For many years, people have asked us to share our money saving travel tips. We are very fortunate to have traveled with our children extensively, but the secret is, we rarely pay for our flights, we occasionally pay for hotels, and we have found many resources to help keep our costs low. Today I’m sharing with you some of our favorite tips for keeping travel expenses to a minimum.
How to Save Money on Travel: Best Tips for Saving
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How to save money with Credit Cards and Reward Points
Before traveling, put all your purchases on a credit card that will earn you miles or points (be sure to pay them off every month or then it is not worth it). Use those points and miles to pay for your flight, accommodation, and/or rental car. The Points Guy knows the ins and outs of earning travel rewards and Trips with Tykes has come great resources too, so definitely use their sites as a reference.
Travel with a credit card that does not charge you for ATM withdrawals or foreign transaction fees. When in doubt, ask before you travel.
How to Save on Air Travel
Find the airline rewards program that is right for you. Know if you will be rewarded for miles flown or dollars spent. If you travel often and upgrades and waived baggage fees are important, consider that when researching the options. If you know your points will be earned mostly through purchases, find the program that rewards accordingly.
Don’t rule out budget airlines because they will often have the cheapest airfare. Just because the price is less, it doesn’t mean the plane isn’t great (well sometimes it does, so do your research). Be mindful however of add-on costs, such as baggage fare and preferred seat assignments. If you want to see a great comparison of the different budget airlines, check out this article from We3Travel!
Do your research, two one way flights may be cheaper than a round trip.
Sign up for hotel rewards programs. Similar to airline rewards programs, find one that offers accommodation discounts, free nights, and upgrades. Don’t be afraid to call a hotel and ask for their best rate. Often they will match what you find on-line, but might throw in extras such as free breakfast and/or parking.
Don’t be afraid to try online rental accommodations such as HomeAway, VRBO, AirBnb, and FlipKey which match owners and potential guests. We have tried all of these and have experienced varying levels of success with each. A couple you might not know about are Vacatia, Clanventure, and Red Apple Apartments. Do your research. I would never recommend booking somewhere that has less than 15-20 positive reviews and one that doesn’t show a lot of pictures. Communication is key when renting someone else’s home. Ask questions and if you don’t get the answers you want, don’t stay there.
Staying in an accommodation with kitchen facilities can save on dining out expenses. This comes in handy for a family and we will often eat one or two meals a day in the apartment to save on expenses.
Consider doing a home exchange but do your research. Find a reputable company like Home Exchange.com that charges a membership fee so you know that users are committed to the service.
Housesitting is also an option, but requires a different level of commitment. If you want expert tips on this, you’ll want to read this article from Honey Trek, that spells out everything you wanted to know about housesitting.
Consider booking a cruise through a travel agent. They have access to perks from the cruise company and often pass those along to you.
Research shore excursions ahead of time. It is often cheaper to arrange them on your own.
Buy travel insurance. I would highly recommend purchasing especially if you are traveling to or from a destination that could have weather issues. We carry a policy with Allianz, since we are often traveling with three kids and you never know what could happen. Of course there are other reasons to have travel insurance, but sometimes it just makes sense.
Don’t miss the tips The Sophisticated Life shared on my blog called 10 Things to Know Before You Go On A Cruise.
Follow your favorite airlines, hotels, cruise lines and travel related businesses on social media. They will often post discounts and deals on social media before they post them elsewhere. (ie. Twitter and Facebook) Sign up for their newsletters, or industry newsletters that share the latest travel deals. I like Travel Zoo and The Flight Deal.
Use Skype and What’s App to connect with loved ones back home. Turn off your cellular service when you travel (set your phone to airplane mode) and stick to free wi-fi frequently found in airports, hotels, and restaurants.
Another option is to buy a SIM card for your phone once you reach your destination. These are often available from local cellular providers, grocery stores, or kiosks. Switch it out with your existing SIM card and then you are able to make phone calls paying the local rate instead of international rates. This also allows you to use your GPS on your phone when you are out exploring instead of paying roaming fees.
Seek out free activities in the city you are visiting. Stop in at the local tourist office or check with them before you visit. Often you can find a free concert, festival, or museum, or just walk around. Hiking, playgrounds, and relaxing at the beach are usually free.
Look for tourist or travel discount cards for the city you are visiting. These may be a worthwhile investment if you plan on visiting most of the sights included on the card. Look for CityPASS and Go City Cards in various destinations.
Try public transportation. It will almost always be cheaper and more efficient than a taxi.
Never use a currency exchange at your destination. Try to exchange some money before you leave home at your local bank and use ATMs when you arrive at your destination.
We have found all of these trips to be very useful throughout our fifteen years of traveling with kids. We hope you’ve found something to use as well!
*This article originally appeared in January 2015, but was updated in January 2018.