Tips for Saving Money on Vacation

Editor’s Note: In addition to keeping you up-to-date about product and company news on the HelloWallet blog, we’re kicking off a series of posts that provide straightforward practical tips for how to save money.  With summer coming, we thought we’d kick it off with a post about saving money on vacation.  Anxious to hear what you think.

Are you dreaming of sitting on the beach this summer? Or is exploring a big city more your style? While vacations are about enjoying yourself and seeing you new places, you also want to spend your money wisely while traveling. 

Here are six easy ways to save while on vacation and still have a great trip:

Rent a Condo or Private Home 

Renting a condo or house instead of a hotel room can often be more cost effective than booking a hotel room. You can also save additional money by cooking some meals in your kitchen. While a condo or house will give you more space and privacy than a hotel, it might not as many amenities as a resort. To find a condo or house that meets your needs, check out sites, such as VRBO, AirBnb or contact a property management group at your destination. 

Use Hotel Bidding Sites

Another way to save money on lodging is to use discount hotel websites, such as Priceline and Hotwire. While some people are hesitant to use these sites since you do not know the exact hotel you are committing to, the sites can be a great way to save money if your hotel is simply a place to sleep while exploring the area. If you have your heart set on a specific hotel or you want to spend more of your time at a resort, then you should skip these sites for this trip. Since each site works differently, be sure to understand the terms and conditions before bidding. You can also use and to get more information about hotels by using the sites and the amounts of bids that were recently accepted. 

Compare Costs of Driving vs. Flying

In years past, it was assumed that driving was a more cost effective mode of transportation than flying. But rising gas costs and erratic airfares have made it important to compare both options for each trip since it can vary throughout the year for the same destination. Use’s Fly or Drive Calculator to enter information about your trip and see which option is most cost-, and time-, effective for your trip. The calculator considers airfare, gas prices, rental car needs and even drive time to the airport.

Travel in the Shoulder Season

While traveling off-season is common advice for frugal travel, often it really isn’t practical since skiers want snow on the ground and sun lovers don’t want to go to the beach when it’s chilly there. However, traveling on the shoulder season, which is the time period right before peak season, is often a great way to get reduced rates and fewer crowds while still having great weather at your destination. 

Neil Hastings, director of sales and marketing for Mountain Lodge at Telluride in Colorado, recommends travelers understand when are shoulder and off-season date for their destination since they vary by location. “At many mountain locales, early summer and fall are beautiful seasons, much less crowded, and offer much lower rates,” said Hastings. 

Spend Your Food Dollars Wisely

One of the biggest expenses for traveling is eating out, especially if you are traveling with children or extended family. If you are not staying in a condo with a kitchen, request a small refrigerator in your hotel room and purchase some grocery items when you arrive.  

“We will stock our hotel room and mini fridge with breakfast foods (cereal, granola bars) and snacks like pretzels, cheese and crackers, etc,” said Christine Luken, financial coach and coupon queen. Luken also saves 30% to 50% on a meal by eating her big meal at lunch instead of dinner. “We’ll go to a nice restaurant around 1:30 or 2 p.m., which gets us the special lunch prices with great food and no wait for a table with a view,” Luken said. 

Use Coupons 

Before your trip, research coupons and coupon books available for your destination. Many larger cities offer books with Buy One Get One Free offers for restaurants and attractions, such as The Entertainment Book.  You can also find online offers for individual attractions and restaurants. “Before leaving home, search the web for activities or attractions you know you want to visit, along with the word ‘coupon.’ Many places offer two-for-one or percentage-off coupons online,” Hastings said.

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