Save Money by Traveling on a Budget
Set up a budget before you leave home and look for ways to save money while on the road.
Travel, whether for business or for pleasure, can be enjoyable – or it can be a hassle. Contributing to potential hassle are all the related expenses, which can be hard on the bank account. It's always a good idea to have a budget before you venture out, because sticking to it can make things a lot easier on you once you return home.
Plan as much as possible
Planning is essential for a variety of reasons, and saving money is one of them. Have a detailed list of places you intend to visit during your trip, and research the costs associated with them. Try to account for how you will spend each day on your trip, where and what you will eat and drink, and of course where you will stay and for how long. By doing so, you're giving yourself a guide to follow, which can help you keep your spending within the budget you have set up. Give yourself some wiggle room, but try to adhere to your basic plan.
Planning how to pay for your trip should be an important consideration. The best way is to save up some cash in advance so you’ll have it when you need it. If you didn’t do that, there are still ways to finance your trip that can save you some money. For example, getting an advance on your home equity credit line may cost you less in interest charges than using credit cards. And, if you do use plastic on your trip, make sure to use a credit card that gives you rewards or cash back.
Travel during the off season
One of the easiest ways to save money on a trip is to go during the time of year when most people wouldn't be going to that destination. While timing isn't always flexible, if you can book a trip for the off season, chances are you'll get cheaper plane tickets, a less expensive room, and perhaps even discounts on attractions.
As Emma at EF.edu suggests, "Avoid trips during the school holidays, this is when the travel industry hikes up prices to take advantage of families who can only travel during these weeks. Research the best time to visit your intended destination, and then travel just before or after these dates. This is called the ‘shoulder season’, where you’ll still have a great trip but maybe the sun won’t shine quite as brightly (and, on the plus side, it probably won’t be quite as hot.) Hotels and airlines lower their prices to attract customers during this time."1
Buy tickets at the right time
Don't consider just the timing of your trip. Consider the timing of your ticket purchase. Air fares aren't always the same.
According to BudgetTravel.com2, it's typically best to buy your airline tickets two months ahead of time, and you're more likely to get a better deal when you book early in the week because this tends to be when airlines adjust pricing. It also recommends following major airlines on social media channels and subscribing to their email newsletters to stay informed about deals. You can also sign up for their rewards programs.
Look at flights to and from nearby locations
As long as you're watching the air fares, also keep an eye on flight options from various airlines to and from airports in cities that are near your home and destination. There may be cheaper options if you're willing to depart from/arrive at another nearby location.
Don't check bags
While not always feasible, another major money saver when it comes to air travel is only utilizing a carry-on bag. According to Travel + Leisure, bag fees are gaining in popularity among airlines, and the prices tend to be more expensive than they were even a couple years ago. Pack lightly and take only the essentials.
Consider staying at a B&B rather than a hotel
Opting to stay at a bed-and-breakfast rather than a traditional hotel can be another way to save some money, and with the internet, finding one in or near your location of choice has never been easier. While a B&B isn't always going to be the cheaper option, it certainly can be in many cases, especially in major cities.
Bedandbreakfast.com, which provides a directory, makes this case: "The savings aren’t just in the sticker price, either, when you compare B&B vs. hotel. You already know about the free breakfast, but what you might not realize is just how many other things you’ll get at a B&B for free: bottled water, Wi-Fi, parking, concierge service – even happy hours with wine and cheese. Hotels will charge you for a lot of these services, meaning you’ll end up paying a lot more than that sticker price in the end."3
Check out renting an apartment or home
Airbnb, Homeaway, and other short-term housing rental companies on the internet make it easy to find an apartment, house, lake cabin, or other alternative lodgings. By staying in someone’s home for a few days, you get the advantage of having a kitchen to prepare meals (saving on those expensive restaurant bills), and you also get the flavor of what it’s like to actually live in the city you’re visiting.
If you can stay at a location that reduces your transportation costs, you can also save some significant cash. Look for a place near a train station or the airport. Also, consider buying your meals at the grocery store and eating in, rather than going to restaurants three times a day. Carry snacks with you when sightseeing to stave off hunger attacks that may tempt you to stop at a pricey restaurant in the tourist area.
Ultimately, your savings will come from how you balance your expenses. Any combination of the ideas above is likely to save you some money. If you splurge in one area, consider some of other ways to make up for money spent.
The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC