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Steps That Make Travel Much Cheaper

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One of my favorite things in life is going on vacation. I not only love planning my own trips, but I also enjoy hearing about other people’s travel stories. One thing I can’t stand, though, is when people pay too much for travel. Even worse is when someone wants to go on vacation but doesn’t because of the belief that travel is out of reach financially. I am a huge fan of using reward points to make vacations affordable. But even when paying in cash, there are a few steps that make travel much cheaper. Why pay more if you don’t have to?

Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with Groupon. I was compensated for my time, but all opinions are my own and from tips and tricks I’ve used personally to save on travel.

Be Flexible

Maybe your heart  is set on staying at the resort that offers cushy bath robes and free s’mores after dinner, but this level of luxury is way over budget. Instead of going into debt to stay at a particular place, look around the area to see what else might be available. After all, are you going on vacation to sit in the room wrapped up in a robe or to explore a new place?

We love Coronado, CA and think it would be amazing to stay at the historic Hotel Del Coronado. At upwards of $300 a night, though, it would eat a pretty big chunk of our travel dollars. Instead, we usually stay across the road at the El Cordova Hotel. It’s not as luxurious, but it’s about a third of the cost and still in a prime location. Who cares if we have to cross the street to get to the beach?

Another great option is VRBO or AirBnB. While visiting the Oregon coast, we found a sweet little cottage for less than the cheesy boardwalk hotels were charging. It had a full kitchen and also allowed us to see a different area that was a bit off the beaten path.

 Look For Cash Back or Coupons

Before booking any type of travel, log into a cash back portal, like Ebates or Top Cash Back, to see if there are any rebates. Sometimes hotels and travel booking sites offer a decent amount of cash back after your trip is completed.

There are also various coupons for booking travel through companies like Orbitz or Expedia. By taking a few minutes to search, you can often save hundreds of dollars by stacking coupons with cash back.

Book Early But Keep Looking

Once you’ve decided on the perfect vacation destination, nothing is a bigger bummer than finding that the area where you want to stay is booked solid. To avoid being disappointed, book something in your price range as early as possible, even if it isn’t ideal. Then, keep checking back.

For the last night of our upcoming trip to Europe, we wanted to stay close to the airport and booked what we thought was a reasonably priced Hilton. I kept searching and the prices dropped by $80 a few months later. Also, new availability might open up as your travel dates get closer and other reservations are cancelled. Just make sure there is no penalty for early cancellation if there is a chance you might change plans

Discounted Gift Cards

Sometimes hotel chains will put gift cards on sale for loyalty members to purchase. Last fall, we took advantage of a Hyatt promotion offering gift cards at a five percent discount. We then used them to pay for our Thanksgiving stay in Scottsdale.

To take advantage of sales, make sure to register for all hotel loyalty programs and opt in for deals and promotional messages.  Most emails will not be helpful, but hidden gems do appear on occasion.

Stack on Added Bonuses

Another option for travel savings is to buy gift cards for airlines or hotels at the grocery store when there is a bonus promotion, like the 4x fuel points that Kroger chains have been offering this summer. We did that for Disney gift cards a few years back and were able to get $1 off per gallon to fill up the car.

These type deals aren’t going to earn a free vacation, but getting $25 or $50 here and there can add up to cover food or other travel expenses, especially if you combine them to some of the other savings methods above.

Travel is certainly a luxury, but I can honestly say going on vacation makes me much happier and a better person to be around. Trips don’t have to cost a fortune, especially if you take advantage of opportunities to make travel cheaper.

Have you ever been surprised at how much you can save on travel by searching for deals? What is the best travel coupon you’ve ever used? 

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. Great tips, Kim. Another way we save on vacations is to pack a lot of our own food, and always stay at hotels that offer a free hot breakfast, provided we can get a great deal on the room rate. Restaurants can eat up a lot of cash while traveling.

    • That is an excellent point. You can really go overboard on food if you aren’t careful. Even crappy fast food can be $30 a meal for a family.

  2. I agree with you wholeheartedly. It makes me crazy when I hear someone paid $5-6K for a trip without trying to save at all. Like you, I’m willing to stay in a not-so-nice place nearby to save some cash. I’m not the type of person who sits in my room all day, so who cares?

    • As long as it’s clean, safe, and I don’t have to share a double bed with my kid, I’m usually pretty happy. We usually only sleep in the room anyway. I finally had a friend sign up for a reward card after hearing all my travel success stories. Most of them think I’m nuts!

  3. Spirit Airlines gets my vote for saving money. Fly on a Tuesday to Tuesday and join the $9 fare club. only $58 each way for me to fly to Vegas.

  4. Searching for in advance would be good trick too! Also try to avoid the peak season because mostly when you travel during peak season, the rates are almost double from the regular price.

  5. I totally agree with these, Kim. Coupons are really helpful in vacation. I use these whenever I travel. It turned out that I save much and enjoy my travel more using these coupons.

  6. I try to find places where I can stay with friends, at least part of the time. I’ve been to Hawaii four times and two of the times I’ve stayed with a friend because it’s so expensive there. Since she moved, I’ve had another friend move there so I plan to visit again. If only she lived on Kauai since it’s the only island I haven’t been to. Beggars can’t be choosers. 🙂

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