1. Plan ahead.
You’ve decided you want to go on vacation—now it’s time to plan out exactly where you want to go, how long you want to stay and what attractions you’ll find there. Planning an itinerary can help you map out hotels, restaurants and activities so you can budget better and be prepared for any unexpected travel mishaps.
Combing through a guide book or getting in touch with a local travel agent can help you find local places that are more cost effective versus expensive resorts and restaurants. You should also compare the prices of renting homes to find even better deals.
If you’re going on an extended vacation or even overseas, purchasing travel insurance might be a good idea. This plan protects you from financial risks while traveling. Whether that be a lost suitcase or last-minute cancellations, having insurance can help ease the financial burden if it were to happen.
2. Research your cost.
Making arrangements months in advance can help you score big deals on airfare, accommodations, ground transportation, meals, attractions and more. Look for off-season specials, out-of-the-way destinations, package deals, and membership-based discounts.
- Travel Websites. Travel sites are like virtual travel agents, helping you find the best prices and services with the click of a button. They also have newsletters you can sign up to get deals and special offers sent to you directly.
- Download Apps. From flights to car rentals, you can get notifications right on your phone when a cheaper flight, coupons, and deals appear.
- Social Media. Finding travel sites on Facebook, Twitter, and more can help you spot deals on airlines, hotels, and package deals. It also connects you to forums and Facebook groups that can give you advice on where to look for the best deals.
- Cell Phone Plans. Visit your cell phone carrier's online app store to research and download apps that fit your needs. Some cell phone carriers have large fees associated with international roaming. Keep extra charges to a minimum by downloading messaging apps that can be used over WiFi. This may let you stay in touch with friends back home without the added costs.
3. Be flexible.
Searching for trips that are "go anywhere" or "go any time" can be a great way to travel in style and still save money. For example, being flexible with your flight times, layovers and seat selection can save you a significant amount of money when all is said and done.
If you are more focused on your trip budget, try planning a trip “backward.” Most people pick where they want to go, then the dates, and lastly look for available flights and hotels. With the backward method, you look for the lowest travel destination prices, then decided what the cheapest destination would be and lastly select the dates that have the cheapest airfare.
If you're not tied to commitments at home, being flexible could land you a luxury trip for a lot less than an advanced booking.
4. Start a travel fund.
The first step to starting a savings fund is planning your budget. By calculating your monthly income and subtracting expenses, you can figure out just how much you need to save for your dream destination. It’s important to know needs vs. wants so you can cut your spending accordingly and allocate it to your savings account.
There are many account options to securely save your money at a high-interest rate. For example, with a high-yield savings account or certificates of deposit (CDs), you can plan and set aside funds specifically for travel – while still earning interest to help your accounts grow more. It is also a good idea to set up an automated deposit to ensure you reach your savings goal.
Bonus Tip: As you work on saving, you can also open a travel reward credit card to redeem miles and points for free flights or discount hotel stays on those needed purchases.
5. Plan your meals and find deals.
There are many ways to save money on food when traveling. If you do some research on restaurants in the area before you travel, you can find restaurants within your budget and even sign up for coupon deals.
Some restaurants may offer the same meals at noon as they do in the evening, only at a lower cost for a luncheon portion. If you want to dine at a restaurant that may set your budget back, eating earlier may make the experience more affordable. You can also eat at pop-up places, coffee shops, cafes, or other lower-cost options.
Lastly, it's important to have snacks. It’s easy to get hungry in between meals, especially if you are active. Stop at a local grocery store or pack snacks ahead of time for car rides, hikes, etc.
6. Decide how you are paying.
You’ll have cash on you, but bringing a credit card is much more convenient and secure then carrying wads of money. There are a few precautions you should take when deciding which credit or debit card you want to travel with.
If you plan on bringing your debit card, it's important to remember that some ATM withdrawal fees can be up to $7. The same goes for ATM withdrawals internationally. If you want to use your debit card on vacation, consider opening an account that waives international fees.
Remember to tell your credit card company you’re traveling. This can prevent fraud alerts and freezes to your account. It’s also important to research your travel protection and fees. Cards designed for travel offer protection on lost luggage, flight delays and even waive international transaction fees. Also, it is important to choose a widely accepted credit card (i.e. Visa, Mastercard, etc).
You don't have to be a full-time student to get a student ID card. If you take classes part-time or even just occasionally, ask for student identification. With a student card, you may be able to get discounts on admission tickets museums, attractions and more.
7. Secure your funds.
If you are traveling overseas, do your best to learn the language! You don't have to become fluent in a foreign language to ask for what you need and find out how much it costs. In some locales, customers who speak the language end up paying less than those who don't. Asking a friend who speaks the local language to book your accommodations for you can also help you save.
Lastly, be sure to stay vigilant to avoid petty theft. Follow simple safety precautions like:
- Not leaving your wallet in plain sight
- Not handling cash in public unless during a transaction
- Close and zipper all bags and carry them in front of you
Bonus Tip: Use an RFID-blocking wallet to prevent people from stealing your credit or debit card information.
By following these simple money-saving tips, you’ll be better prepared to safeguard your savings while still having the adventure of a lifetime.