Are you constantly feeling that #wanderlust but also need to keep an eye out for your bank account? I feel ya.
I’m here to tell you that saving money for travels doesn’t have to be difficult, especially if you practice a little self-discipline, take advantage of travel deals, and use travel resources wisely.
Below are a few ways that helped me save money on trips, and I hope they can help you too!
Auto-transfer a portion of every paycheck into a savings account
When I first heard of this strategy to “pay yourself first,” I thought it was brilliant. Saving is a way of investing in your future. Whatever it is that is your goal, work to pay yourself first.
The best way to do that is to auto-transfer a portion of every paycheck you get into a dedicated savings account for your goal – in this case, traveling! The rest of your paycheck will go into your checking and should be enough to cover your bills and necessities.
The idea is that you shave an amount off of your paycheck right away into savings so that it doesn’t get lumped with the money that you use for normal expenses. Usually we think we’ll have money “left over” from our paycheck to put away for that vacation, but somehow an expense here or there eats it up.
This alternate savings method will get you closer to your savings goal in no time, and you don’t even have to put in that much effort besides the initial set up!
More dining in, less dining out/meal deliveries
Yes, we’re lazy and want to Netflix immediately after work and get our meals delivered to us. It’s hard to motivate ourselves to get up off the couch, go grocery shopping, spend 30 minutes to an hour cooking while it takes less than 15 minutes to eat our food.
This one requires a little bit of self-discipline because we need to work against our couch potato tendencies and think about how much we actually spend on dining out.
Every meal you eat out is probably around $10-15 (on average unless you just eat fast food), and if you do that twice a day for lunch and dinner, that’s $20-30, multiplied by 5 days a week is $100-150. That could be your round-trip domestic flights!
Instead, spend half of that on groceries and whip up quick meals if you’re not necessarily le chef. Plan ahead on your grocery list and do the shopping on the weekend for the week. I’m not really a meal-prep-for-the-week kind of person, so I like to make and prep my food every other day or every two days.
I upped my grocery shopping game when I learned of the Ibotta app! Instead of saving on cash with coupons, you earn cash when you buy certain items. You could even earn money for just shopping at the store. This made grocery shopping like a fun game.
Some weeks were harder than others, but when I started eating in more, I saw a noticeable difference in my budget. This motivated me to keep it up as best as I could in order to spend that money on delicious pasta in Italy instead!
Use credit cards with travel rewards
If you don’t have a credit card with travel rewards, then you need to immediately get in the game because you’re missing out on so many benefits!
We reap A LOT of benefits using credit cards for its sign up bonuses, but even with the travel rewards that you earn on using a credit card consistently, you are saving up money/points towards your next trip.
A credit card with travel reward benefits will have a points reward program that gives you X amount of points for every dollar that you spend on the card. The points accumulate and depending on the way the program works, could be redeemed as cash, be used as cash to book trips through dedicated travel portals, or better yet, be transferred to partner companies to book flights and/or hotels (usually best value strategy).
My favorite card is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Among its many benefits which you can read here, you can use its travel portal to redeem your points for a 50% bonus. For example, 50,000 Chase points is worth $500 cash. If you book through its travel portal, you can redeem your points for up to $750 towards travel bookings. It’s a great deal to take advantage of.
Set price alerts and book cheap flights through these sites
When I opt to spend cash instead of travel reward points earned from credit cards for flights, it’s usually because flights are so cheap that it’s not worth it to spend your points.
There are a bunch of flight aggregator sites nowadays, but we’ve stuck to these two for most of our travel bookings.
Google Flights spits out results quickly and shows a handy monthly calendar of price fluctuations. It also has a cool suggestions function, where if you leave your destination open, it’ll give you destination suggestions based on cheapest flights on the designated dates you choose.
momondo has been rising to the top of flight aggregator sites, mainly because of its fare transparency. It doesn’t adjust its prices as you check and recheck its site and has no hidden charges.
Note that Southwest flights are not usually shown on these sites, so you will have to separately go to Southwest.com to check for flights.
Remember to turn on price alerts for the flights you’re eyeing in case they go down!
Use these resources to book decent, affordable accommodations
My dream is to stay in luxury hotels every time I travel, but that’s not quite sustainable, so I go with these resources to help me book decent, affordable accommodations when I don’t use points on hotel stays. Sometimes, you can luck out and find 5-star hotels for a fraction of the retail price!
I first used Agoda five years ago when booking accommodations in Asia. Back then, it was one of the top online booking agencies for Asian locations, but it has expanded its offerings of locations to all over the world since then. I find that the platform provides a smooth user experience and serves up a large host of local, boutique hotels.
Booking. com is another aggregator site that often shows outstanding deals on top brand hotels. It caters up more options than other sites and is also very easy to browse through.
Both of these sites offer free cancellation options, which is nice if you haven’t finalized your itinerary but want to snatch that deal.
Of course, Airbnb is always an option if you’re looking for a local stay experience. It’s the way to go since it’s usually the cheaper option, especially for longer stays. I’ve had plenty of delightful Airbnb experiences, and they don’t stray far from the listing description and reviews. If you haven’t already signed up for Airbnb, use my referral code to get $40 off your next booking!
I’d like to mention two other resources that have been on my radar but haven’t gotten the chance to use. I’ve looked into them and think these services would help the average traveler save on hotel bookings. Maybe one of you have used them and can provide more insight.
HotelTonight is a platform to look for last minute hotel deals at a discount. I’d love to be able to score an amazing deal at a fancy hotel or know that even though I’m booking last minute, I’m not paying an exorbitant amount for the night. If you’re a last minute planner, this sounds like the perfect service to try! You can book up to a week or a hundred days in advance, depending on which cities.
One of the readers of this blog introduced me to a service I’ve never heard of called Pruvo. Similar to the price alerts you get for flights, Pruvo will alert and help you rebook your hotel at a lower rate (if any) after you’ve already made a booking. The booking you made has to have a no-fee cancellation policy. Once you make a booking, you email your reservation to Pruvo, and it’ll notify you if the exact reservation you made has dropped in price and will walk you through rebooking at the lower price. Looking forward to trying this so will keep you updated!
Share below if you have other ways of saving that could benefit fellow travelers! I would love, love to hear. Now go save up for all your dream travels, and happy bookings! xx