Do you find yourself daydreaming of your next vacation…right after your last vacation? Whether you long to explore far-flung cities, relax on sandy beaches, or gather with family at a lakeside cabin, traveling more often is possible—and no, you don’t have to become a millionaire to pull it off.
The secret to more frequent travel? It’s simple: Spend less money on each trip you take, and you can stretch your annual vacation budget into more frequent trips. Learn how to plan ahead, research your options, lean into deals, and time it right, and you’ll be amazed at how much you can get out of your vacation budget.
Gallery: 8 Helpful Tips for Traveling with Seniors (Reader’s Digest)
So if you’re ready to hit the open road or the friendly skies, check out these easy ways to be a frugal traveler and get out of town more often.
Travel during the off-season.
One of the easiest ways to be a frugal traveler is to travel during the off-season. When you visit your vacation destination during the non-peak travel dates, flight and hotel prices are often slashed.
For instance, Florida’s off-season is July to August (which may seem strange since it’s known as the Sunshine State, but there is such thing as too much sun). The main FL tourist season runs from December to the end of April, so vacationing during the extra-hot summer will save you a ton if you can handle that sun. Flip this script if you want to visit, say, Myrtle Beach, S.C.; this beach town’s peak season is summertime, and rates will plummet during the winter.
Pinpointing off-season times that are cheaper but still safe (i.e., you don’t want to head to a destination during a season it’s prone to hurricanes or sandstorms just because it’s cheaper) requires a little bit of research, but it’s definitely worth the effort. When the off-season is, exactly depends on where you plan to visit.
Do your research and travel during the off-season to save money and avoid the crowds, too.
Use travel sites to book cheaper hotels.
Rather than booking directly with the hotel, check out travel sites such as booking.com and priceline.com for cheaper rates. These sites allow you to compare multiple hotels at once. This helps you find the best deal for your destination.
Plus, if you sign up for these companies’ rewards programs, you can save even more and earn perks. It takes only a few minutes, and the member-only savings are solid. You can even win free upgrades and comped nights at hotels. The best part? It doesn’t matter which hotels you stay at; the points count each time you book.
These sites are excellent for pet owners, too, because you can easily figure out which hotels are pet-friendly.
Stay with family to save on hotels.
Another great option to save money on hotels is to stay with folks you know. Got a long-lost cousin with extra space in a fun city? What about that college roommate who’s always saying “my guest room is your guest room”? Skipping hotels entirely can cut your vacation costs by hundreds of dollars.
More than likely, you have family or friends in many different locations who would be happy to host you, so why not book a fun get-away and see your favorite aunt while you’re at it? Just make sure you consult with them well in advance about what length and timing of stay they’re comfortable with. And pro tip: Don’t invite yourself to stay with friends or family who have kids, unless they’ve specifically told you you’re welcome.
Book flights at the right time.
Using travel sites can save you serious money, but you can double your savings if you book your flights at the right time, too. According to a 2019 study by Cheapair.com, the “prime booking window” is about four months to three weeks in advance of your travel dates.
The study also found that it didn’t really matter what day you booked your flight, but rather what days you actually traveled. In fact, Tuesday was the cheapest day of the week to fly, averaging $85 in savings. Sundays and Wednesdays are cheaper days as well. So skip the Fridays and Saturdays and travel frugally by flying when it’s cheapest.
Opt for a kitchen.
One way to save a ton of money and be a frugal traveler is to opt for a hotel or rental that comes with a kitchen. Of course it’s fun to dine out, but you can save quite a bit if you can cook just one or two of your meals every day.
It doesn’t have to be fancy; grocery shop for a continental breakfast or a big scramble. Even packing sandwiches for midday rather than hitting a lunch spot can save you $20 each time.
Find low-cost and free things to do.
The biggest way to be a frugal traveler and travel more often is to find fun, low-cost, and free things to do on your trips. While you’re planning (or even after you arrive), do a quick search online for affordable activities in your destination. Check out the local parks, historical museums, and botanical gardens.
Also, research your destination in advance to see if you can time your trip with any free events or festivals; many beach destinations will have music festivals and other events going on during the summertime.
Find discounts on top attractions.
Check for discounts on top attractions, whether it’s the theme park you’re dying to try or the aquarium your kids are clamoring for. Sites such as CityPASS and DestinationCoupons can save you up to 50 percent off experiences like these, which can often be more expensive than you bargained for if you don’t plan ahead. Search the state or city you’re visiting on both of these sites for epic deals on must-sees.
Find affordable vacation destinations.
Another tip is obvious but not to be overlooked: Simply find a more affordable destination. After all, smaller cities, lesser-known towns, and off-the-beaten-path beaches can not only be much cheaper than major destinations; they let you skip the tourist crowds in favor of unique charm.
Do you always head to Daytona Beach? Try New Smyrna Beach instead for a less crowded and less expensive option. Do you love traveling to Nashville to hear live music? Try Memphis to halve your hotel prices. Do you love to sail? Instead of Miami’s sky-high boat rental prices, try your hand in Annapolis, Md. The list goes on.
Use a rewards credit card.
Of course, it’s best to actually save for your vacation and not rack up debt. That said, most of the time, you will be using a credit card to reserve hotels, flights, and other travel expenses (unless you’re paying for your vacation with Bitcoin, of course). So you might as well use your card to benefit you financially and earn those perks. Get a credit card that offers rewards and travel miles, so you can earn free stuff for your travel adventures. While you’re at it, try to find a card with no annual fees and lower interest rates too.
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