How to Save Money on Vacation: 6 Financial Planning Tips

Vacations don’t have to break the bank. However, not everyone knows how to save money or the most effective way to plan for a vacation. Planning is essential to saving money and traveling smart, and protects travelers from unnecessary fees and charges. With the help of our friends at Personal Capital, we rounded up six tips to help save money on vacation.

Top 6 Ways to Save Money on Vacation

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Decide Where to Go

The first questions to ask are: Where you want to go and what kind of experience do you want? Do you want a ski retreat in Colorado or Utah? What about a Maui Hawaiian escape or action-packed beach adventure? Once you pick the type of vacation, then start planning for it. Some destinations cost more than others, so selecting the right destination for your budget will help decide how much to spend and where specifically the money will go.

Pick How to Get There

Airfare can cost hundreds even thousands of dollars. Book in advance directly through an airline to ensure the best prices. Travelers can also sign up for free price alerts. If you fly frequently, don’t forget about loyalty programs and mileage rewards.

If driving to a destination, consider gas prices. Fuel prices tend to increase in summer months, so traveling earlier, later and during off-seasons can avoid higher prices. Also, consider the vehicle type and its gas mileage. A large SUV will get less miles per gallon and require more fill-ups. Renting a more eco-friendly vehicle saves money on gas costs, requires less stops and provides personal transportation.

how to save money on vacation

Book a Vacation Rental

Those who have booked a vacation rental already know it can save thousands of dollars. Vacation rental users typically book a home suited to their needs for a third of the price of staying in a hotel. Many rental homes also come with home-like luxuries, such as a washer and dryer. Instead of paying high laundry and dry cleaning fees from hotels, clean laundry based on the schedule and needs. Discover more reasons why vacation rentals are better than hotels.

Cook at Home

Many vacation rentals also come with fully equipped kitchens and dining areas. This allows travelers to cook at home instead of dining out every meal. With utensils and kitchenware provided, it’s easy to make family meals like you do at home.

Those who have a food budget should make a grocery list and plan meals. This helps stay on budget and eat healthy, as well as save money. With the money saved, plan for a more upscale dinner or schedule something you’ve always wanted to do. You could possibly even stay a day longer. And there’s nothing wrong with extra time off.

Use Public Transportation

Using local resources is another way to save money on vacation. Many destinations have public transportation, and some provide it for free. For example in Summit County, Colorado, Summit Stage provides free bus transportation to local ski areas, downtowns, shopping and some residential areas. Laguna Beach, California, also has a free trolley on weekends, with locations and pick-up/drop-off times throughout the city. Using public transportation not only saves money on travel expenses, but it also provides a way to meet locals.

Find Free Things to Do

Nearly every destination has free events and family fun. Museums are a low-cost and sometimes free attraction that is educational and entertaining. Travelers may also find free festivals celebrating arts and crafts, food, music, and more.

Gasparilla season, held in Tampa Bay, Florida, offers events including parades, art festivals and live music, all free or at low costs. National parks and recreation areas also provide free places to play and relax. For example, Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee – the most visited national park in the U.S. – is free to enter. Guests can hike, bike, walk, enjoy gorgeous waterfalls, all free of charge. You may be surprised by what you find.

Additionally, some companies offer complimentary activities with bookings. One example is the Xplorie Free Fun program with iTrip Vacations. The partnership enables vacation rental guests to receive daily free admission to top attractions. In most cases, guests save money on vacation — possibly hundreds of dollars a day.