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5 Ways to Save Money on Vacation

Summer is often a time for people to travel, and families can create new and amazing memories together. Growing up my family didn’t have many opportunities to travel due to health and finances, so it’s been an important activity for me with raising my own girls. Last I checked, we didn’t have a money tree growing in the backyard, so I thought I’d take a moment to share 5 of my favorite ways to save money on vacation.

1. Food

Eating meals while traveling can be expensive for a family.
Eating meals while traveling can be expensive for a family.

It’s amazing how much food costs a family while traveling. When you factor in three meals a day and snacks, you can spend around $150 a day on food for a family of four; that’s $1,050 for a one week vacation. Some of our favorite ways to trim our food costs while traveling is:

  • if driving we pack our own road trip snacks from home which are purchased for much less than gas station pricing
  • if staying at a hotel we can save by choosing a location that offers complimentary breakfast
  • when staying at a vacation rental or in a room with a kitchen we can pack our own lunches for the day, or make dinner in the room

2. Special Offers

Activities and attractions can be another spot that sucks back a lot of vacation cash. Before you leave, look into whether your chosen attractions or activities are offering any sort of special offers or deals you can take part in.

One year we stopped in a local grocery store to purchase four cans of vegetables to donate in order to get 50% off our admission tickets to a theme park. If I wouldn’t have looked online before traveling, I probably wouldn’t have known about the promotion.

Sometimes local businesses (like fast food shops and grocery stores) have specially priced tickets for their local attractions. You can always call the attraction, or contact the local visitor’s center to ask about any special rates or offers.

3. Home Rental

Vacation home rental is a great option for saving money on vacation.
Vacation home rental is a great option for saving money on vacation.

A great way to save money on vacation is to consider a vacation home rental over staying at a hotel. It just so happens that July is National Vacation Rental Month, the time of year when most travelers enjoy vacation rentals as a better way to get away. Here are some of the top ways a vacation home rental can help you save money on vacation:

  • The average price per bedroom per night for a vacation rental is $72.40 compared to $120.98 for hotels (Sources: Wyndham Vacation Rentals data; Smith Travel Research U.S. data).
  • Vacation homes can better accommodate larger families who would need to pay for two hotel rooms, or families and friends can share the rental of a large home and save money together on accommodations and meals.
  • As mentioned above, being able to make your own meals can save you a lot of money — a recent study of over 11,000 vacation rental travelers by Wyndham Vacation Rentals, found that on average, vacation rental travelers report having saved $106 per day, or $742 over the course of a week, by preparing some meals in their vacation rental. Plus, 73% of rental travelers feel having a kitchen on vacation reduced their stress level every day during a week-long vacation because they were able to save money, and 60% feel it reduces their stress level because they didn’t have to get ready to go out to eat.
  • If you’re planning to rent with AirBnB, know these rules before you book.

4. Membership Perks

Your memberships might offer special savings for travel.
Your memberships might offer special savings for travel.

Don’t forget to check with some of your membership companies for any special offers or deals for your vacation. AAA has a whole travel department and you can sometimes score great prices on tickets and packages. I’ve personally used my AAA membership for discounted parking at the airport.

My friends who work for Boeing are able to take advantage of some travel perks like discounted theme park passes, so if you work for a major company they might have travel deals for you.

I’ve also enjoyed using my Costco membership and Entertainment book for getting discounts on car rentals. It’s always worth checking out.

5. Flexibility

While I’m a big advocate of advance planning, sometimes spontaneity and flexibility can pay off. Just looking at flexibility, being able to travel on certain deal dates can make a huge impact on your transportation costs.

Most airlines and travel booking sites have a way for you to search for flexible dates, so pick the cheapest days and travel then. You can really score if you’re able to handle a bit of spontaneity. Sometimes you can find last-minute airfare deals, or you can even check for last-minute accommodation specials or try an app like HotelTonight.

And don’t forget that sometimes restaurants have coupons that aren’t valid on the weekends or during dinner, but if you’re flexible in your timing, you can take advantage of the offer.

Whatever your travel plans are, having a travel budget will help you prepare and stay on track during your trip. Hopefully, these tips will help you when planning your next trip and trying to save money on vacation, so your family can kick back and enjoy your time away.

Looking for ways to stretch your traveling dollar further? Here are 5 ways to save money on vacation so you an travel and do more!
5 Ways to Save Money on Vacation

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Luke Mitchell

Sunday 26th of July 2015

Bookmarked this. I doubt anyone would not appreciate ways to save, and I can't count how many times this has come up in discussion or been asked before. I've actually looked for this answer then been unable to find it and Google has failed me, and delivered results that weren't quite this perfect. It's moments like these I'm glad I HAVE bookmarks, it's now a matter of finding them when I need them. I didn't even think of the rental option honestly, we have always just opted for the hotel or the B&B straight away but that is something we'll remedy on the next trip. Thanks for the pointers!

Charles McCool

Wednesday 22nd of July 2015

My favorite food savings inevitably arise from shopping local: markets, food stands, picnics, bbq stands, church picnics.


Wednesday 22nd of July 2015

That's a great tip - do you have a special way to find out where the best spots are? Either internet or talking to locals?