Editor’s Note: We’re all dreaming of travel ahead. Here’s some inspiration for future adventures. We share places, products and activities we recommend. If you make a purchase using a link on our site, we may earn a commission.
For many, travel is an important part of life. We spend weeks planning our next vacation and looking for the best travel deals. If you’re like me, you don’t have an unlimited budget (thank heavens for that tax refund each year), so you look for ways to make your travel budget go further.
Happily, there are several easy ways to save money on your next vacation. Here are seven top budget travel tips:
Best Budget Travel Tips
Travel in the Off Season
It’s not just where you travel, but when you travel that matters. Prices go up and down depending on demand, and that’s true with travel. Hotel rooms, airline tickets and car rental prices can go up more than 40 percent in the high season.
I learned this the hard way on a past family trip to Hawaii. We traveled during the last week of December when the kids were off from school. The weeks around Christmas and New Year are one of the busiest seasons in Hawaii. While it usually costs around $650 to fly from Denver to Oahu, that week it cost more than $1100 a ticket. And car rentals? That went up from the average $400 a week to $850. Yikes!
Suddenly, our family trip got very expensive. Fortunately, I found that car rental prices went down after January 3rd, so we turned in our rental car that day, and rented another one for the next week at only $325/wk. Every little bit helps!
The best time to travel is often in the spring and fall. The weather is usually pleasant enough to spend some time outdoors, there are fewer crowds and hotel, air and car rental prices are cheaper.
The busiest travel seasons are in the summer, when kids are off school, and around the holidays. If you can avoid these times, you can save money on travel.
Look for Free Local Events and Attractions
Do some research before your trip and find free local events and attractions. Festivals, for example, offer a good way to enjoy the destination with the locals, and can provide a memorable experience for little to no money.
Some popular attractions are free or budget-friendly. In our small town of Golden, Colorado, for example, the local Coors brewery offers an extensive tour with beer tasting for free, and the city has a year-round lineup of busy festivals.
How do you find destination information? The local tourism board is often the best source of information on a destination, and I usually start at official tourism websites. These sites are written by locals who know and understand the destination and provide a wide range of helpful information.
Other helpful places to look for insider knowledge on local events and places to eat are TripAdvisor and Travelocity. You can make reservations, find a place to stay and virtually map out your trip through each site as well.
Look for Travel Package Deals
Travel packages are an excellent way to save money. Purchasing your air, hotel and tours all together can often shave off hundreds of dollars in cost compared to purchasing each item individually.
Where can you find travel packages? Airlines, resorts and tour companies are a good place to start.
Check out Kiwi for the more deals on flights, trains, buses and more. Book all transportation as a package to be confident that you have trusted reservations and saved the most money you could. Check out the package options and deals here.
Consider Alternative Forms of Transportation
Airplane and car travel aren’t the only way to get around. Be sure to consider transportation options by train and bus.
North Americans don’t often consider traveling by bus, but in Europe, travel by luxury bus is the new affordable way to travel. Buses are clean, modern, have bathrooms and free Wi-Fi. And often, it’s faster to go by bus than by train. I recently took a bus from Vienna to Prague (a four-hour journey) for just $18 – and it got there about the same time as the train
Traveling by train is also a relaxing and enjoyable way to get around in Europe. They’re punctual, clean, and very affordable. For example, a train ticket from Nuremberg to Munich (a two-hour ride) is just $27.
Consider Less Popular (But Still Amazing) Destinations
Paris, Rome and San Francisco are amazing destinations, but they can also be expensive when it comes to planning a vacation.
Do your research and consider places that are just as amazing, but not quite as popular. You’ll not only save money on travel expenses, but you won’t have to fight the crowds or deal with locals who are overwhelmed with tourists.
Find deals on activities and transportation in destinations all over the world with Tour Radar. From exploring the cliffs in Ireland to the quiet beaches of New Zealand, you’ll find all the unique sights to see in these less traveled places. Check out their tour deals here.
Instead of skiing in Vail, for example, try out Steamboat Springs, Colorado. And rather than fight the crowds in Barcelona, check out the beautiful beaches of San Sabastian, Spain. Tiny European countries like Lithuania and Latvia are often overlooked, but the Baltic Countries are rich with culture, good food and nice hotels – and they’re much more affordable than many other places in Europe.
Buy Travel Insurance
Weather interference, flight delays and illness can mess up even the most organized travel plans. To ensure you don’t lose your hard earned vacation investment or end up with unexpected expenses, we recommend that you buy travel insurance.
Whether it’s luggage getting lost, a canceled flight or a sudden personal emergency, Travel Guard will have you covered. Learn how you can protect your money and items for long-term travel or just a quick trip here.
If you travel a lot, one of the best travel insurance options for your budget is to buy an annual plan. Depending on your age, an annual plan may only cost a few hundred dollars. If you’re only planning one big trip, you can purchase travel insurance for that trip.
Ready to start planning a trip? Check out our helpful travel resource center.