Maximize Your Travel Budget with These Expert Tips

Rochelle Burnside

Last Updated: September 17th, 2020

Palm trees

Summer is vacation season, and Best Company Finance (@BestCoFinance) has been sharing tips for savvy travelers all June, including ways to prevent identity theft, find the best flight deals, and secure wallet-friendly travel packages. We’ve compiled the gist of the advice in this article for your information — if you save wisely for your next trip, you could have money left over for another!

Plan with the mission to save money

If you want to save while you travel, the key is always planning ahead. You should budget for a vacation like you budget for your everyday and monthly expenses:

Sean Fox, Freedom Debt Relief
“Start by deciding what not to do: go into debt. While it’s important to take a break, it’s more important to avoid taking a trip you cannot afford.”

Acquania Escarne, The Purpose of Money
“Have a vacation fund and each paycheck deposit money into this separate bank account for your next vacation. This ensures you always have money set aside for traveling. When a good flight or hotel deal comes along, you have the money to pay for it. I would set an amount that you know you can afford. If your monthly income is limited, start small will $25–50 per paycheck. Then increase the amount you save as your income increases or you get bonuses.”

Devon Nagle, Priceline
“Research destinations that are beginning to capture the imagination of savvy travelers, but have not reached peak popularity. Establish the criteria that matter most, then research destinations that are on the rise. Rates often fall below those found in the most popular destinations, and the experience of being in-the-know — and avoiding crowds — is its own luxury.”

Ben Watson, Dollar Sprout
“Instead of just giving yourself a lump sum for the whole trip, break the funds into manageable pieces for travel, lodging, eating, excursions, and unexpected items. From the larger categories, consider dividing it up into daily spending limits so that you have money left over for the end of the trip instead of having to scrape pennies or go into debt just to get home.”

Tweak your travel timing

You may be limited by your professional and social obligations, but flexibility offers the best travel deals. Choosing off-season, off-day, and off-hour agendas will lower your costs:

Alexandra Demosthenes, Investment Advisory Professionals, LLC
“Traveling on shoulder months, months just before and after peak season months, is a great way to get more value out of your vacation plans.”

Andrew D’Amours, FlyTrippers
“Either you're flexible on the dates or you're flexible on the destination. If you don't prioritize finding a cheap flight, you won't find a cheap flight. I keep a list of a couple destinations I'm interested in instead of just one like most people do, so I am exponentially more likely to find a deal.”

Sean Fox, Freedom Debt Relief
“Make lunch the main dining-out experience. Lunches are often less expensive than dinners at restaurants, so take advantage of that.

Look at online calendars of zoos, museums and botanic gardens to see if they offer free days while you are visiting. Also check the websites of local libraries where you’ll be visiting. Many offer free or discounted tickets to attractions when you sign up in advance.”

Devon Nagle, Priceline
“If your schedule allows, try to plan a vacation for a mid-week stay, rather than one that spans a weekend. The rates should be more reasonable.”

Research transportation options

To get a deal on flights, cars, and taxis, you need to know what the transportation typically costs and whether it will be worthwhile:

Danielle Desir, The Thought Card
“I recommend establishing a flight price baseline. . . . do some research to figure out how much on average it costs to go to a destination. After determining the average, aim to beat that price. Bonus points if you turn it into a game!”

Acquania Escarne, The Purpose of Money
“I recently visited Panama and decided to rent a vehicle to get to the beach but took local transportation in Panama City. The train was only a quarter per passenger and taxis were a couple of dollars. It was much cheaper taking local transportation in the city than renting a car. However, to get to our beach hotel it was going to cost about $100 to get to the beach, one way. We spent $100 to rent a car for the entire time. So in that case, it made sense to rent a car and then use it to get to all the tourist activities, restaurants, and hiking sites near our beach hotel.”

Bundle your travel costs

On a vacation, you want to live a stress-free, luxury lifestyle anyway. Take out the hassle and added costs by bundling:

Devon Nagle, Priceline
“‘Bundled’ or ‘packaged’ bookings — securing a flight, hotel and/or a car simultaneously, versus separately — can yield hundreds of dollars in savings. Exclusive rates can often only be secured when used in a bundled transaction. On Priceline, the average traveler saves $240 per transaction when booking a bundle. The savings can be applied to experiences, such as restaurants, day trips and other attractions, that elevate its ‘luxury’ feel.”

Work with your credit cards

A credit card can be your best friend or your worst enemy on the road. This will largely depend on the type of card you use:

Alex Tran,
“Want to save even more money? Book the discounted fare through your travel/rewards portal on your travel credit cards. I have CSR (Chase Sapphire reserve), which gives me 30 percent off points when I book travel through their portal. So instead of paying $213 for my flight, I actually only paid $138 using points!”

Alexandra Demosthenes, Investment Advisory Professionals, LLC
“If you are travelling abroad make sure to use a credit or debit card that has no foreign transaction fees. There are many cards on the market now that offer this benefit with no annual fee.”

Ivan Chong, Lazy Finances
“Pay for everything with a credit card. Here’s why: Fraudulent charges are easier to resolve on a credit card than a debit card; . . . easier to track spending against your budget; some credit cards have trip insurance; get cash back!”

Keep your bank in the know

You don’t want your card to get locked when you’re abroad, particularly if you don’t have access to your phone internationally:

Erica James,
“Prior to departure, I contact my bank and my credit card company and notify them of my travel destination and travel dates to avoid banking issues while traveling. One time I did not do this and tried to use my credit card in Mexico and my bank declined me and cut off my card. I had to call to get it turned back on. I never made that mistake again.”

Protect your money and your person

While a lot of your financial security is now done digitally, you also need to remember to protect your physical cards, documents, and cash:

Carrie Pasquarello, Global Secure Resources
“Make sure to understand local scams and crime trends. One of the most common techniques used by criminals in tourist spots around the world is the ‘distraction method.’ Be alert to anyone trying to distract your attention. Blend in with the local population, avoid looking like a tourist and leave your USA T-shirts at home. Purchase an under-clothing money belt to keep your passports and money safe and secure. ”

Secure your Wi-Fi connection

While you’re wary of getting pickpocketed on the street in another place, you also need to be wary of open virtual spaces:

Justin Lavelle,
“It’s likely that while traveling, you’ll use free Wi-Fi to access the internet, possibly at the airport, hotel, coffee shops and other public places. If you are using free Wi-Fi, be sure to log out of all personal accounts and never make transactions or pay bills while on public Wi-Fi. A better option is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).“

If you want to travel more often, find ways to reign in your spending with each trip. Protect your assets, be creative, and follow the experts for more advice on planning your dream vacation.

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