20 Ways to Save Cash on Summer Getaways
7. Stay outside popular areas
Having a hotel room in the center of everything is convenient, but staying a few miles outside the city is often cheaper. For example, next weekend I could book a room at the Omni Hotel in Dallas for $149 a night through Hotels.com — or I could stay a few miles away in Las Colinas, Texas, at the Wyndham for $64 a night. I’d save $85 a night staying in the suburbs.
8. Find cheaper lodging with vacation homes
Vacation homes cost the same (or even less) than hotels, but offer more than most standard hotel rooms — like full-service kitchens, washers and dryers, and bigger living spaces. So you can eat out less, stay in more, and never have to worry about a late-night trip to a Laundromat.
9. Sleep in a hostel
I’ve always stayed in hotels, but my friends prefer hostels when they’re traveling. Why? Because a hostel is dirt-cheap compared to most hotel prices. You’ll only get the basics, namely a bed and linens, but you’ll save a ton this way. For example, a private room in the India House hostel in New Orleans would cost $23 a night, or you could stay at the Best Western French Quarter Landmark Hotel for $180 a night.
Hostels aren’t listed on most travel sites. Instead, use a site like Hostels.com to find the going rates.
10. Consider house-swapping
Another lodging alternative — stay for free. If you’re willing to swap homes (temporarily) with someone else, you can stay in their house for free during your vacation.
Don’t assume that because you don’t live in a vacation destination, nobody would want to stay at your house. People choose their destinations for lots of reasons, from business to visiting grandma.
11. Dine out less
Dining out is my single biggest “extra” when I travel. During a three-day weekend in Austin, Texas, I spent more than $150 on food. Don’t do that. Instead, book a hotel room with an in-room kitchen, rent a vacation home or do a housing swap and cook most of your meals.
12. Use discount food apps
If you do dine out during your vacation, use a restaurant-locating app to find special deals and the best prices.
When you get there, split your meal in half, ask the waiter to box it up, and use the hotel’s mini fridge to store your to-go box. That way, you just got two meals for the price of one.
13. Turn your vacation into a tax deduction
Turn your vacation into a business trip and you can write off some of your expenses, including transportation, lodging, dining out and even some cruises.
14. Take an alternative vacation
No one says your vacation has to include a pricey tourist destination. There are plenty of cheaper ways to get some down time. For example:
- Take a staycation in your own city and live like a tourist for a few days
- Go camping in a national park
- Visit your state’s capital for the weekend
- Visit friends or family (especially those with guest rooms)
15. Plan cruises carefully
The listed price of a cruise includes food, lodging and on-ship entertainment. It doesn’t include tips, the cost of onshore excursions, or airfare — and those costs add up. Research all the associated costs before you book a cruise. If you’re not sure how to find the best deal, let a travel agent handle the arrangements for you.
16. Sightsee free
Popular tourist attractions are pricey, but there are plenty of places you can sightsee free. For example, in Louisiana, admission to the popular plantation homes costs up to $18 per adult, but the National Park Service hosts free walking tours of the French Quarter in New Orleans. Look for cheaper options before you start booking those pricey tickets.
17. Use multiple travel sites
Travel sites save you a ton of money but they don’t all have the same deals. Check multiple travel sites before you book. Like:Hotels.com, Priceline, Kayak, Expedia, Orbitzand Hotwire.
18. Take public transit
Rental cars and cab rides are expensive but public transportation is a steal. For example, in New Orleans a cab ride across town runs about $22, but a streetcar will take you the same distance for $1.25. Major cities post their public transportation routes online and many have integrated with Google Maps so you can look up routes from your phone on the go.
19. Ask a local
Want the real scoop on the best cheap food, fun and free entertainment ideas, or which souvenir shops aren’t a total rip-off? Ask a local. As a local living in a popular tourist destination, I can promise you, many of us are happy to help you have a good (and cheap) time.
20. Don’t pay for overseas phone service
If you’re traveling overseas, plan your calls before you leave. While the hotel will let you use its phone to call internationally, you’ll pay a hefty premium for it. If you’ll have Internet access in your hotel room, set up a Skype or Google Voice account before you go. If not, ask your wireless provider if they offer temporary international calling. Many providers offer global SIM cards or rent overseas-capable phones for a small fee.