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How to Travel on a Budget

Last Updated: January 11, 2024
4 min read

Key points about: traveling on a budget

  1. Flying to less popular destinations or traveling by car can save money on airfare.

  2. Redeeming credit card rewards can supplement your vacation budget.

  3. An all-inclusive vacation can make it easier to stick to your budget.

For many people, vacations mean splurging on anything from spa treatments to bucket-list dining. Creating and maintaining a budget can allow you to treat yourself without emptying your bank account. Your total budget may depend on many factors, including your flight and hotel room, but also how much you plan to charge to your credit card when you’re there, and how much cash you’ll bring. These budget travel tips can help you learn to travel on a budget.

How much to spend on vacation

The actual amount you spend on vacation is less important than sticking to the budget you’ve chosen. When you plan your trip, pricing each component in advance can help you be sure you’ll be able to pay the credit card bills that arrive when your vacation is over.

Budget travel tips

Save money by skipping the hotel

One way to avoid hotel up-charges is to avoid the hotel altogether. Companies and apps make renting vacation homes a breeze, providing you all the comforts of a home away from home. Even something as simple as making your own breakfast in your vacation rental can bring big savings to your budget, especially for family travel.

Use credit card rewards

Redeeming credit card rewards is a great way to save money on vacation travel. Once you’ve decided how much you’re able to spend on vacation, see if you can supplement your budget by redeeming cash back rewards or miles. Once you check how much you’ve accumulated in credit card rewards, you may find that they make the difference between staying on budget and overspending.

For a budget traveler, you'll want a card that gives rewards on every purchase, so you can build them up making your everyday purchases and redeem them before your trip. And you’ll want to make sure the card doesn’t have restrictions or blackout dates when redeeming your rewards.

Choose the cheapest airfares

If you’re not sure where you want to go, look for locations that are less popular, which may mean you can find a cheaper flight. If you know exactly where you want to be but aren’t on a schedule, set up alerts on airline websites to find the cheapest airfares.

Did you know?

Whether planning a trip in the near future, or thinking about a vacation for next year, you can start earning Miles with a Discover it® Miles travel credit card. You can redeem Miles for Travel or Cash.1

Travel by car

Sometimes a road trip is a convenient way to extend your vacation and see some of the sights a country has to offer.

If you’re flying to another country first, look up rental car prices and the mileage to and from your destination to calculate your estimated fuel costs.

If you’re taking a road trip across the U.S., consider getting your vehicle tuned up to try to avoid any unexpected breakdowns. It can also help to plan your nightly destinations so you can book lodging ahead of time that’s close along your route

Seek discounts at your destination

Travelers can often find discounts on everything from meals to live music. Choosing restaurants, cafes, museums, and attractions that offer deals can reduce how much you spend on vacation. You can search online for discounts offered at your destination or find deals as you walk around.

You can also rely on a city’s public transportation to help you get around versus taking taxis, which can be expensive and make a real dent in your budget if you don’t plan on the cost. On top of that, walking is a free and easy way to explore every nook and cranny a city has to offer, extending your travel budget even more.

Go all-inclusive

Those that have a hard time sticking to a budget may want to opt for an all-inclusive vacation, where meals and lodging are typically included in the price. Though this option can sometimes be more expensive upfront, you can more easily create and stick to a budget to help you know about how much you’ll spend on your trip before you even leave home.

Ride the currency coaster

Remember, global currencies are in a constant state of flux, so your money may go farther in some places than in others. That's because the value of your local currency may be worth more in some countries and less in others, so your spending power will vary based on your destination.

This is why you might hear people say something like, "Country A is really cheap for Country B tourists." That means that 1 "Country A dollar" is worth more than 1 "Country B dollar."

Staying on course with budget travel tips

While it may not be the easiest thing to do, staying within budget while getting out to explore the world is feasible. With a disciplined saving mentality and research, you can go out and explore the world comfortably, knowing that you’re not breaking the bank to do so.

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  1. Redeem Miles: Starting at 1 Mile, you can redeem your Miles as a credit to your account to pay for all or part of your bill, for cash as an electronic deposit to your bank account, or for a credit for Travel Purchases made on your statement within the last 180 days. Travel Purchases include airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, travel agents, online travel sites, commuter transportation, restaurants and gas stations. Restaurant purchases include those made at merchants classified as full-service restaurants, cafes, cafeterias, fast-food locations, and restaurant delivery services. Gas Station purchases include those made at merchants classified as places that sell automotive gasoline that can be bought at the pump or inside the station. Gas Stations affiliated with supermarkets, supercenters, and wholesale clubs may not be eligible. Even if a travel purchase on your statement appears to fit in a Travel Purchase category, the merchant may not have a merchant category code (MCC) in a Travel Purchase category. Merchants and payment processors are assigned an MCC based on their typical products and services. Discover Card does not assign MCCs to merchants. Certain third-party payment accounts and digital wallet transactions may not be eligible for credit redemption if the technology does not provide sufficient transaction details or a qualifying MCC. See Terms and Conditions for more information.
  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.