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I love traveling, but it can be SO EXPENSIVE! So what’s a girl to do when all I daydream about is my next vacation? Look for ways to save money traveling of course!
I <3 saving money, so I’m always looking for alternatives to save some serious cash when I go on vacation. But I also enjoy spending money on my travels because I’m creating memories and that’s super worth it to me! With that in mind, this post isn’t going to be about extreme penny pinching – it’s still a vacation after all!
Looking for how to travel to Hawaii for cheap? Check out out these tips, tricks and hacks to plan your next Hawaii vacation on a budget.
However, we will cover how with a little bit of research and planning, you can save a bunch of money and plan your trip on a budget!
Save Money on Your Plane Tickets
A great place to cut your spending and save some money for your vacation is on your plane tickets. I don’t like to pay for my plane tickets, but sometimes we have to! Here are some tips for saving money on your flights!
Did you know that you can travel to Hawaii for FREE using credit card points and miles? It’s super easy! Check out my ultimate guide for maximizing your points into a free Hawaii trip, where I walk you step by step to build your dream Hawaii vacation!
Fly at the Right Time
When booking your vacation, it pays to be flexible! You’ll see this theme come up again and again, because being flexible is the BIGGEST thing that has saved me tons of money when planning my vacations. So be flexible with your dates for flying. A couple of ways this can play out are:
- Flying during the week or on a less busy or desirable travel day. For example, I’ve found that there’s often a significant price difference between flying on a Tuesday or Saturday, versus flying on a Friday or Sunday! If you’re able to travel during the week, do that! You can save SO MUCH money by having a bit of flexibility here!
- Another trick for saving money in your travels is to plan to visit a place during the shoulder or off-season instead of visiting during peak season. In Hawaii, for instance, flights tend to skyrocket during the summer months and around December. You can save a TON of money by planning your Hawaii trip for the shoulder season, like April or September.
- Have you ever noticed that late night (red-eye) or early morning flights tend to be cheaper? They totally are! Because these aren’t the flights that most people prefer to be on, you can save money by flying during the early morning or late at night. Going back to Hawaii, I actually prefer to hop on an early morning flight to the islands so I have more time to spend there. Coming back, I don’t mind a late flight for the same reason!
My absolute go-to search engine when looking for cheap flights is Google Flights! I love the flexibility of searching for flights through Google. You can use the calendar search feature to see what day of the weeks are cheaper, track your flight for price drops, and explore different destinations!
Fly to/from the Right Place
Continuing with the theme of flexibility, you can save a bunch of money by expanding your airport radius! For example, in the California Bay Area, you have 3 different airports relatively close to each other: San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland. You’d be surprised at the price difference between flying out from the different airports!
In Los Angeles, there’s a ton of airports to choose from, so shop around!
If you’re willing to expand your search a city over, you could save even more money. If you live in San Diego, for example, you could expand your search to include the LA airports and see if there’s a big enough price difference to justify making the trip to fly out of LA.
To see if you can save money by expanding your search radius, check out google flights again! It’s perfect for this! You can search for flights to and from multiple different cities to really give yourself options.
I haven’t found a google flights app, which means that it’s more optimal to search for flights here on a desktop or laptop versus mobile.
Since we do most things on our phones nowadays, I have some of the following apps as well to help me search for flights and destination ideas:
Pay with the Right Card
HOW you pay for your flight is important as well and could potentially save you money! One of the things that I always try to remember to do when shopping for flights (or for anything, for that matter!) is search for cash-back offers, discounted gift cards, coupon codes, and pay with the right credit card.
Discounted Gift Cards
An often overlooked way to save some money on flights is to buy discounted gift cards!
For the longest time I didn’t know that discounted gift cards are available for different airlines – it’s been a game changer ever since I discovered them!
While you’re probably not going to save a TON of cash by buying discounted gift cards, every bit counts.
For example, let’s take Raise.com, a site that specializes in selling discounted gift cards, and which provides cash back on gift card purchases!
As of this writing, you can get a $200 Southwest Airlines gift card for $190.69, an almost 5% discount! Not bad!
You can search for discounted gift cards at the following sites:
Check for Cash Back Rewards
Whenever you’re booking hotel or air travel, make sure that you first search on Ibotta, Swagbucks, or Rakuten for cash back offers before you book! A lot of the times you’ll find offers for the travel you’re looking to do, and all you have to do is make sure you buy through their portal!
My favorite thing about this is that a lot of times you can stack these cash back offers with your discounted gift cards! So your 5% discount can increase by a couple percentage points if you buy through the right shopping portal!
Additionally, check the terms of your cash back credit cards and pay with the right one to get cash back on your discounted gift cards, then stack that with cash back through a shopping portal to maximize your savings!
Sign up for cash back rewards through the following sites:
Use Credit Card Perks
Double check the perks that come with each of your credit cards. Some credit cards will offer lounge access, or free checked bags when you pay with their card!
Save Money on Where You Stay
A big chunk of your budget when traveling is probably going to go towards your lodging, so finding ways to make this cheaper is key to traveling on a budget!
I dislike paying for hotel stays almost as much as I dislike paying for plane tickets, but sometimes you just have to spend money on this!
So let’s talk about different ways to save money on accommodations when traveling!
Saving Money on Hotels
While you can save a ton of money by not staying at a hotel all together and instead staying at hotel alternatives, sometimes we need to stay in a proper hotel for some reason or other.
So when you’re booking for hotels, keep in mind the following tips to save money:
Search for cheap hotels through a site like Kayak or Priceline, but book directly through the hotel when you’re able to! There’s a couple of reasons why booking through the hotel is better in most circumstances, in my opinion:
- A lot of hotels have a best rate guarantee policy, where they’ll match AND beat the price on a room you find through a site like Kayak! Hyatt, for example, will you give an additional 20% off the lower rate!
- If you have a hotel co-branded credit card, you can get upgrades you otherwise wouldn’t be eligible for if booking through a third party site;
- By booking directly through the hotel, you avoid having a third party in between you and the hotel, giving you much more recourse directly with the hotel in case something goes wrong during your stay!
Also, don’t be afraid to try to negotiate for a better rate! You’d be surprised at what you can get if you ask nicely! If you’re not able to get a discount on your rate, you might end up with a free upgrade or a better room!
Booking with Travel Sites
Even though I prefer to book directly through the hotel, there’s great deals to be found on some third party booking sites!
The Priceline Express Deals and Name Your Own Price tool, for example, allow you to get some steep discounts on hotels. Do keep in mind that you’re often taking a gamble on your booking, as they won’t tell you the name of the hotel until after you book your nonrefundable room!
Keep in mind that you can also find discounted gift cards for some travel sites, like Hotels.com. If you find a big enough discount, it might be worth the money saved to book through them!
You may know by now that you can save A TON of money by not staying at a hotel and instead renting a house or condo!
If you’re a family, a lot of the time it makes way more sense to rent a house so your family has more room to spread out than they would at a hotel!
What to look for when renting a house or condo:
- Free parking! This is often a hidden expense with hotel stays, so when you’re staying at a private property, make sure the listing indicates whether it comes with parking, and if you’ll be having a car, look for a place that comes with parking!
- A fully stocked kitchen! A good way to save some cash on vacation is to cook at least one of your meals, so if you plan to be doing that, don’t stay at a house without a kitchen! Make sure that the basic cooking utensils like pots, pans and more are included!
- Extra amenities depending on the location! If you’re doing a beach vacation, like Hawaii, look for included snorkeling gear, kayaks, coolers, beach toys, and beach umbrellas! It’ll make your trip so much easier to not have to worry about where you’re going to get these supplies that you can’t easily bring back home with you!
- Good reviews! Make sure you read the reviews for any issues previous guests have had! The reviews can provide invaluable information you may want to consider when renting a place!
Where to Book
Save Money on Local Transportation
When you’re traveling on a budget, make sure you do some comparison shopping and math between renting a car, taking busses, and shuttles!
I’ve found that hotel shuttles tend to be really expensive in the US, and a lot of the time I’ll save money by renting a car.
Of course, if you can avoid a car all together and rely on public transit, do that! You’ll save a lot of money that way, and you’ll get to experience the new city as one of the locals!
If you do end up needing a car, consider the price difference between renting a car for your whole stay, or renting it by the day for whenever you actually need it! (Like if you’re doing an AMAZING drive in Maui!)
Also! I NEVER book a prepaid rental car! I’ve found that it’s almost never worth it, and I’m not locked into a particular contract if I can find something better!
Pro tip: If you’re under 25, sign up for a free account for the USAA discounts (it’s open to everyone, no military background necessary!) If you’re a USAA member, you can use the USAA discount code with Hertz to waive your young driver fees!
Other tips for cheaper car rentals
- Use the right credit card so you don’t have to pay for the supplemental insurance. A lot of credit cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, come with a collision damage waiver which covers you in case you get into an accident and damage the car!
- If you have kids, bring your own car seats!
- Don’t buy the prepaid gas option, but fill up the tank on your own before you return the car. If there’s a Costco near you, check it out for a cheap gas alternative!
- Search for alternative locations to the airport. Renting a car at the airport is often way more expensive than renting at a non-airport location. Search for different locations near where you’re staying and see what their offers are!
- Keep price checking! A lot of the time prices on rental cars will drop significantly, when this happens just cancel your (refundable) reservation and rebook at the cheaper price!
Save Money on Activities
Perhaps the most fun part of a vacation is all the fun activities and experiences you can have! Of course it’s SO EASY to go crazy and spend a boatload of money on tours, excursions and other activities when you’re on vacation!
I think it’s totally possible to save money on your vacation activities, sometimes you just have to get a bit creative!
Here’s some more tips on how you can save money on things to do when you’re on vacation
- Save money by buying discounted tickets through Costco. For example, one of my must-have adventures in Maui was to take a helicopter ride to the Molokini cliffs. This was super expensive, but I was able to snag a discount and save money by booking the tour through Costco!
- Search for deals on sites like Groupon! Groupon has great discounts on spas, group activities, and much more! Always always always check Groupon to see if you can save some money before booking! Pro Tip: use cash back apps like Ibotta, Swagbucks or Rakuten to buy your Groupon to save even more money!
- Always check for AAA, AARP, USAA, and other discounts! For example, labor unions often provide access to discount codes to their members! Same goes for other memberships you may already have, so always double check!
- Look for free activities! If you’re going to Hawaii, for example, spend your time at the beach! It’s free and fun! Or search for free activities you can do while you’re in a new place. Museums, for instance, will often have free admission days, so be on the lookout for that!
Save Money on Food
While I’m the first to admit that I love spending money on food, I also love to be budget conscious when it comes to my meals on vacation!
One of the first things I do when I arrive in a new place is to make a trip to the grocery story to buy snacks, alcohol, and anything else I might have missed!
Here are some tips for how to save money on food
- Make a list of all the activities you plan on doing. If you have hikes planned, buy easy snacks you can take with you on your hike.
- If you’re shopping at a store like Target, ask for a price match! Target will price match to its online website if you find something cheaper there. This is perfect if you’re in a place like Hawaii where things are a bit more expensive than in the mainland!
- Buy gallons of water. If you know you’re going to be outside or at the beach, buy water gallons at the store to take with you so you don’t have to pay for more expensive bottled water!
- Cook one of your meals every day! If you’re staying at a rental house with a kitchen, you should consider making your breakfast! It’s not super expensive to pick up some eggs, orange juice and bread for an easy breakfast you can make to start your day!
- When you’re going out to eat, check for local deals! You can find deals on restaurants through sites like Groupon, Costco (for discounted gift cards), or Restaurant.com
- If you have a Costco nearby, go to the food court for a cheap meal! If you’re having movie night, for example, you can pick up a Costco pizza for way cheaper than the cost of delivery!
- Buy things you like to snack on! For me, that means seaweed snacks, nuts, chips and fruits. Because these are the things I regularly reach for, I make sure to have some on hand when I travel so I’m not buying overpriced versions at the gas station!
- If you’re staying at a hotel, don’t turn down a free breakfast!
Other Tips and Tricks to Save Money Traveling
- Don’t buy expensive souvenirs. Most likely than not you’ll never use them. Whenever I travel, the only “souvenir” that I’ll pay for are postcards, which tend to be super cheap. I keep postcard stamps in my wallet precisely for this reason!
- Did you know that you can bring an empty water bottle through TSA? Bring a reusable water bottle and don’t pay for bottled water at the airport! Because no one should be paying $5 for a bottle of water!
- Book parking in advance! You can save a bunch of money by looking for parking at an-off airport location with a shuttle, or by reserving your long-term travel parking spot in advance at the airport to take advantage of coupon codes!
- Hire a travel agent. Yes, really! Sometimes travel agents can save you a bunch of money, and get you extra perks that you may not be able to get on your own! Check out AAA travel if you’re a AAA member!
- Plan your splurges in advance. If you KNOW you want to splurge on something during your vacation, plan or it in advance! This will help you not feel guilty about spending money on it, and won’t bust your budget because it’s already built in!
- Set aside a sinking fund for your vacation. If you’ve budgeted and saved for the vacation you’re planning, you don’t have to worry too much about the money you’re spending! Pay it forward for future you and start your vacation fund in advance
You Can Travel On A Budget!
It’s totally possible to travel on a budget! Now that you’ve learned some tips and tricks on how to save money traveling, you can mix and match the tips on this list to find what works for YOU! The whole point is to maximize your savings while still having an awesome vacation!
What’s Your Favorite Money Saving Tip?
Let me know in the comments!