I’ve been a professional travel writer for 25 years now.
But, like most people, there was a time in my life when the idea of traveling the world seemed like it was way beyond my financial means.
Back then, figuring out ways to save money for traveling seemed incredibly difficult, especially when I was working multiple jobs just to make ends meet.
These days, with prices for virtually everything from groceries to getaways soaring, finding innovative ways to save on travel can make a huge difference in your bottom line.
Read on for our suggestions on for to save money for travel, including tips for saving money on flights, hotels, rental cars, travel gear, and more!
How to Save Money for Traveling Guide
- Save Money on Flights
- Save Money on Rental Cars
- Save Money on Hotels
- Save Money by Using Travel Credit Cards
- Travel During the Shoulder Season (or Off-Season)
- Volunteer Via Trusted Housesitters, Work Away, or WWOOF
- Buy Used Travel Gear
1. Save Money on Flights
One of our favorite tips for saving money comes from consumer advocate Clark Howard, who suggests finding an inexpensive flight BEFORE you choose your destination.
We’ve done this for flights to Kenya, Hawai’i, Alaska, etc, and there are a variety of services that make it easy.
Flight aggregators (a.k.a. airfare search sites) make it simple to save money on travel by allowing you to select how much you’re willing to pay, and then showing available destinations in your price range. You can also drill down further by entering your preferred season or month of travel.
The most popular flight aggregator services include Kayak Explore, Skyscanner, and Google Flights.
We really like WayAway, which offers a subscription that allows you to get up to 5% cash back on all airline tickets and hotel reservations you purchase. They’ve also launched a new eco-friendly initiative to help you offset the carbon footprint of flying internationally by purchasing carbon credits.
Green Global Travel readers can get 10% off the cost of the annual subscription by using our WayAway affiliate link.
2. Save Money on Rental Cars
Taking road trips in Norway, Sweden, and the Blue Ridge Mountains have produced some of our favorite travel memories.
But rental cars have gotten increasingly expensive in recent years, and there are ways to reduce those costs considerably.
Clark Howard recommends that savvy travelers should book their rental car when they book their flights, because in most cases these fees are 100% refundable.
Then, about a week before your departure, he suggests checking the car rental rates again, to see if you can find a better deal for the travel destination you’re visiting.
“You can end up cutting the cost of a rental car by half or more by re-shopping it the week of your trip,” he says.
3. Save Money on Hotels
It’s no secret that Hotel Rewards Programs offer a great way to save money on traveling, offering members a chance to earn points that can be used for hotel stays, vacation rentals, flights, tours and activities, and retail purchases.
A recent story in U.S. News & World Report listed the Wyndham Rewards program as #2 out of 15 major hotel brands (#1 was more focused on business travel) for travelers who frequent popular destinations in the United States, the Caribbean, Europe, Mexico, and Asia.
Members of the program earn points each time they stay in any of the 9,000+ properties in the Wyndham Hotels & Resorts portfolio, including Days Inn by Wyndham, Dolce Hotels and Resorts by Wyndham, La Quinta by Wyndham, Ramada by Wyndham, and Wyndham Grand.
They also have partnerships with numerous airlines (including American Airlines and United Airlines), car rental companies (such as Avis and Budget), Caesars Entertainment’s Caesars Rewards, allowing members to earn points in myriad different ways.
Best of all, their qualifying nights can roll over into the following year, making it easier for their members to attain a higher status!
4. Save Money by Using Travel Credit Cards
It should go without saying that you should never charge anything to a credit card that you can’t afford to pay off that month. Otherwise you wind up paying a ridiculous amount of interest.
But using the RIGHT credit card responsibly is one of our favorite ways to save money for travel. To that end, we personally use the Venture One from Capital One.
It allows us to earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, and earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
With the points you earn, you can fly any airline, stay at any hotel, with no blackout dates. Plus you can transfer your miles to over 15 leading travel loyalty programs.
Their current intro offer includes 75,000 miles for a $95 annual fee, plus you’ll get up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓!
5. Travel During the Shoulder Season (or Off-Season)
The myriad problems created by mass tourism have been well-documented in recent years, but avoiding overtourism is often merely a matter of timing.
For instance, much of Europe hits peak season from mid-June to early September, while the Caribbean islands peak from January to early April, and from mid-June to the end of August.
In peak season, the crowds are usually bigger, the temperatures are often hotter, and the prices at hotels can be more than 30% higher.
But by visiting these destinations in the off-season, you can not only save money on travel expenses, but also guarantee a bit more elbow room when you explore the area.
Many popular destinations for U.S. travelers (including Belize, Costa Rica, and Mexico) offer great deals during their rainy season, which lasts from mid-summer to October or November. But even rainy days there typically have longs periods of sunshine!
6. Volunteer Via Trusted Housesitters, Work Away, or WWOOF
When people talk about how to save money to travel, they often ignore the amount of privilege inherent in the subject. Not everyone can afford to travel like we do, as professional travel writers.
But there are opportunities to travel for virtually nothing, simply by bartering your time and energy in exchange for free rooms (and sometimes free meals as well)!
One example we use frequently is TrustedHousesitters, which connects experienced, well-vetted house- and pet-sitters with people who need those services.
Once you’ve become a paid member, no money changes hands: The housesitter gets a free place to stay, and the homeowner gets someone to take care of their pets while they’re away.
Other examples of volunteer organizations where you can barter for travel include Workaway (where volunteers contribute a pre-agreed amount of time per day in exchange for lodging and food) and WWOOF (where volunteers work on organic farms for room and board).
7. Buy Used Travel Gear
Despite the fact that we make plenty of money to live comfortably, we save a lot of money by rarely buying new clothing or other expensive travel gear.
The average garment of clothing is worn just 6 times before it is thrown away or donated to charity.
By shopping at thrift stores, we’ve found everything from gently used convertible pants (for African safaris) to full suits (for travel conferences) at a fraction of the cost for new ones.
Similarly, savvy shoppers can use sites like eBay, GearTrade, REI, and Patagonia to find used travel gear ranging from backpacks and carryon luggage to tents, sleeping bags, and more.
By spending $10 for an Egyptian cotton dress shirt that retails for $100+ new, or spending $50 for a tent that retails for $400, you can save money for flights, hotels, and tours faster than you might think! –by Bret Love