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, 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. 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.
Sign Up for Cash Back on Travel
If you want to save money, Ebates.com offers a simple and FREE way to get up to 10% cash back on bookings for rental cars, hotels, airline tickets and more.
Here’s how it works: Sign up for a free account on Ebates.com, and then search for car rentals, airline tickets, hotels and more. Ebates works with many trusted travel partners, like Expedia, Travelocity, Hotels.com, Hilton and more.
If you’re signed into your Ebates account and purchase travel through one of these partners, you’ll receive up to 10% cash back in the form of a check or via PayPal. For example, the average cash back rebate on a 2-night hotel stay is $25.
Why does Ebates give cash back for member purchases? Stores pay Ebates a commission for sending members to shop at their sites, and Ebates gives part of that back to the member. Those cash rebates can add up.
Case in point: Last month, I purchased two airlines tickets, booked a car rental and a hotel room. When I checked my Ebates account just now, I see that a check for $28.35 for my travel purchases will be coming my way. Not bad!
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. Groupon Getaways is another good source of affordable travel packages that often include air travel. Bonus, if you’re an Ebates.com member, you can get cash back on Groupon purchases.
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
Trains are 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.
Check Your Mobile Phone Plan
We don’t want to admit it, but many of us are addicted to our smart phones. The cost of using those internationally, though, can cost a bundle.
Before you travel, check with your local phone carrier. Some, like Verizon, offer international travel phone plans for $10/day. Others offer free international roaming. Many others, however, charge a lot for data roaming overseas.
If that’s the case, one option is to purchase a mobile hot spot or an international SIM card to use during your journey, which makes using your phone overseas a lot less expensive. And of course, you can always turn your phone to airplane mode and use WiFi when available for internet calling.
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.
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.