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How to Save Money on Travel

Last Updated: February 23, 2022
6 min read

Those shots you see on social media that look like a $1 million have a secret — many hot locales may be more accessible than you think. To save on travel, establish a saving plan, do your research on transportation and lodgings, look for deals and get creative about your goals.

There are so many travel sites that give you flight deals, hotel deals, etc., you can almost always find a way to save on a trip. If you want a flexible travel card to redeem miles for cash to use on road trips, in addition to earning miles for everyday purchases and including on your trips, consider a Discover it® Miles credit card. Your morning coffee, online shopping and even groceries all earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar you spend on purchases. At the end of your first year we’ll match all the Miles you’ve earned.1

Consider these tips for saving money while traveling.

1. Save money by traveling off-peak

If you can travel during off-peak times, or the in between weeks 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 sun hits and schools are out. But in South America or Australia, January is summer and March the shoulder season.

2. 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.

Fly midweek

Weigh the days you plan to travel — for example, Sunday prices can soar as travelers race home before the work week, but heading out 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.

3. 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, offering opportunities to save money by bidding on properties or taking advantage of cut 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.

4. 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 will need a bathing suit, hiking shoes, gym clothes, camping equipment or other essentials. Pack plenty of snacks and a cooler full of drinks, and check out 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.

5. 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, prepare meals and take them 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 is a budget-friendly option.

Don’t let shopping derail your travel budget

Shopping can feel like a travel treat as much as a leisurely coffee or a view of the Mona Lisa. For some, it’s a chance to experience a different view of a city, and indulge in a pastime you may not have time for back home.

First, make sure you know the exchange rates and the best way to maximize your dollars. Exchanging cash at those convenient airport kiosks 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 are a great choice for finding unique gifts at flexible prices. But come prepared to negotiate. And be sure to keep a close eye on your wallet as they can be popular areas for pickpockets as well. If you’re visiting multiple countries or regions, save your shopping for the most affordable destination.

Roller Coasters, Waterslides, Oh My

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.

While breakfast with a cartoon character may cost you, many amusement parks offer a variety of entertainment choices and great discount packages.

How to Save Money on Cruises

If you want to hit the high seas, some of the best deals come about three to six weeks before the departure date, according to some experts. Also consider options closer to home, where you may not need airfare just to board the ship if you live near places like New York, New Orleans, and Seattle.

Make sure enough is included in the pricing option you select and read the fine print. By choosing the least inclusive option, you might save on the base price of a cruise — but you may be on the hook for lots of additional on-board expenses.

Notify Your Credit Card Company

And before you go, be sure to inform your banks and credit card companies that you will be accessing accounts from unusual locations. Otherwise a charge from a Turkish bazaar may set off fraud alerts. Discover makes it easy to do online or through our mobile app.

If you think you can’t afford to travel on your vacation, think again. Put all of these savings together and traveling might be closer to your budget than you think.

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