How To Save Money On Vacation. Tips For Savings At Any Destination.

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How To Save Money On Vacation. Tips For Savings At Any Destination.

How To Save Money On Vacation. Tips For Savings At Any Destination

Today, I want to share my favorite tips for how to save money on vacation. I’m not talking about booking tickets on a Tuesday or using points, etc. These are tips for saving money when you’re on vacation–at your destination and living the life. These aren’t tips for booking strategies. Instead, we’ll look at simple things I do on every trip to keep more of my money in my own pocket while still enjoying the trip to the maximum. Here we go.

Watch Out For Scams

There could be an entire article on these, but scams are one of the easiest ways to lose a bunch of money during your trip. There are some famous scams in almost every destination in the world. Truth be told, I’ve had my fair share of bad experiences. Here are a few common scams to watch out for.

Taxi scams

Taxi drivers know you’re not from there. And when it’s clear, they can easily rip you off. They take the long way. Taxi drivers go in circles. The “meter is broken” and they tell you an inflated price. Watch out for all of these. Insist on using the taxi meter; if they won’t, get out of the taxi. Additionally, ask a trusted source for how much a taxi should cost. Your hotel, info desk before leaving the airport, etc. can tell you what standard prices are. My favorite tip on this is emailing the hotel a few days before arriving and saying, “I’ll be arriving at (time of day). What’s the best way to come to the hotel, and how much should it cost?”

“Let me take a picture for you”

I’m not joking. People fall for this pretty often.  Some helpful local near a famous tourist spot offers to take a picture for you. 1 of 2 things can happen: the person runs off with your camera/smart phone or they charge you money to get your device back. Be wary of anyone who shows up out of nowhere offering to help you. I love meeting locals, but just keep your wits about you.

The menu has no price

Don’t let strangers order food for you, and never eat something before seeing the price. Some friendly local (or a super attractive person who is ‘really into you’!) invites you to a bar or restaurant. You don’t see the menu (or it has no prices), and the local starts ordering for you. After the food and drinks are gone, you get the bill. It’s $1,000 for lunch. When you complain, security shows up and drags you to the ATM to get the money to pay the bill. Everyone is in on it, so don’t expect to complain to the manager/security. If you haven’t seen the prices, you’re being scammed.

Use public transportation to save money on vacation
Athens subway train.

Use Public Transport

I love public transportation! This is part of experiencing how life is for the locals, which is one of my favorite parts of going to new places. This is also a great way to save money on vacation. Taking the subway or a bus is much cheaper than paying for a taxi. Ask your hotel for info on how to use the local transportation and how much it costs. This is a huge money saver. Even if you don’t speak the language, a smile and pointing to pictures of where you want to go will get you pretty far in this world. The locals will let you know when it’s your stop.

Take The Free Option

When it comes to saving money on vacation, using a free alternative is a no-brainer. Numerous cities have a free walking tour. You could pay a guide for a private tour, but you’ll see the same spots on a free walking tour. Most of these guides work for tips, so give what you think is appropriate at the end of the tour. You made the guide happy, and you saved yourself a fair amount of cash.

You also can go to the free beach, instead of paying a bunch of money. I’ve been to “the best beach in the Caribbean”. In fact, I’ve been there 5 times! It’s on St. John’s, Curaçao, Antigua, Barbados & Puerto Rico. I bet every island in the Caribbean has guides hawking tours to “the best beach in the Caribbean”. In all reality, the actual ‘best beach’ I went to was the free one I went to in Aruba (Eagle Beach), and I paid $1 on a bus to get there. Unless the only good beaches are private (ex: Haiti), go to the free one and save money.

Lastly, if you’re looking to save money in Las Vegas, look for timeshare presentations that come with freebies. Free tickets to a show tonight. Comp money for gambling at a casino. Free dinners. You can get freebies by sitting through a presentation for 2 hours at numerous spots in Las Vegas.

Cheaper Options If You Must Pay

If you have to pay for something, look for cheaper alternatives. My 2 favorite sites for learning about cheaper alternatives are WikiTravel and Trip Advisor. You’re probably familiar with the latter. Read reviews from people saying what they’d do differently or how to save money at this spot. WikiTravel has great info for countries, cities, states, regions, and even individual neighborhoods. There are gold mines in there for things like “free Tuesday” at a museum or other money-saving tips. We saved over $500 when we went to Atacama Desert in Chile after seeing a WikiTravel tip to rent your own car, because nothing is accessible without a car or a tour group. The tours there are super expensive, so we saved a ton of money this way. (get a 4×4 in Atacama, FYI)

The Kid Sits On Your Lap

Children under 2 can fly for free or super cheap on most flights. Depending on the flight, it might be rough to hold your child for the whole time, but this is a way to save lots of money. Once you’re at your destination, the ages for infant prices vary by location. Under 2, under 5, “only if you’re carrying the baby” or other age restrictions can mean not paying for a ticket. Ask about infant prices.

Save money on vacation via free breakfast at the hotel

Free Hotel Breakfast

Find a way to get hotel breakfast for free to save money on vacation. Whether it’s through status, choosing hotels that always offer free breakfast, or choosing this as a welcome perk, free breakfast saves money. This is especially true at high-end destinations or when you have a big family. Wake up in time to catch the free breakfast at your hotel.

Pack A Lunch

Pack a lunch. I’m not kidding. When there’s only 1 restaurant available, they’ll price gouge you. Petra in Jordan is a perfect example. The hostel I stayed at talked me into buying their brown bag lunch to take with me, saying I’d save a lot of money. Boy, did I. Inside Petra, there’s only 1 restaurant, and lunch will cost you for a basic $25 appetizer. You can’t go out (it’s far, and you’ll have to pay to enter again), so that restaurant is your only option. My $4 packed lunch was a steal. Look for places where you can bring your own food to save money (the beach is a great example).

Ask The Hotel How Much Things Cost

A recurring theme is asking how much things cost. Anyone with a financial interest in the price you pay should be eyed suspiciously. Prices get inflated for foreigners and those who don’t speak the language. Before going out, ask your hotel what a fair price for the taxi, a dinner, a show, etc. would be. This is much more relevant in informal economies, where you pay cash and the price is told to you verbally. In places with an official ticket booth, signs, etc. this will be less relevant. Asking in advance from a trusted source is a great way to save money on vacation.

Tips for saving money at your destination

Final Thoughts

Points and miles drastically reduce the cost of a trip by severely reducing or eliminating hotel and flight costs. Today, we looked at reducing money at your destination as a way to save money on vacation. Avoiding scams and knowing what the real price of something should be are 2 great tips. Additionally, we talked about transportation, looking for free/cheaper options, and even packing a lunch. None of these ruin the experience of the vacation, but they will keep more of your money in your own pocket.

Do you have any other great tips for saving money on vacation? I’m all ears.

Ryan S
Travel hacker in 2-player mode, intent on visiting every country in the world, and can say "hello" or "how much does this cost?" in a bunch of different languages.

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  1. I like that you mentioned that looking for free hotel breakfasts is a good way to save money when going on a vacation. I can clearly see that my kids have been struggling recently to adjust to their online classes so I’d like to treat them a bit soon. Going for a short two-day vacation on a weekend will hopefully give them the relaxation that they need.

  2. One of my favorite things to do in strange places is wander supermarkets, food-vendor stalls, farmers’ markets, etc. Buy where locals shop. Maybe I am weird, but it’s always enjoyable.

    You save a ton, get everything fresh, and you never know what you will stumble on. Best red wine I ever had in my life was a $2 random unlabeled generic bottle from a corner market recommended by the proprietor.

    You get to see/buy bizarre seafood, cheese you never heard of, unusual breads and veggies, get samples, etc. as well.

    • Oh, I love the central markets! Eat cheap food, the locals absolutely love that you’re trying “their food” and give you a massive portion, you meet some nice people, and then you can even leave with recommendations for things you ‘can’t miss’ while visiting that city.

    • If a destination is known for a particular type of food such as olive oil or coffee, the supermarket is the best place to buy it. They sell the same brands as the airports for a fraction of the price.

      • We usually stay over on Palm Beach (Hyatt or Marriott) but Eagle is just as beautiful and def more quiet than Palm. So I can’t disagree with you for sure

        • We literally wound up there by going to the little ticket booth for the public bus right near the cruise ship terminal. “Where’s a good beach?” and that’s where we were sent. We loved it.


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