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4 Ways to Be on a Budget and Still Go on Vacation

Several people have asked me to write about how I can afford to travel so much and how they can afford to travel more. For me, traveling doesn’t come without a significant amount of financial planning. And all that planning ain’t easy, but the formula IS easy. Work. Budget. Save. Deals. While my approach might not be everyone’s cup of tea, hopefully, there are one or two helpful hints. There is probably a ton of other ways to save, but here’s my money saving travel strategy. Hope it helps you save on your own bon voyage!

1. Work Multiple Jobs:

Yeah, it’s exhausting, but you can learn different skills, meet new people and earn travel money in the process. Sleep later….

2. Budget:

a. I determine how much I can afford to spend on travel for the year. Some years it’s more, some years it’s less. Once I know what the budget will be, I either (1) figure out where to go that’s on the “list” that fits into the budget, (2) wait for a deal on a trip to a place I want to visit or (3) grab a deal on some place I never thought to go. There’s no magic, just a lot of very unsexy numbers crunching…

b. Do a lot of reading and keep a look out for deals, so when a good deal does come along you can take advantage.

c. Side note: Sometimes, plans change. We’ve had to postpone or cancel trips due to various circumstances. Weekend trips generally aren't a big deal to cancel, but bigger trips can be a real hassle. That’s where travel insurance can work, but reviewing the benefits of travel insurance is a post for another day…….

3. Save:

a. The Travel Fund. It’s simply money earmarked for traveling. But you can do an envelope system, a vacation club, anything that helps you save for your trip. So, what goes into it? Anything, but some examples are:

Garage sales, consignment shops: Anything earned from selling stuff at garage sales, on consignment, etc.

The change jar: Put change towards paying for parts of trips. When the jar is full, take it to the bank and cash it in. It’s difficult to pay for a big or expensive trip from a change jar alone, but you can pay for things like tickets, dinner, and gas out of the stash!

b. Cook at home. Yeah, I know you’ve heard it a thousand times. Think of it like this, the money spent eating out could go towards a trip. Bring lunch to work. I’m not saying never eat out, just try to find a deal when you do.

4. Deals:

a. Don’t stop couponing just because you’re on vacation: Your hotel might have specific discount coupons for local attractions, restaurants, even movies. I stayed at an inn that was near a shopping outlet and the inn offered a discount coupon book for the outlet. The outlet had a luggage store, and I needed a new suitcase, so I used a coupon from my booklet to buy new luggage! Sweet!

In addition to specific discounts a hotel might offer, there are often coupon books and magazines about local happenings. If you are in a rental or Airbnb, hit the local grocery store which may have discount coupons on offer. Even if a deal may only be for a dollar or two off, but if you're going to do or buy “X” anyway, you might as well save a buck…

b. Points and Miles: If you’re like me - really bad at the points and miles game - you can still manage to pay for flights and hotel stays with them. Pay for most of monthly expenses with credit cards that earn points/miles, then pay the credit bill in full each month. It may take a while, but eventually you can rack up enough points to pay for a flight or a hotel stay.

5. Bonus: Get the Loyalty Card

Apart from hotel and airline loyalty programs, grocery store loyalty cards can produce savings even when you’re traveling. When we go on road trips, we bring lunchy stuff, like sandwiches. Sometimes, we’ll bring the fixings, other times we'll visit the local grocery store chain to buy what we need for the trip, especially if we know where we’re staying has a fridge. As an example, I was in the Finger Lakes earlier this year (see Finger Lakes Two Way by clicking on Trip 1 and Trip 2). We went to Wegmans to buy I forget what, and I had their loyalty card which I used to save a bit. Even if the grocery chain at your destination isn’t a chain that you have in your area, sign up for the store’s loyalty card anyway and enjoy the savings.

These tips just go to show you, even if you’re on a budget, you can still go on a great vacation AND save money!

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