Can we afford it? That seems to be a universal question when planning a road trip or any vacation for that matter. Money definitely determines when and where we go, especially if we are flying somewhere to begin a road trip. We have found some ways to make travel more cost-effective for us, and today we are sharing our best money saving travel tips with you. We hope that our suggestions will help you become a more frugal and frequent traveler!
Save those pennies
Plan for travel as a regular part of your monthly budget by setting aside a certain amount of money earmarked specifically for vacations. Get creative about how to raise some extra money. (We once funded round-trip cross-country airfare for four with the proceeds of a garage sale.) Every dollar saved puts you one step closer to an awesome vacation but remember to budget wisely! Everything from food to gasoline to hotel rooms is more expensive nowadays, and prices don’t appear to be coming down anytime soon.
Make plastic work for you
Use an airline points credit card for all of your purchases and pay it off every month. Another choice is to opt for a card that pays you cash back on every purchase. Weigh the cost of airfare as opposed to what your cash back card will earn then decide which method will work best for you. Additionally, if you visit a lot of national or state parks, make their plastic work for you too by purchasing park passes.
Become a member of a hotel loyalty rewards program in order to earn free hotel stays. It takes a lot of stays to earn a free one, but just one free night can save money for other things. Consider joining AARP (if you’re 50 or older) or become a AAA member. The fees for joining are nominal, and members can receive discounts on hotels and restaurants as well as other benefits. For those traveling to a specific destination to spend several days or for those who travel in larger groups, Airbnb or VRBO properties may be more cost-effective than hotel rooms.
Stay at hotels that offer free breakfast and enjoy picnic lunches on the road. Roadside and even parking lot picnics have been some of our favorite travel experiences. Another trick is to pick up a couple of low denomination ($10.00 – $20.00) gift cards for your favorite chain restaurants on grocery shopping trips then stash them away to use when traveling. Gift card purchases won’t add much to your shopping bills, but they will come in handy for “free” meals on the road. Starbucks, McDonalds, Subway, Sonic, Dunkin’, Dairy Queen, and other chains can be found almost everywhere in the U.S., even airports.
It was a hard habit to break, but we no longer buy souvenirs while traveling except for a Christmas ornament at major destinations. Ornaments are inexpensive, they pack easily for the trip home, and we get to remember the trip every year when we decorate the tree. Other options are magnets, post cards, and guidebooks. If you like to write, doodle, paint or sketch, make your own travel journal or scrapbook.
Dare to be different
Travel during the off season (or mid-week) when airfare and hotel stays are less expensive but be prepared for possible tourist site closures and less than optimal weather. Another big bonus for traveling in the off season is that the crowds are usually much smaller in tourist hotspots. Check websites or call ahead to ensure that the places you want to visit will be open when you arrive. Also, if a particular city is your destination, Google to see what is on that city’s events calendar during the time you’re going to be there. If a festival, major concert, rally, etc. is going on, hotel room prices will skyrocket or sell out. This happened to us recently, and we had to redo our entire itinerary in order to avoid a particular city – all because of a concert and no available hotel rooms!
Do your homework
Google for money saving coupons to amusement parks, zoos, and other entertainment venues. Amusement parks and zoos periodically offer reduced prices, two for one, or free admission. Take note of free national park days which can be found here: National Park Free Days. Look for restaurant coupons and specials too. A little research can go a long way to saving money on dining and entertainment.
Life lessons for kids
Leading up to the vacation, let kids earn their own spending money by helping out around the house. Teach older kids how to budget their allowances to pay for special activities while on the trip. Give kids their own travel budget for souvenirs and treats. Put a set amount of money into an envelope for each child and explain that when it’s gone there will be no more – and stick to it.
Ask for discounts when making hotel reservations or entering tourist sites. Military, senior, government employee and other discounts may be available just for the asking. Even if you have made a hotel reservation online, ask for a discount when you check in. We asked for a discount at a hotel in Birmingham, Alabama last year, and the manager cut the cost of our stay almost in half! Alternately, if your service or accommodations are not up to par, don’t hesitate to ask for a discount or refund when you check out.
Go for the freebies
Most cities have wonderful things to do for free. Google “free things to do” in the city you’re going to visit. It’s amazing how many great parks – even some national park sites – museums, historical sites, botanical gardens, and other points of interest are free.
A thought on rental cars
While most rental car loyalty programs will give you points, it takes a lot of them to earn anything tangible. Some programs may have some other money saving perks too, but we think the best reason to be a member of a loyalty program is that it could keep you from standing in line for an hour (or two) when picking up a car.
In closing, we hope our information has given you some ways to become a money saving traveler. If you have additional money saving or road trip tips, please share them with us in the comments section! We also hope you will come by again for more tips, tricks, road trip destinations, Quick Stops and other features. Until next time…
Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road!
Mike and Kellye
Need some road trip destination ideas? Click on these:
Assateague Island National Seashore
Franconia Notch State Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
Scotts Bluff National Monument
As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.
Photo Credits: maitree rimthong, Pixabay, Dominika Roseclay, Oleg Magni, Vova Krasilnikov, Printexstar, vjapratama, Andrew Neel, Karolina Grabowska, Ammy K, Pexels.com