Ways to Spend Less on Vacation

save money on vacation
Bainbridge Island from the ferry boat

Summer is here. It’s time for cookouts, flowers, and vacation! We have just over a month until our Hawaii vacation, and aside from the flight, I am looking forward to every minute. I strongly believe vacation time is essential to well being. I also believe people can let vacation spending get way out of hand, before, during, and after vacation. You don’t have to go into debt or spend all your savings if you can find ways to spend less on vacation.

You Don’t Need a New Wardrobe To Take a Vacation

It’s fun to have new clothes to wear on vacation, but it certainly isn’t necessary. I didn’t buy clothes for most of last year, but that didn’t stop me from going on a several trips. The good things about travel is that you usually don’t know anyone where you’re going, so if you wear the same jeans that you’ve had for years, no one will know (unless they are acid washed and penny rolled). I have no problem with necessary clothes shopping and looking for good deals, but I can’t tell you how many people I’ve known, prior self included,  who frantically rush around at the last minute to buy vacation clothes. Look in your closet. Odds are, unless you’re going to Antarctica, you probably have something you can wear.

You Don’t Have to Eat Out on Vacation

Eating out, especially for a family or if you order alcohol, costs big bucks. I love to eat out, especially on vacation, but it doesn’t have to break your budget. We always try to stay in a place with some sort of kitchen. Having a fridge and microwave or stove is a huge money saver. Even if you still eat out one meal a day, you can prepare the other two to eat on the go. I bet we saved $100 in one day alone by not eating at Sea World.

Another option is looking for a hotel that provides meals. In the US, many family friendly places like Homewood Suites or Residence Inn serve breakfast every day plus dinner Monday through Thursday. The food might not be 5 star, but it’s not bad, especially when you don’t have to pay extra for it.

Another thing that often happens after vacation is continued eating out for the first day or two because there is no food in the house. Keeping a stash of easy non-perishable or frozen food means a quick meal when you get home. A little planning can save the cost of fast food or take out meals.

There Are Coupons for Everything

If you are visiting and attraction of any sort, do a search for coupons. If you can’t find a coupon, is it cheaper to buy online or go during off peak hours? We are going to the Glenwood Hot Springs next week, and it will save about $15 to go after 6 PM. Who wants to sit in the hot springs during the hottest part of the day anyhow? Signing up for emails from particular restaurants or attractions is also a great way to find discounts. If you pay full price at the door, you are probably wasting money. It takes some of the spontaneity out of travel when you plan, but I’d rather have money than surprises any day.

Stay Off the Beaten Path

Popular tourist attractions can be great, but they can be expensive. Often you are paying for a convenience. There are all kinds of guided trips all over Colorado. I’m sure they do a good job, but if you have a map, read up on weather and altitude safety, and can walk, you are often able to see many of the best spots on your own. The national forests are also free for the most part. If you’re in the city, try to visit on week days or find an alternative to the mainstream. When we were in Seattle last year, we really wanted to take a cruise around the bay, but at $40-$100 per person, it was pretty pricey. Instead, we took the commuter ferry out to Bainbridge Island and back. It was less than $10 per person, and I bet we got the same views as the tour boat. Plus, we got to walk and explore the island.

vacation off the beaten path
Go off the beaten path. This one is free!

Use Reward Points

I almost left this section out because I know many of my readers don’t use credit cards. I respect that, but if you are responsible and pay off the bill every month, using credit card rewards allows you to travel for much less or even free. Another bonus I’ve found is that when you book a hotel room with points, often you don’t  pay taxes and resort fees. For our upcoming stay in Hawaii, those costs would have been about $100 a day in addition to our room cost. Since we booked with points, it’s completely free. If you do use credit cards and don’t like to keep track of travel reward programs, I think you’re crazy you can use a card like the Barclay Arrival Plus, which offers 2.2% back in travel rewards for every dollar spent. You can use it for any sort of travel expense, which is amazingly handy. We’ll be renting a car in Hawaii for free with this perk.

I hope everyone gets to take some sort of vacation this summer. Whether you are camping or staying in a luxury resort, having time off to do something different or nothing at all is truly priceless.

What’s your biggest money saver for vacation this summer? Would you rather have several budget trips or one blow out extravagant one? 

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Written By
Sydney White is a Texas-born stay at home mom who enjoys spending time with her family, bargain hunting and, of course, writing. She is currently the editor-in-chief of Snipon.com.

29 Comments

  1. Great tips! One that some people might forget about is reciprocal agreements for places where they already have memberships. We have a membership to our local zoo and are traveling to two new cities later this month. I found out that our admission to one of the cities’ zoo will be free if we show our membership card and the other one will be 50% off.

  2. My wife and I just came back from our honeymoon and we had a small kitchen in our villa. We bought a small amount of groceries and ate breakfast and most lunches in. It was a lot cheaper than going out to eat for all 3 meals each day.

  3. The last time I went on Vacation in Hawaii, I went to a time share presentation almost every day, from 8-10 AM. It forced me to get up and going early, and gave me and my GF tickets to great shows for those nights. I think we went to four presentations.

    Saved a ton of money, rather than paying for the shows. Of course, I probably would not have went to the shows, if I didn’t have free tickets.

    1. I’m not sure I could sit through 4 timeshare presentations in one week, but if the incentive was enough, I probably could. My sister and I got to take a helicopter ride in Hawaii as a time share presentation gift, so it was certainly worth the two hours.

  4. I like to stay in hostels, or stay with friends. It helps so much to have at least 1-2 meals in, instead of going out. I also buy alcohol at duty free shops. I also stay off the beaten path and can literally walk for hours and just explore. I am just getting into travel hacking and should have a flight to Europe soon!

    1. Good luck on your hacking. There was a time when I could have stayed in hostels, but it’s long past. I really want my own bathroom, and thankfully points are letting us stay in some pretty sweet places.

  5. We always look for house sharing services like airbnb or vrbo and we’ve been able to save a lot of money that way. The great thing about those is that it’s usually a house or apartment for rent and they always have a kitchen where we can cook.

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