10 tips to save money when traveling

Travel can be expensive, whether it’s high gas prices during your road trip or increased travel demand driving up hotel and airline costs. But it doesn’t have to be as expensive as you might think with these money-saving travel tips.

How to save money while traveling

1. Pack the light

Packing light is undoubtedly beneficial for avoiding checked baggage fees, but there are a few other incentives for doing so. For starters, traveling light means you can get around a lot easier. With a lightweight suitcase or backpack, you are more agile, allowing you to navigate public transport rather than feeling like you have to pay for a taxi.

So how do you carry the light? Bring clothes that you can easily wash in a sink. Look for items that dry quickly and choose clothes that you can mix and match. By default, these are basic items that go with just about any outfit, so you don’t need to pack four pairs of shoes in your bag.

Plus, traveling light means you won’t be tempted to pay for souvenirs, as the limited capacity of your suitcase or backpack will deter your cravings.

2. Shop at local grocery stores

Visiting the local markets can be an adventure in itself. You will find different types of food that you would not necessarily come across at home. Plus, having food on hand means you’ll likely save money, as you’ll be less tempted to buy the stale, overpriced muffin from the hotel cafe just because you were hungry.

3. Bring snacks

If you can’t visit a local market, making snacks at home is the best thing to do. Look for protein-rich items like dried and protein bars, which can fill you up and not take up too much space in your luggage.

Bottled water can also become a big expense when you’re on the go. Assuming you have access to a source of drinking water, pack your canteen and consider a portable water bottle that can fold up to fit in your pocket.

4. Enter the airport lounge

One of the best ways to eat while traveling is to go to an airport lounge. Many high-end travel credit cards offer lounge access as a benefit, usually through the Priority Pass lounge membership program. Food quality varies by lounge, but you can generally expect light snacks like fruit, crisps, cookies and coffee. The more chic lounges sometimes offer full meals in the form of a buffet.

Beyond food, lounges can provide Wi-Fi speeds that are generally faster than those offered at the airport. In addition, some salons offer showers, exercise rooms or massages. Arrive at the airport early to maximize amenities.

5. Arrive early

Allow plenty of time to arrive at the airport early. If you’re running late, you could hail an overpriced cab in a panic instead of taking public transportation at a fraction of the cost. You may also find that rideshare prices can be higher for rides to the airport at certain times. Having more time allows you to avoid rising prices.

Don’t risk having to book a flight at the last minute because you arrived late.

6. Get your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership fee refunded

You can speed through the airport crowds by applying for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. Both are types of Trusted Traveler programs offered by the US Department of Homeland Security.

If your application is approved, you will be able to use the expedited lanes, which generally have shorter and faster queues because travelers are not required to remove their shoes, laptops, belts or jackets. According to TSA data, 94% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than five minutes in December 2021.

Also see: Southwest Airlines will resume in-flight alcohol sales on February 16

Some credit cards will refund your application fee, usually $85 for TSA PreCheck or $100 for Global Entry.

7. Take advantage of overnight certificates without a credit card

Some hotel credit cards — even those with annual fees under $100 — offer free hotel night certificates. Assuming the value of your hotel room is more than the credit card’s annual fee (which can very easily be the case), it might be a good idea to get one of these cards to save some cash. money with a free night.

Plus, these cards typically offer additional perks like elite status, making your stay more enjoyable, and bonus points, which can make future stays free – or at least cheaper.

8. Book hotel rooms on points

Speaking of bonus points, it’s almost always a good idea to spend your hotel points rather than saving them. Booking rooms with points rather than cash is definitely a smart way to avoid dipping into your vacation savings, but there are a few other perks:

You can avoid resort fees: Resort fees (those extra fees hotels charge to cover extra uses like pools and Wi-Fi) are irritating, and they can sometimes exceed $50 per night. Fortunately, some hotel loyalty programs, including Hilton HLT,
Honors and World of Hyatt H,
don’t charge them for rooms booked with points.

Also on MarketWatch: Robinhood wants to give investment advice to beginners. Should I take it?

You could benefit from additional discounts: For stays booked with points, you can unlock additional discounts to stay longer. For example, you receive the lowest free night for every five consecutive nights spent at a Marriott MAR,
property financed with Marriott Bonvoy points. Hilton has a similar policy where members with at least a Silver Elite membership receive the fifth night free when booking on points.

9. Travel in the shoulder season

If you can travel during the off-season, it’s not only a way to avoid the crowds and the headaches that come with them, but you’ll usually be able to get a better deal. A NerdWallet analysis conducted in the spring of 2021 on more than 1,110 airfares found that airfares were on average more expensive for holiday travel than any other booking window.

Reservation window Average economy class cash airfare

15 days of absence


180 days of absence


During the holiday season (Dec 22-29)


Airfares for flight itineraries during the holiday season are on average 41% more expensive than other flights booked around six months outside of holiday periods.

See: 5 reasons why winter is a good time for holidays

10. Explore tourist attractions that don’t cost you money

Even trips to notoriously expensive places like San Francisco, New York or Walt Disney World don’t have to break the bank.

For example, there are tons of free things to do at Disney World DIS,
Ride the monorail or watch the fireworks from the beach at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Plus, you can find free walking tours in most major cities (although tour guides usually rely on tipping, so tip accordingly).

Choose free tourist attractions over paid ones. For example, tickets to the de Young Museum in San Francisco are around $15, but you can head to one of its coolest rooms, the Hamon Observation Tower, for a free panoramic view of the city.

And while there are dozens of great cultural institutions in St. Louis, start with the ones that are free, including the St. Louis Museum of Art, St. Louis Science Center, and St. Louis Zoo. Louis. If time permits, turn to paid attractions.

To verify: Escape for a Cozy Weekend in Scottsdale, Arizona: What to Do and Where to Stay, Eat and Shop

The bottom line

Travel costs can add up. Your vacation might not be as cheap as that cheap plane ticket might have led you to believe when you factor in other expenses. Often vacation expenses can exceed your original budget once you are on the road.

Saving money on travel with these tips can give you more freedom to spend where you need it, whether it’s for this trip or the next.

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Sally French writes for NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @SAFmedia.

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