We all know traveling can be expensive. We like to utilize as many deals, discount and reward points as possible to get the most out of our travel experiences. Here are some of our top tips and tactics!
- Use reward points
We are (slowly) starting to learn about travel hacking and reward programs which we can utilize to redeem for flights, hotel, rental cars, gift cards, cash, etc. My husband and I live in South Louisiana, which unfortunately is far away from many national parks, mountains, and top travel destinations. To try to get out there and see as much as possible, that usually means we have to fly. One reward points program we currently use is Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards. Southwest’s rewards program is free, and you get points for each flight you take on Southwest, which can add up (eventually) to enough points for a free flight(s). We also each signed up for the Southwest credit card, during their double points (50k) reward offer, to help us redeem points for free flights quickly, but that’s not necessary to utilize this program. The other reason we choose this airline reward points program over the others is because Southwest is currently the only airline that offers free checked baggage (up to 2 a person)
Campsites are usually cheaper than hotels, they are near most of the sights we want to see, and keep us close to nature. We tent camp, but RVing would also be an option for those who want more creature comforts.
- Use Deal Websites
Websites such as Groupon, Living Social, or Airbnb will assist you in finding cheaper hotel/lodging options as well as half priced tours or restaurant options. We use all of the above! For example, we used Airbnb when visiting North Miami, we scored an apartment with free parking for $80 a night, within a five minute walk to the beach, restaurants, and bars. Most deal websites often run promotions which give you a sign-up credit ($20 for Airbnb), discounts off getaway or “local” deals for entertainment, or restaurants (Groupon and Living Social) so try to stack promotions or discounts whenever possible.
- Research Cheap or Free Attractions
This is where our love of trip adviser, travel bloggers, and reviews come into our travel planning. Sightseeing can get expensive!
- Eat What the Locals Eat
We utilize local markets, food trucks, grocery stores or delicatessens to get cheaper meals or snacks, and save more money for one nicer sit-down meal every day or two. Bring a small foldable cooler bag if you are road tripping or don’t have refrigeration in your lodgings to keep some snacks on hand so you don’t have the urge to splurge on room service or three big meals everyday.
- National Park Access Pass
Buy a National Park Access Pass. For $80 a year, you get access to 410 national park sites in the United States and territories. This means free (with purchase) access to national parks, national monuments, national historic sites, national seashores, battlefields, memorials, national recreation areas, national trails, etc. Trust me, if you look, you will most probably find some of these attractions near your next U.S. travel location or in your own backyard. You can put two people on each pass, and it covers a vehicle of people so you could use it to get friends and family in for free with you as well. This pass is not just for nature lovers, it includes so many types of U.S. history you can definitely find something to interest everyone. It also pays for itself many times over if used even a few times. For example, we traveled through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada ($15 for seven day pass), Zion National Park ($30 for seven day pass), Grand Canyon National Park ($30 for seven day entrance fee), and Glen Canyon NRA ($25 for seven day pass), in our nine day southwest road trip this year. In that time, we would of spent $100 to enjoy these areas, but by choosing to get the $80 access pass, we automatically saved $20 before ever using the pass again that year. I could go on and on about this one, so read here for more information.
- Travel with Friends or Family
It helps to split the cost of lodging, rental cars, gas, etc. Or join a tour company planned trip, to help reduce costs and have someone else deal with transportation and itinerary.
- Share an Entree
Split meals with your travel companion or significant other. This is one we tried on our most recent trip to Key West, as the Florida Keys can be expensive to vacation in. It kept our costs for food down significantly, and eliminated leftovers, which are sometimes hard to store while traveling. You could even take turns picking entree to make sure everyone gets something they like.
- Lodging Benefits
Look for lodging which includes free meals or perks, such as continental breakfast, free drinks in the lobby nightly, free gym or sauna pass, etc. The campground we stayed at most recently in Key West, gave free guest passes for the duration of our stay to a local private yacht club and marina which included a pool, gym, and private beach.
- Power Pass/Go Card
Have you ever heard of a Power Pass or Go Card? I bought and used one for a bachelorette trip in Las Vegas and it saved us SO much money! I’ve seen them for other cities such as Miami and San Francisco as well. Basically, you spend a flat fee and get a all-inclusive pass to multiple sights in each city. Things like historical sights, museums, botanical gardens, aquariums, bus or boat tours, and much more. You save up to 55% by utilizing pass, and you can justify visiting so many places since it’s all included in the pass already. They have 1, 2, 3+ day passes based on how long you are in each city for and some even allow you to choose specific places instead of paying for an all-inclusive pass. Check it out before you head to your next destination!
These are some tips we use to save money and get the most out of our vacation. We use at least one or more on each trip, and as we travel more and more we are discovering different ways to save. What’s your favorite tip for saving money on travel?