How do you save money for travel?
- Hold a yard sale. Declutter your house and come back to a clean abode. Use the money for a nice treat your first night away – like a good bottle of wine with dinner or a one night room upgrade. Ocean view anyone? Make it work harder: advertise as a “multifamily sale” with friends and you’ll attract much more traffic and will have others to split the cost of a newspaper ad.
- Round up the spare change and recyclables. Before our last trip to Hawaii, we cashed in our beer bottles and our penny jar and deposited it into our trip fund. We came up with about $25 – not bad for zero effort. That money was rolled into our Kona coffee fund and paid for a pound at Kona Blue Sky Coffee Farm, where we enjoyed a complimentary tour, samples, and bananas. Why not use yours for some prickly pear syrup outside Zion National Park, two IMAX tickets outside the Grand Canyon, or the CSI Experience in Las Vegas?
- Cash in your points – to use at home. I cash in my gas card points – however small - before a trip. I usually have enough to get $30-$50 in “free” gas. I then take the money I would have normally used on that gas and add it to my trip budget. If it’s a short trip and you’re lucky, this might be enough to upgrade your rental car from “micro” to “tiny” (sorry, no jeep or SUV likely). It could also be used to offset gas costs for a spontaneous road trip. A few summers ago we left our campground on the Nova Scotia/New Brunswick border in favor of a summer’s drive over to PEI for dinner in Charlottetown. Glad we had the mad money to pay the bridge fare crossing back!
- Stay organized. Our travel budget is usually challenged by the fact that we are too busy to cook before we leave or we don’t want to buy groceries and instead pick up pizza. Staying organized will let you free up that money AND help you clean out your cupboards. Pancakes for dinner, pureed carrot soup for lunch, scrambled eggs with leftover cheese and salsa for breakfast. Scrub out your fridge, freezer, pantry, and spice rack. Not only will you save your pizza money but your grocery bill will be down as well. Enjoy room service breakfast on your last morning of vacation – it’s practically on the house now!
- If a special birthday or anniversary or holiday is even remotely nearby, save that money and apply it to the gift of an experience on your trip. My husband’s Christmas gift was a snorkeling trip to Molokini when we went to Hawaii in February. In turn, he got me my own snorkel gear to use on the trip. Two years ago, my in laws gave us Ticketmaster gift cards for Christmas. We held on to them for a while, then cashed them in to see a show in Vegas. All treats that would normally be far outside our budget – now feeling “free” as they were worked into our normal budget.
The staff room had jars of spare change from every European currency, left behind a cent at a time by departing students (this was a few years before the Euro). No one wanted it and I was able to claim it. I carefully divided it into plastic bags and tried to think of the different ways I could use it. I paid for a hostel one night in Paris using the biggest coins I had (they were still unimpressed), and I still remember buying an applesauce filled crepe along a beach in Normandy. The last of my francs – down to the exact cent, were spent on a railway station pastry before crossing into Italy.
In Ireland, on my last night of the trip, I had enough money to get a small glass of white wine at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and a vending machine item back at the hostel. In between, there were countless city bus tickets, bakery buns, and vending machine drinks purchased, one 5 cent piece at a time. I think the total amount of all that change probably worked out to about $40 or so, but spread out across 4 countries in 3 weeks, it was like a never ending gift.
Some people may scoff at coming up with little ways to save $20-$50-$100 for a vacation; especially long vacations that end up costing thousands of dollars. But I’d rather spend my travel money on tickets that take me far away and keep me there for a long time. Often activities and entertainment costs makes up 5-10% (or less) of our travel budget and I’m determined to make the most of every trip and every dollar.
I'd love to hear from you! What crafty tips do you have to save up for a big trip?
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