The main reason that most people do not travel more is that they think it's expensive. While you can certainly go all-out and blow tons of money on an over-the-top holiday, it's also very possible to enjoy a vacation on a modest budget. In fact, you can sometimes go on the exact same vacation for a fraction of the cost if you are smart and do your research!
If you are in need of some rest and relaxation but are on a strict budget, here are our top 15 tips for saving money while you travel.
1. Avoid Transaction Fees
Some banks and credit card companies charge very low fees for withdrawing money at another bank’s ATM while you are traveling domestically, or for using your card to make purchases or withdraw money from a foreign bank while you are overseas. Even better, many banks do not charge a fee at all! Find out which credit cards have no transaction fees with this Nerdwallet Guide (https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/top-credit-cards/no-foreign-transaction-fee-credit-card/), and make sure you quiz your bank about what fees you will be charged for withdrawing money with your debit card.
2. Pack Medicines
If you think you will need a prescription or over-the-counter medicine, pack it in your carry-on luggage. Medications generally take up little space, and if your baggage is somehow lost it is expensive and inconvenient to replace them. It’s also costly to realize you really need a medication and have to buy it in a touristy area, where you don’t know the shops and cannot get a cheap price. If only we had a nickel for every time we wish we had packed Tums!
3. Pack a Reusable Water Bottle and Snacks
Getting food at the airport or on the road is not cheap. You generally end up paying inflated prices for gross convenience food that leaves you grouchy. Save yourself the cost and indigestion by packing your own snacks.
Also, make sure you bring a reusable water bottle. Bottled water adds up, and it’s important to stay hydrated. If you will be traveling outside of the country, you can even buy a water bottle with a filter to ensure that you always have clean water.
4. Drive Instead of Flying
While many travelers consider flying to be more convenient, once you check your bags, push your way through the security lines, and wait around for your flight, driving can actually take less time and be more relaxing. It can also sometimes be cheaper, especially if you are a VetRewards Member and have access to our deeply discounted rental car rates.
5. Use Housesitting Sites to Find Free Accommodations
There are many trusted websites that allow you to create a profile and become a house sitter for people just like you who are traveling and want someone responsible to watch over their home while they are away. Sometimes these arrangements include caring for pets and houseplants, but it is usually pretty straightforward. You could stay in a 5 bedroom, multi-million dollar home in a great area for free.
6. Find Free Entertainment
Plan your trip around free festivals and local celebrations, and do research before you go on your trip to find the best free and cheap attractions. Many museums and art galleries have free or discounted admission on select nights of the week.
You can also find discounted or free entertainment by using your VetRewards Card - many attractions will give you a flash and save discount for your military service. All you have to do is show your card and ask!
7. Make Your Own Meal Once a Day
Making just one of your meals a day helps a lot with sticking to your travel budget. Visit a local market and stock up on easy breakfast foods or, better yet, bring your own! It’s also super fun and affordable to visit a nearby farmer’s market a few times during your travels to prepare a picnic of tasty local foods. You can’t beat a basic cheese, bread, and meat spread with some fresh veggies! If you’re feeling adventurous, you could also try street food vendors, a favorite of international travelers (especially in Asia, yum!).
8. Use Ride Sharing and Public Transportation
Don’t waste your money on expensive Taxies. By using services like Uber and Lyft, you can get a better price, share in some fun conversation with a local, and even opt to share your ride with another commuter for a cheaper fare.
You can also opt to use public transportation - this is often the best option when traveling internationally. Friendly agents are usually available in foreign train and bus stations to help you purchase a ticket even if you don’t speak the language. Plus, buying your ticket can become an adventure in itself, allowing you to meet other travelers and knowledgeable locals that can give you tips on which attractions are worthwhile.
9. Travel Light
Avoid baggage fees by packing everything you’ll need in a carry on bag. Not only does this guarantee that your bags won’t be lost, it also makes it easier to get to and from your hotel or lodgings.
If you’re really serious about saving money on baggage, you can always invest in a “luggage jacket” to cheat the system! Or just use your VetRewards Card to get free baggage on one of our partner airlines.
10. Don’t Eat at Touristy Places
While it can sometimes be fun to hit up the local Hard Rock Cafe, you are usually much better off finding a local joint. This is especially true when traveling outside of the U.S. The general rule of thumb is that it is best to never eat within 5 or 6 blocks of tourist areas - the food will be twice as expensive and half as delicious. Eating where the locals eat also has the added benefit of allowing you to mingle and get a real idea of local culture and cuisine.
11. Ask for Free Upgrades
This works especially well if you are staying at a hotel during the off-season. Many times they do not fill up all of the rooms, and will let you stay in the honeymoon suite free of charge! It never hurts to ask.
This also applies to military and veterans, who can usually get a discount or upgrades in honor of their service.
12. Group Discounts
If you are traveling with a large group, consider asking for a group discount. Many adventure touring and travel leisure services will gladly offer a discounted rate if you plan to bring them more business.
If you are not traveling with a large group, don’t be shy - if you are staying at a hotel with other tourists, it can be very rewarding to ask them if they would like to join you for a day of activities. They may, after all, be looking to do many of the same things as you, and will likely welcome the chance to save some money by combining forces. One of the best places to approach other travelers is outside tourism offices or even in your hotel lobby.
13. Avoid Packing too Much Into Your Vacation
It can be tempting to want to see everything in one trip, but it can be a mistake to try to cram too much into your vacation. The most expensive part of travel is transportation, and jetting around from destination to destination is often what leaves the biggest dent in your wallet.
While it’s more expensive to see more sites, it’s also more stressful. It’s better to see fewer things and really have time to enjoy them than keep a strict schedule. Take your time and relax! Your travel partner and your wallet will thank you.
14. Use Free Wifi
Many hotels, coffee shops, libraries, and airports offer free wifi to customers. If you are traveling abroad, this can be a great way to save money! Instead of purchasing an expensive phone plan to keep in touch with loved ones, visit a free wifi zone a few times a day. But be careful - make sure to download the latest operating system, which often contains valuable security updates, install a reliable mobile security app, and never access your bank account from an unsecured connection.
15. Use Your VetRewards Discount
Your VetRewards Card can help you save hundreds of dollars when booking your vacation and while you are traveling. With discounts on accommodation, flights, rental cars, shopping, and dining, our exclusive military and veteran discounts will help you travel without breaking the bank! Learn more about VetRewards by visiting our Plans page.