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What’s keeping you from going on your next vacation right now? Well, it’s probably due to one of two reasons:

1. You can’t get enough time off from work.

2. Vacations are just too expensive.

Unfortunately, most jobs won’t let you take off anytime you feel like it. So, unless you’re willing to quit your job and find a way to make a location-independent living, you will have to be content with 2-4 weeks of annual travel time. And that’s fine. However, if your reason for not traveling is the cost, then we have great news: travel can be very affordable! We have nine ways to save money on your next vacation. By implementing the ideas below you can save a tremendous amount of money on your next trip – maybe even taking it for free!

vacation budget tips

1. Travel during off-peak season

A trip to Europe can almost double during the summer months. With families and college students flocking across the Atlantic during their long holiday break, prices go through the roof. From airfare to lodging and activities – everything is more expensive.

The same goes with many other parts of the world – if you travel during their busy season, everything will be more expensive.

Therefore, before planning your next trip, do some research on where and when you can visit during the offseason. You could save a fortune! Just remember to make sure that the offseason won’t be too rainy or cold to enjoy.

save money on vacation

2. Pack light

Airlines seem to charge more for bags every day. If you’re able to reduce the amount of your luggage by a single bag, you can save yourself $100+ in airline baggage fees alone.

Then, once you arrive at your destination, having fewer bags makes it easier to get around – which can save you even more money in taxi/train/etc fees.

3. “Pay” for your airfare with points

If you sign up for the right travel credit cards, you can very quickly earn enough points to cover the entire cost of your airfare. Not only do you receive points for every purchase, but most cards offer a signup bonus that can be enough to cover at least a one-way ticket to most parts of the world.

Considering airfare is one of the two most expensive aspects of travel, finding a way to get your flights for free can save you a tremendous amount of money.

vacation budget tips

4. Skip out on hotels and use “alternative” lodging

Every traveler is familiar with peer-to-peer lodging, but there are still many who are hesitant to use it. The reality is, by doing a search on AllTheRooms.com, you can compare homeshares and save hundreds during the duration of your trip.

Or, if you’re really adventurous, you can even find free lodging on sites like CouchSurfing and other free hosting sites ; or by volunteering on WorkAway.info. Although not ideal for everyone, these alternative options can save a lot.

cheap travel hacks

5. Use public transportation when possible

Sometimes, public transportation isn’t a plausible option. However, in many cities across Europe and Asia, trains and buses are the best way to get around.

If you base your trip around easy-to-access transportation, it’s possible to save another few hundred dollars that would be required if you decided to rent a car.

3 Downsides of Living Abroad
Photo by Ahmed Aqtai

6. Don’t pay for a GPS – use Maps.me instead

I often cringe when I see someone at an airport agreeing to an extra $10-$20/day for a GPS with their rental car. Why? Because you don’t need one! At least, not if you have a smartphone.

Smartphones already have a GPS tracker built in – and this can be accessed without phone service. All you need to do is download a free GPS app like Maps.me, and you can find your way around any country for free. Just leave your phone on “airplane mode” and you’ll never receive any data charges.

7. Buy a local sim card for your phone – or not

If you do want to use your phone while traveling, avoid paying the ridiculous fees associated with most carriers. Instead, do one of two things:

  1. Find a plan that offers free international calls (T-Mobile is a great option for many travelers).
  2. Buy a local sim card.

When my wife and I were in Costa Rica for a few months, I purchased a $2 sim card and loaded it with $10. It covered us for the entire 3 months! Of course, we didn’t need to use it extensively, but it did help us make reservations, find a few places, and stay in touch with each other. Meanwhile, paying for a US provider to cover that trip would have likely cost $50+.

cheap vacation activities

8. Find free and discounted activities

If money is an issue, you should generally avoid buying full-priced activities online (or from your hotel’s website if they seem a bit pricey). Instead, try the following:

  1. Visit TripAdvisor to find free local attractions. Many museums and public areas will have one day a week, or one weekend a month, when they’re free.
  2. Use deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial to buy discounted deals. When available, these deal sites can be a tremendous value.
  3. Avoid planning your entire trip in advance – and wait until you arrive to plan some activities. Not only are you able to find the best deals when you’re in town, by waiting until you are there you can also prevent yourself from losing money if part of your trip is canceled or delayed. Of course, you also risk the activity filling up or increasing in price – so only do this tactic with things you are okay missing out on.

9. Maximize the benefits of your credit cards, memberships and student/military/senior status

Before paying for extras, take some time to explore the benefits currently already available to you. If you have the right credit cards, a AAA membership, or currently have a student/military ID, you may be able to receive discounts on a plethora of activities and purchases.

For example, many credit cards offer a basic degree of trip protection and provide rental car insurance – meaning that you don’t need to purchase these items on your own. Of course, you should do your research before skipping out on insurance, but there is a chance that you could save yourself quite a bit by using the free services you already have!

cheap vacation

Now, where will your next adventure take you?

There you have it! Travel doesn’t need to be expensive at all. Follow these nine tips above and your next trip to Asia/Europe/SA could cost about the same as a weekend at the inlaws. Now, the only real question to ask is: where to?


About the author: Rob writes about the digital nomad lifestyle on MoneyNomad.com and discusses personal finance for InvestmentZen.com. When not working or blogging, Rob enjoys traveling and volunteering. You can follow him on Twitter: @MoneyNomadRob.

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