If your passport has been gathering dust and your suitcase is in need of a workout, don’t ignore your dreams of a thrilling vacation just because your wallet can’t keep up with your wanderlust. Traveling the globe – or even the country – can be expensive, but there are a lot of ways to save money while traveling that you could be overlooking.
From booking flights and cruises to reserving a room at an all-inclusive resort, continue reading for our list of the best money saving travel tips and tricks when creating your itinerary. And for added savings, be sure to book through Splender, where you can earn cash back at hundreds of sites.
Fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Fridays and Sundays are the most popular days to fly because most people don’t want to take those extra vacation days. If you are willing to fly midweek, you can save significant funds, as airlines can’t afford empty seats on flights and will offer lower fares to encourage off-peak travel.
Fly Off-peak Hours
Although you may have heard this a million times, the best times of day to catch a plane are between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., or after 8 p.m. Selecting flights at these times will definitely give you a big cost-saving advantage.
Travel During the Off-season
If it’s possible, try to avoid heading to Hawaii over the winter “snowbird” season or to Spain just as school lets out for the summer. Travel off-season and between the expensive holiday travel periods, as you’re more likely to find a better bargain.
Winter is a great time to travel to most places, especially right after Thanksgiving and before the Christmas travelers head out (two of the most expensive travel times). Even in the fall, Europe – for example – still has pleasant weather, but with the kids back in school, you can find much cheaper flights. Plus, traveling off-season usually means fewer tourists and crowds, which leaves you with a more genuine experience of your chosen destination.
If money is more important than time, consider a flight with a lay-over. Indirect routes are often a far cheaper option.
Book Your Trip 47 days in Advance
According to CheapAir.com, after crunching the numbers on 1.5 billion airfares, they concluded that (on average) the best time to book your domestic flight is 47 days ahead of your planned travel. Their research concluded that this is the best way to score the cheapest fare.
Save on Foreign Currency Exchange
When traveling abroad, withdrawing cash can result in some hefty bank fees. Be aware that most banks will charge for each cash withdrawal plus a commission fee. One way to get around those high charges is to take out enough cash before your trip so you can avoid costly visits to the ATM. Getting your currency when you arrive at the airport is another way of securing the best exchange rate possible and is a great way to save money while traveling. With all of that said, it is a best practice to keep money and other valuables in as many locations as you’re comfortable with (and can remember easily). Using multiple storage locations ensures that an opportunistic thief can’t make off with all of your travel money and valuables in one fell swoop.
Book Your Rental Car Early
If you are planning to rent a car during your trip, take the time early on to find the best available rate. As soon as you decide on your vacation plans, book your car rental. If you wait until the last minute, you could get stuck paying much higher rates, and it might not be as easy to rent the vehicle you want. If you find a better deal later on, you can always cancel your first rental (usually without penalty), but always check the terms & conditions upfront to make sure.
Set Your Own Rental Price
If you’re not too fussy about which car you want to drive or which company you’d like to rent from, websites like Priceline.com or Hotwire offer great discounts to customers who are willing to be locked into a preset price before they know which company will be providing their car. National car rental chains like Alamo Rent A Car, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Budget Rent a Car often provide vehicles to Priceline.com and Hotwire customers.
Cruise Close to Home
You’d be surprised by the number of U.S. cities you can cruise from. Because so many cities have cruise ports, the vast majority of people in the U.S. can drive less than five hours to get to a port (saving you the cost of airfare). You can catch a cruise ship from New York, Boston, Seattle, New Orleans, Los Angeles and many cities in Texas and Florida, among others. And, without that airfare cost, your cruise to regions like the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada and Alaska suddenly don’t seem quite as expensive.
Booking through sites like CruiseDirect (where Splender members can earn 3% cash back), Tours4Fun (with 2% cash back) and Orbitz (also 2% cash back) can help travelers save even more money on cruises.
Wait to Book Your Cruise
If you can wait, the best prices on cruises usually come with bookings made closer to the sail date—usually 3 to 6 weeks before departure. If you have the flexibility to make such last-minute plans, it’s almost guaranteed that you can snag a great deal by waiting. Similar to booking a flight, you can also find great deals when choosing to sail during slower months. The base fares start to drop, but the cruise line may even continue to lower prices to fill the ship as the sailing date nears.
However, if you plan to travel during peak seasons such as late June to mid-August or the Christmas to New Year’s holiday season, then you’ll want to book early to reserve your cabins and lock in the lowest price.
Shop Around for All-inclusives
All-inclusive resorts offer a lot of value for your money. Again, booking your travel during the off-season and arriving and departing mid-week are surefire ways to save money. In addition to that, when planning to stay at an all-inclusive resort, you should check travel sites like Expedia.com and Travelocity.com (where Splender members can earn 2% cash back) for the best deals. You can also use these sites to book airfare and save even more on your total vacation costs.
Be Flexible with Your Travel Plans
Be flexible with your location and where you stay. If you have your heart set on a particular all-inclusive resort, you could end up paying more than you planned. Consider a resort that is having a sale or be open to staying in an alternate location. FYI, Cuba and the Dominican Republic qualify as the least expensive destinations and have some truly lovely four-star resorts.
Traveling on a budget and finding travel deals is easier than ever. If you are savvy enough and have the patience, there are many great ways to save money traveling while still enjoying a dream vacation. Putting in a little more legwork before you go will pay off in a big way.