Living Frugally: Be a Savvy Traveler

Making plans to travel this year? Here are three things you should do as you prepare for a vacation. The time away from work and school will be much more enjoyable if you keep expenses manageable and do not accrue significant debt as a result of your vacation:

  • Start saving early
  • Buy your tickets in advance
  • Choose your vacation location wisely

Start Saving Early. About three years ago, the wife and I placed a wicker basket – which later became known as the money basket – in our bedroom. We determined that at the end of each day we would place all of our change and any dollar bills in the basket. Of course, any change found – among the lint in our pockets, in the dryer, or when we’re out on a run and stumble upon a rogue coin – is also tossed in the basket. And while we typically limit bills thrown in the basket to $1, occasionally we will throw in a $5.

Landstuhl GermanyLandstuhl, Germany

You would be amazed at how quickly loose change, $1 bills – and the occasional $5 bill – add up! Our most significant haul? About $150 over a 2-3 month period. Start your money basket today and enjoy the loose change as your spending money on vacation. Whether you’re traveling internationally or locally, every dollar counts.

Buy Your Tickets in Advance. If your vacation will take you to a distant location, you will likely be flying and making use of a rental car. Booking your tickets as far in advance as possible will save you money.

Buying airline tickets and reserving a rental car over the Internet – through travel sites such as Kayak (my wife’s favorite), Priceline, and Travelocity – is often cheaper than buying them directly through the airline or rental car company or through a travel agent. Also, keep an eye out for discounts (e.g. military, senior citizen, etc.), special deals, and coupons.

The Holy Grail of Travel [Retire Before Dad]

Choose Your Vacation Location Wisely. While famous, exotic locations can be tantalizing, they are often more expensive and overrun with other tourists. If you are on a tight budget, want to spend your money more wisely, and avoid crowded popular destinations, look a little closer to home. There is probably a national park, a state park, hiking trails, a scenic lake, or a river within a few hours’ drive of your home.

Monument ValleyMonument Valley, Utah

Last year the wife and I recently joined some friends on a mini-vacation to Monument Valley on the Utah/Arizona border, about an eight-hour drive from our home. We had a great time and did not have to worry about the expenses associated with airline tickets or a rental car.

There is no doubt that we all enjoy our vacations and traveling with family. Your vacation will be more enjoyable if you start saving early, buy any required tickets well in advance, and choose your vacation destination wisely.

What are some of the ways you save money when vacationing?

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.


  1. Awesome tips here. This is largely how we were able to go on our honeymoon for so cheap. We went backpacking through southern utah for two and a half weeks and it was incredible. We’ll definitely be taking some of these tips to heart on our vacation this summer! Nice writeup!

    • Thanks for stopping by, my friend and sharing your experience. No doubt that a trip/vacation is much more enjoyable when you are able to do it in a financially responsible way.

  2. One tip for travelers is look into Airbnb. It is far cheaper than hotels and offers a much nicer stay (most times). Your 3rd tip can be crucial to saving money as well. Certain countries are significantly cheaper for vacation.

    • Great point. I’ve yet to try the service but have heard some good things. We’re only limited by our imagination when it comes to saving.

      • My girlfriend used it once with her family on a trip and it was 50% cheaper than a hotel and they got a two story house that was very modern. I would call that some major savings and an upgrade as they had a kitchen etc.

        • Good stuff! Thanks for stopping by and sharing the experience, my friend.

  3. Another item to consider is to go on vacation outside of the season. I was just in DC during the Cherry blossom week/spring break. I stayed on points which helped. The Hotel we stayed at would have cost $351. Out of season (or no special events) that would have been closer to $200. The same goes for theme parks and resorts that may charge much less in less busier months of year.

    • Great, great point. When possible, I make my first criteria where and not when. By doing so, I can check frequently on when the best rates are offered and pounce when they drop below the normal cost. If you lock yourself into a specific location and date, you pretty much lock yourself into the standard rate.

  4. We travel a lot, and we are always looking for new ways to save money.

    • No doubt that vacations, or any time you travel, are a lot more enjoyable if you are able to control the spending and not take on debt to do so. Thanks for stopping by, Michelle.

  5. We keep a ‘vacation’ category as part of our monthly budget to ensure we never have to go into debt. As well, we try to time most of our vacations on the ‘shoulder season.’ For example, a few years ago we took a carribean cruise in early December, which saved tons. And it avoids the crowds! 🙂

    • Similar story here. We maintain a distinct accounting of ‘vacations’ in our spending (budget) plan and our experience has been that, like most things, if you develop a comprehensive plan, and do it far enough in advance, you can save some money.

  6. Looking good, James! That would be an awesome vacation for me. I enjoy driving holidays and they are less stressful than flying ones, IMHO! Thanks for dropping in and also for your vote on CNA MVP. 😉

    • It really was a great time. We traveled with some friends and met some new friends there. A good time was had by all. Best of luck on the CNA MVP!

  7. I think most people fail with respect to establishing their budget. They get the destination stuck in their heads and don’t think of the expenses associated with it. Just remember that it may be a once in a lifetime experience, but you don’t want to be paying for it the rest of your life!

    • “…a once in a lifetime experience, but you don’t want to be paying for it the rest of your life!” Absolutely. Nothing worse than feeling the financial strife long after the thrill of the experience has worn off.

  8. I need to make it out to Monument Valley. You’re right it’s about planning. Whether it’s financials or vacations. Things run smoother with some thought.

    • Monument Valley is a gorgeous area. For anyone familiar with the old John Ford (director) and John Wayne Westerns, that is the area where many of them were filmed.

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