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How to Save Money on Flights, Hotels, and Other Travel Expenses

Last Updated: September 26, 2023
6 min read

Key points about: saving money on travel

  1. Travel websites often offer deals to save money on flights and hotels, and travel credit cards may allow you to redeem miles to use on these and other travel expenses.

  2. With a Discover it® Miles credit card, you can earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on travel purchases and all your everyday purchases, which you can then redeem in a variety of ways.

  3. You can save money by traveling during off-peak times, flying midweek, or booking a travel package that includes airfare, hotel, and a rental car.

Those travel photos you see on social media that look like a million dollars have a secret—many hot locales may be more accessible than you think. No matter your destination, from the top tourist spots to the places off the beaten trail, researching transportation and lodging, looking for deals, and using your credit card to earn rewards and redeem them when possible can be just some of the ways you can save money on travel.

Here are more tips for how to save money while traveling.

Save money by traveling off-peak

If you can travel during off-peak times, or the weeks just before or just after peak travel times (what’s known as the shoulder season), you might save serious cash on a dream destination. Many factors determine peak season. In the U.S., peak times are usually summer, when the days are long and warm, and schools are out. But in South America or Australia, January is summer and March is the shoulder season.

How to save money on flights

Saving on airfare is probably near the top of your list, but there’s been so much written on the subject that it makes more sense to reduce it to the basics.

With so many travel sites that offer flight and hotel deals, you can almost always find a way to save on a trip. If you want a flexible travel card that lets you earn Miles on everyday purchases and redeem miles for cash to use on travel, consider a Discover it® Miles credit card. Your morning coffee, online shopping, and even groceries automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase. And we’ll automatically match all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. There is no limit to how much we’ll match.1

Fly midweek

Weigh the cost of the days you plan to travel. For example, Sunday prices can soar as travelers race home before the workweek, but flights on a Thursday could be ideal.

Plan your flights ahead

Many trip-planning websites allow you to set price alerts for chosen destinations. And some airlines offer discounted rates for taking connecting flights instead of nonstop. You might even be able to include hotel and car rental reservations with a package that costs less than it would if you had booked each element separately.

Pick your destination based on airfare

Instead of deciding where to go and then looking for the cheapest airfare, it can be easier to save money by choosing your destination by how much it costs to get there.

Watch for savings within 24 hours

U.S. law requires that airlines allow you to cancel your booking within 24 hours. This means that you can save money by booking a lower airfare if the price drops within one day.

Did you know?

If you often travel by air, having a credit card built for airline travel can be a great way to build rewards for your future trips. Travelers who want more flexibility may appreciate the unlimited Miles and great benefits they can find on a Discover Card.

How to save money on hotels

Don’t be afraid to ask hotel staff about promotions or specials. If you’re traveling in a shoulder or off-season, you may be able to score a three-star room for a one-star price. Travel websites can offer significant deals and opportunities to save money by bidding on properties or taking advantage of lower rates for places that want to fill rooms fast.

For hotels, consider booking your room at the last minute to take advantage of cancellations. If you do see a low price on a third-party site, consider asking the hotel directly if they’ll match the price.

Some hotels give their best rates to members of their loyalty program, so signing up can let you save money.

Ways to save money when you travel by car

Road trips often seem like the best option for cost-conscious travelers, but driving can be quite expensive.

Before you go, get a tune-up so you can avoid wasting money on emergency repairs during your trip. Portable devices that allow you to jump-start your car or inflate your tires can be inexpensive and well worth the cost.

Before you leave, create at least a rough itinerary so you’ll know if you’ll need a bathing suit, hiking shoes, gym clothes, camping equipment, or other essentials. Pack plenty of snacks and a cooler full of drinks and plan to stop at grocery stores along the way to create less expensive meals.

Consider the cost of gas and tolls as well. Parking, too, could be a hassle depending on your destination, and a pricey one at that. Apps and online tools can help you find the cheapest gas in your area. You might also be able to save money by filling up well outside of major cities.

Ways to save money on other travel expenses

Account for dining in your travel budget

When it comes to dining on vacation, you can save money while still enjoying the local cuisine. If your lodging comes with a kitchen, shop for local groceries to prepare meals to take with you. Stocking up on little things like water and snacks can wind up saving you money. If food feels like a key part of your travel, one restaurant meal a day can be a budget-friendly option.

Don’t let shopping derail your travel budget

Shopping can feel like a travel treat that may allow you to experience a different aspect of your destination. But it’s also something that could break your travel budget.

One way you could save money for travel is to make sure you know the exchange rates and where to exchange. Exchanging cash at a convenient airport kiosk will typically charge you an unfavorable rate, so either obtain cash from your bank before leaving or use a regional ATM once you arrive.

Open-air and flea markets may be good places to find unique gifts that you can sometimes negotiate on price.

If you’re visiting multiple countries or regions, save your shopping for the most affordable destination.

Save money on popular attractions

Museums, amusement parks, and other attractions can tack big expenses onto an already expensive jaunt. You may be able to save money on admission by booking in advance or using discounted rates if you qualify, such as military, student, AAA, or senior.

Many amusement parks also offer a variety of entertainment choices and great discount packages that could save you money.

How to Save Money on Cruises

If you want to hit the high seas on a cruise, research when the best deals are offered before your departure date. And if you live close to the coast, you may be able to save money on a flight if you board closer to home.

Also, make sure enough is included in the pricing option you select and read the fine print. The least inclusive option might save on the base price of a cruise, but you may be on the hook for lots of additional onboard expenses.

If you think you can’t afford a vacation, think again. These tips can save you money on flights, hotels, and other travel expenses that might get you closer to your travel budget than you think. Before you travel, be sure to inform your banks and credit card companies that you’ll be accessing accounts from unusual locations. Otherwise, a charge from a foreign merchant may set off fraud alerts. Discover makes it easy to register your travel plans online or through our mobile app.

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  1. Discover Match®: We'll match all the Miles rewards you've earned on your credit card from the day your new account is approved through your first 12 consecutive billing periods or 365 days, whichever is longer, and add it to your rewards account within two billing periods. You've earned Miles rewards only when they're processed, which may be after the transaction date. We will not match: rewards that are processed after your match period ends; statement credits; rewards transfers from Discover checking or other deposit accounts; or rewards for accounts that are closed. This promotional offer may not be available in the future and is exclusively for new cardmembers. No purchase minimums.
  • 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.