12 Easy Ways to Save Money on Your Next Vacation

Julia Millay Walsh

Travel is one of the greatest life experiences, so you shouldn’t let your finances get in the way of a great adventure. Falling into an expensive tourist trap is easy if you haven’t planned ahead, but if you’re smart about your travel strategy, there are dozens of ways you can save money on vacation. Read on for a few of our favorites.

Travel off-peak. One of the simplest ways to save money on your next vacation is to travel at off-peak times of the year. Europe in the summer, for instance, is notoriously expensive, while prices soar over the holidays in Australia (where it’s summer). Consider alternative seasons when hotel rates, airfare, and entertainment costs will be less expensive. 

Travel midweek. Likewise, try booking your flights for midweek, on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, since most people like to travel over the weekend. One extra day out of the office could save you hundreds on your trip.

Price out one-way tickets. Round-trip tickets used to be the cheapest way to fly there and back, but that’s no longer the case. Price out the cost of two one-way flights (on the same airline and on multiple airlines) before you book round-trip. Often you’ll find them to be cheaper.

Take advantage of hidden-city ticketing. There’s a little-known secret in the air travel industry that ticket prices are based on demand, not distance traveled. To use this to your benefit, book a one-way flight with a stopover in the city you want to visit and just skip the final leg. For instance, a ticket from New York to Hawaii with a stopover in Los Angeles might be cheaper than a direct flight to L.A. One thing to note, though, is that if you skip your last leg on a round-trip booking, the airline will cancel your return flight, so book two one-ways instead. Skiplagged is a great app for finding these hidden-city flights.

Book intranational travel once you arrive. If you’re traveling within a certain country by train or plane, don’t book your seats until you arrive. Tickets will be cheaper if you log on from a local IP address, as they’re priced for locals, not tourists.

Don’t exchange cash. Without fail, withdrawing local currency from an ATM will always give you the best exchange rates, so avoid currency exchange kiosks and even local banks. Bring just enough foreign cash to get you to your first destination, and stop by a local ATM once you arrive.

Become a Priority Pass member. If you travel often, the costs of food, drinks, magazines, and other amenities like Wi-Fi can quickly add up. That’s where airport lounges, usually reserved for credit card members and rewards-points all-stars, come in. The indulgent airport experience offers much in the way of complimentary food, drink, and Wi-Fi, which can save you big bucks over time. Priority Pass is a membership card that gives you access to more than 850 of these lounges in 400 cities across 120 countries. A base-tier annual membership is $99 per year and costs $27 per lounge visit, the all-inclusive top tier costs $399 annually, and you can bring a guest with either membership for $27 per person.

Avoid foreign transaction fees. If you travel internationally often, you should sign yourself up for a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees. There are a lot of great options with numerous other travel perks. Look into Citi Prestige, Chase Sapphire Preferred, American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card, BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card, and Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card.

International ATM fees are another thing to watch out, so consider banks and checking accounts that waive these, such as Capital One 360, Charles Schwab, and Discover. There are a number of online-only banks, such as Ally, that also offer low or no international ATM fees.

BYO meals. Airports and hotels notoriously overcharge for snacks, drinks, and, well, everything. Before you take off for your trip, pack some of your own airport food, and bring a box of granola bars or a can of nuts to help you avoid your hotel room’s minibar.

Bring your own water bottle. Bring a filtered refillable water bottle with you to the airport and when you’re heading out for a long day in the city. This will save you a few bucks a day on bottled water and keep you hydrated!

Get an unlocked phone. A recent survey by Experian showed that the majority of vacationers spend more money than expected when traveling. While your hotel rate and airfare costs are unlikely to change, your smaller charges add up. One of these is unexpected expenses is your roaming bill. To avoid it, use an unlocked smartphone and buy a SIM card in each country you visit, or try T-Mobile’s Simple Choice plan, which allows roaming in more than 140 countries at no charge.

Haggle. Bargaining is common in many developing countries as well as food and antique markets and bazaars around the world. Talk with the staff in your hotel or the people wherever you’re staying to get the lowdown on fair costs for everything from taxicabs to fruit—don’t pay a penny over.

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Any other tips to add to this list? Tell us below.

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