How to Avoid Spending Too Much on Vacation

Traveling is considered a luxury. While it’s technically an “extra” expense, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily off-limits, even with a small budget. When you travel, if you can be smart and thoughtful you don’t have to spend a ton of money. You do have to plan carefully, however, and have some self-control.

The following are some tips to help you save money while you’re on vacation but still enjoy yourself.

The Planning Phase

A lot of the things you can do to save money when you travel should happen in the planning phase.

For example, set a date for your trips and a budget as early on as possible. Then you can create a separate savings account, where you put money aside only for your vacation.

There are some benefits to this strategy.

First, you’ll know how much you have available to spend once you get to your destination. Second, you can pay just cash rather than accumulating credit card debt, which we’ll discuss more below.

If you plan your trip well in advance, you can start booking your activities and entertainment ahead of time. You don’t have to then book tickets when you’re there, you’ll have a better idea of what your itinerary will look like, and you can often save money this way. For example, travel websites will frequently offer travel packages and discounted tickets they get exclusively through venues.

The more you can book ahead of time, the fewer unexpected expenses you’re likely to encounter.

If you give yourself some planning time, you can comparison shop on lodging, and you might be able to take advantage of flash airline sales if you’re flying.

Sign up for emails that will give you updates when airlines have fare specials and promotions.

When you’re planning you should set an overall budget for everything you’re going to book ahead of time, as well as what you’ll need when you arrive. Things to remember to include in this budget are your accommodations, transportation, daily spending for food, drinks and entertainment, and any bigger things you might want to do, such as buying theme park tickets.

As part of your goals to proactively save money for your vacation, you can cut your expenses in simple ways like eliminating subscriptions and eating out less. You can also have a yard sale or sell things on a site like Poshmark and put all of your earnings toward your vacation fund.

Stay Somewhere with a Kitchen

One of the most expensive things you’ll probably do when you’re actually on vacation is going to restaurants, especially if you have a family.

Booking a hotel, condo, or house with a kitchen can save you hundreds of dollars when you’re on your trip, if not more.

You can go to the grocery store and get staples and prepare at least some of your meals in. Even if you’re just going to have breakfast where you’re staying and make your own coffee, this is going to be a big money saver. If you have kids, this can be less stressful because you’ll have snacks and things on hand to avoid hunger meltdowns.

Before you arrive at your destination, you can also arrange to have groceries delivered. Then, you save yourself time, plus you don’t have to worry about going into the store and overspending when everyone is hungry and excited. You’ll have just what you need waiting for you when you arrive.

Items to make sure you have plenty of include fruit, bottles of water, and portable snacks.

If you want to have a glass of wine or cocktail in the evenings, buy these items as well. Then, you can skip it at the restaurant, where you’d otherwise pay a premium.

Don’t Be Lured In by the Upsell

When you go on vacation, there will be an upsell lurking around every corner.

For example, at the car rental counter, they might offer you a luxury vehicle, or when you get to your hotel they could have a suite available if you want to spend more.

Don’t do it. You set a budget and booked things a certain way so you could save money. A few upsells could completely derail your budget plans.

Avoid Souvenirs

Unless you’re traveling somewhere really unique like Europe, where you might be able to browse local artisan shops, it’s seldom worth it to purchase souvenirs when you travel. These tend to be cheaply made items that aren’t actually unique to your destination, but they’re incredibly expensive.

The items will probably end up in the trash eventually.

A better idea is to use your camera and when you get home, print out the digital pictures. Then, you can make a shadow box with other little mementos you gather on your trip like room keys and tickets. You can collect business cards, matchbooks, or anything free that you see along the way that will remind you of your trip. You can also use a polaroid camera for your pictures.

Ask for Discounts

Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. There are often options available. For example, if you’re 50 or older, you might qualify for senior discounts. If you have children, they might be eligible for free meals at a restaurant or discounts on activity tickets. Veterans also often get deals at various places.

Choose Free Activities

Some of the best things you’ll do on vacation are free, so spend the majority of time on these activities, and then save your money for a few splurges. For example, hiking, swimming and sightseeing are all free. You can do audio tours from an app on your phone or visit local museums when they have free admission days.

Finally, use cash when you travel. Don’t take all of your money out and about with you, but when you take cash out, that can give you a limit on your spending, as opposed to using your credit card which will catch up with you later.


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