I know, I know. If there was ever a time to ball hard it would be on vacation, but here’s the thing: I’m young and constantly worried about money. Spending more than $30 per person on a meal gives me anxiety. But I also love traveling (and eating) everything the world has to offer. These aren’t tips on how to vacation for free, but they’ll make sure you get the most bang for your buck. Meaning more spending money for that totally instagrammable gelato.
How to save money while planning your vacation
Nothing quite gets me as jazzed as planning a vacation. Perhaps not booking because my wallet starts to cry when I click on the checkout. Some people enjoy looking at cars they cannot afford and I look at dream vacations in Asia that laugh at my paycheck. When I have a bad day, I catch myself looking at plane tickets. Because I spend a lot of time looking at vacations I cannot afford, here are some tips and tricks I try to morph that Bali vacation into my budget.
Expand your research beyond Pinterest travel boards
Last summer I went to Europe to go to a wedding in Poland. My boyfriend and I knew that we wanted to take two weeks off, which would give us some time to explore other areas. The first thing I looked at was where the cheapest places to travel to in Europe. Some places were more focused on the cost of plane tickets where others were more focused on the cost of living like a tourist.
I knew we were ending up in Poland, so I wanted to make sure that we stayed somewhat close. While most people won’t be under these constraints, imagine you booked a round trip ticket out of the same airport. Or you’re studying abroad and you can’t go all over creation in a weekend. I digress. I narrowed down my list by picking happy mediums. For example, several cities in Italy are affordable for travelers, but plane tickets cost twice as much as flying to Amsterdam.
Did you know that Amsterdam is one of the cheapest countries to fly to in Europe?
Another example close to home was planning my New York City trip. I originally wanted to go to Portland, ME because your girl loves food. I was completely shocked that I could find hotels in New York City for half the price as a small coastal town in Maine. Granted it was 4th of July weekend and I was looking only a month in advance, but still. Which brings me to…
If you fail to plan (ahead of time), you’re planning to fail
If you know you’re going to have some time off, say for a long weekend or an anniversary, start looking months in advance. Narrow down your options and keep checking flights. I like to sign up for alerts that tell me when the price of something has dropped. Another trick I tend to try is looking up hotels you like from different devices/locations. I was iffy about a certain hotel and the more I checked it, the more the price spiked. But I logged in at work (yeah, yeah, yeah I’m a bad seed, whatever) and the hotel was must cheaper.
The longer you wait, the pricier things get. My expert planning skills allowed me to book 5-star hotels in Europe for about $100/night. But I’m always on the hunt for a better deal. I’ll often pay a little bit more for a room if that allows me to get a refund. Hotels love prying on people like me because I’m a planner. Physically crossing things off my to-do list brings me much more joy than most people feel towards stationary. Booking last minute gives me anxiety, but that adrenaline rush usually means a much better rate.
Always book with the ability to cancel
Whether you come down with the stomach flu or you got into a screaming match with your BFF, there’s a dozen reasons why you should make sure you can get a refund. Sure non-refundable rooms are cheaper, but getting your money back just in case is well worth it. Also, another reason is that you can find even better deals using last minute apps like Hotel Tonight. I went to New York City recently and scored a good deal on Travelocity. A week later I checked Hotel Tonight and was able to score the same exact hotel for at least $100 less.
Take advantage of student discounts, even when you’re an adult
Because I went to college in the suburbs of Rhode Island, there wasn’t anywhere to use my student ID to get discounts. However, the one tool I did use was Student Universe. And I still use them, even after graduating to wine with corks. Student Universe understands that once you graduate, you may actually be even poorer than when you were snuggled up in your extra-long twin bunk bed. Many of their deals are available for Youths (up to 25 years old, none of this young at heart BS.) I saved so much money booking flights through here. Fair warning that the hotel discounts aren’t that great. But I managed to book a round trip tick to Shanghai from Boston for only $1095. Talk about a steal.
Now that you’re done planning your vacation, it’s time to save money while you’re traveling. Stay tuned for a part two that will go over how to save money on meals, attractions, and more.
- What’s your best tip for saving money when planning a vacation?
- Have you ever used last-minute hotel apps to score a good deal?
- What’s your dream vacation destination?