I love to travel.
I love packing up, leaving town, and finding somewhere new.
I love airports, train stations, rental cars, and hotels.
I love finding new foods (yo, Canada, that London fog latte thing you have with the Earl Grey tea? It rocks!) and visiting grocery stores.
I love taking long walks, and a thousand pictures.
The thing I don’t love? How much it all costs!
But, fear not, frugal friends! I have some interesting travel hacks for you to try. Some of these you may have heard of before, but I guarantee there are some you don’t know about. (If I’m wrong, I’ll give you your money back at the end of this post — how could you refuse THAT?)
So, here are my favorite frugal travel hacks to minimize vacation costs:
Stay for free in another city: Bother, I mean, visit your friends in other states! But make sure you take one afternoon or evening to yourself while you stay with friends, preferably in the middle of your stay. That way, you’re not overstaying your welcome, and your friends will mean it when they say, “come back anytime!” Visiting friends is a great way to get an insider’s look at a new city. Family, too, but sometimes going back to the place you grew up doesn’t really feel like a vacation. There are ways to make it more festive, though. When Brent and I go to Arizona for Christmas, we sometimes take one night in a hotel as a vacation within a vacation.
Check out Groupon vacations: You know I love Groupon. They have a getaways area, which looks awesome. I’ve never used it, but the local deals look pretty good, and I bet you can find something awesome.
Start checking out daily deal sites: Again with the Groupon. But also check Living Social and Goldstar Events for your destination. If you’re going to see a show, why not save money? Same with restaurants. Dining out on vacation (heck, even not on vacation) can be a major drain on your budget, but it doesn’t have to be. Start getting deals before you leave, and you’ll end up with plans as well as saving money.
Get yourself a water bottle: You know what’s a big giant waste of money? Bottled water. Stay hydrated, friends. But bring a water bottle or two, in case you’re traveling with someone who doesn’t like to pack his own water bottle but enjoys drinking out of mine when he gets thirsty. Just me? Here’s my review of my favorite water bottle (typing that sentence really cements my dorkiness).
Buy snacks: One year, the night before flying to the middle of the country, I went to Trader Joe’s and bought all kinds of fun snacks. I had some healthy snacks, but hey, I was going on vacation. I had to get some gummy candy. That made flying really fun. Plus, I wasn’t tempted by the billion dollar snack box on the airplane.
Buy tickets to theme parks: Tickets are discounted if you buy them in advance. We saved $40 by purchasing our tickets online when we went to California to ride roller coasters.
Consider a travel agent: Google doesn’t know everything, friends. If you want to go off the beaten path, call a travel agent. You can often save money going that route, even though it doesn’t seem like it. But consider this: it’s hard to be a travel agent these days, which means that the ones that are still around either have insider knowledge, discounts with hotels, or some combination of both.
Get beach reads from the library: What’s the fun of vacation if you don’t have downtime to read? Get something fun and out of character at your local library.
Rent a Redbox: My cousins had this brilliant idea when they came to visit. Stop by 7-11 on the way to the airport, pick out something fun, pay $2, return it to a kiosk where you land. I would have never thought of that, but really, it’s smart, especially if you’re traveling with a computer that has a DVD player. If you try this, use the coupon code DVDONME and if it still works, you’ve gotten a free movie. Don’t forget your headphones.
Fly for free: Get yourself a rewards credit card (unless you’re currently in credit card debt, then you can’t play this game yet because you’re still playing their game) and start earning frequent flyer miles. Don’t know where to start? Read The Points Guy‘s blog.
Make money on your car: There are two new car-sharing services I’ve heard about recently. One is Relay Rides, where you drive yourself to the airport, fly away to parts unknown, rent your car out to strangers while you’re away, and have it waiting for you when you get back. Also, you make money. The other is Getaround and it’s not limited to when you’re on vacation. You rent your car out whenever you’re not driving it, and instead of having it sit and waste space (or worse, paying to park downtown or something), you’re making money. Sometimes you make more than your car payment. That’s money you can put directly into the travel bucket!
Buy a car, then sell it again: This one is out there, but someone once told me they did it in Australia. There’s a website called Gumtree, which looks like Craigslist to my American eyes, and evidently, you can buy a secondhand car, get it insured, use it for a road trip, then sell it back for exactly what you paid for it (sometimes even more!). Or, if you bought a car with less than 100,000 miles on it, once you get back, sign up for one of the car sharing services mentioned above. Do that until you’ve paid for the car, then either sell it or keep it up. Vehicle arbitrage! Weird!
Stay and Play
House swap: Let’s say you live in a really cool place. Or even a semi-rad place. Consider swapping your home with someone in a similar situation. There are several places online where you can swap your home, but I would talk to your friends on Facebook first. “I’m thinking about visiting Portland in July,” you might say. “Does anyone want to swap homes with me? I’d love to take your crazy dog on walks!” If that last sentence describes you, please email me!
Couch surf: I’ve never done this myself, but it’s like house swapping except you only have to swap one piece of living room furniture. It’s like overstaying your welcome at strangers houses! I bet it’s a super fun way to meet people, and if you host (which I think is kind of the unwritten rule), you get to introduce people to your town. Plus, it’s the best price: free. Check them out, report back!
AirBnB: I have really enjoyed using AirBnB (and if you use that link to sign up, they’ll give you $25 toward your first night, and they’ll give me a $25 credit!) because it’s like couch surfing, only you get to stay in someone’s entire apartment while you’re visiting a new city. It’s so much fun. And it’s cheaper! Sometimes it’s a little cheaper, sometimes it’s a lot. But, you get to really see what it’s like to live somewhere for a couple days. We used AirBnB for our honeymoon, we liked it that much.
Cook! Decide to cook your meals, with a few exceptions, while you’re on vacation, and you’ll avoid restaurant burnout and you’ll get to do my favorite thing: grocery shop in a foreign environment.
If you’re more outdoorsy than Brent, consider camping. I love camping. Gear is expensive, so buy it on Craigslist.
Where are you going this summer?
Who’s coming to visit me?