She says, rather than shopping at tourist spots, go where the locals shop to find souvenirs and gifts for family and friends.
16. Don’t buy meals targeted at tourists
To save money on meals, purchase snacks, bottled water, and picnic lunch fixings at local mini-marts or supermarkets instead of in tourist areas. A full bottle of wine from a local liquor store can cost less than one glass in a chic bar, Avery says.
17. Get a travel-smart debit or credit card
If you’re not careful about where you buy and bank, ATM and foreign transaction fees can add up fast when you travel outside the U.S., says Kassie Ricci, a travel blogger and photographer at TheFlyAwayLife.com.
“Before you leave for your trip, find a bank that reimburses for ATM fees and make sure your credit card has no foreign transaction fees,” Ricci says. “This tip saved me over $400 dollars in ATM fees on my backpacking trip through Asia.”
Finding the right travel card can make a huge difference in the overall cost of your vacation. But make sure you compare different cards and their rewards system to ensure you get the best one for your specific needs.
Head over to SuperMoney’s credit card review page to compare rates and terms side-by-side to find your best option.