The warm weather has me dreaming about summer travel. I wanted to bring back this post I wrote right after our honeymoon last summer with my top 10 fabulously frugal travel tips that will help you save big.
As Justin and I traveled around for our honeymoon, I couldn’t help but pick up on some great fabulously frugal travel tips. We incorporated many of the items on this list into our travels but a few of them were epic fails. Don’t worry, I’ll share all about that too!
Fabulously frugal means that you are either maintaining or increasing the fabulousness but for less cost. It’s a fun game that you can play in every area of your life, including travel. With the money you save, you can extend your trip, add something fun to the agenda or save up for something else.
I hope this list of 10 fabulously frugal travel tips helps you save big!
1. Maximize those points!
If you don’t ever use your points, you’ve probably racked up a good amount of them by now. While points are not free money because you’ve paid for them and they have value, they are a great way to pay for flights, hotels or fun upgrades cash-free. All points are not created equal. Definitely do some research to see where your points will best serve you. For example, with flights, points will vary based on date and which airports you fly to and from. Treat it like a game where the goal is to get the most value for your points.
2. Share your special occasion.
Justin and I told everyone we were on our honeymoon. We got lots of wine and champagne, chocolates, room upgrades and special treatment. While you might not be on your honeymoon, there is most likely some type of special occasion you are celebrating. Is it a birthday, anniversary or even career celebration trip? Definitely share that with restaurants and hotels so that they can celebrate with you!
3. Use those frugal joys.
Remember your frugal joys? The things that make you really happy but are inexpensive or free? They still work while you are on vacation. Everything that you do on your vacation doesn’t have to be expensive. If you love nature at home, I bet you’d love it while traveling too. Make sure to use those frugal joys to maximize your happiness per dollar.
4. Look for free perks.
Look for hotels that offer free perks that you know you will use. Think free wi-fi, free breakfast and even free transfers from the airport. Those are items that you would otherwise be paying for that you now get for the price of your hotel room. If you are torn between two hotels go with the one that has more items included!
5. Stay in funky places.
While it’s wonderful to stay in luxurious hotel, depending on where you are, you may be able to find fun and different places to stay for much less. While in Piedmont, Justin and I spent a few nights at one of the vineyards we were visiting. The family who ran the winery made it feel like home, a delicious homemade breakfast was included, we had a huge room, free wifi, free wine and their beautiful vineyards were at our doorstep all for ~$90 per night. We also met many travelers on the trip who used and raved about Airbnb. They were able to stay in beautiful homes with a washer / dryer, kitchen and plenty of space for a fraction of the cost of a hotel.
6. Get a foreign transaction fee free credit card.
Many credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee. This means that you get charged a fee for every purchase made on your credit card while in a different country. Rates vary but regardless, a fee for every purchase can really add up! There are many credit cards available that do not charge a foreign transaction fee. Once you have one, you can use that exclusively as your travel credit card. Something to note: While there are American Express cards that do not charge a foreign transaction fee, we found that most places we traveled did not accept American Express.
7. Research, research, research.
Research takes time but it’s so worth it! Instead of clicking on the most famous and well-known tour in the area, with a little digging around you might find one that’s even more fabulous for one third of the cost. It’s easy to find the most expensive restaurants in any given town but it takes some time and research to find the place with the unbelievable food that is really inexpensive.
Research also helps you decide where you want to be spend more and where you want to be spending less. If you can find restaurants or hotels that look amazing and are cheap at your first stop but not at your second stop, you now know that you will probably want to plan to spend more in the second place. If you plan to do any shopping research is also really helpful. You can find out which shops are selling things that are actually homemade and which are jacking up the price for tourists.
8. Consider booking through a travel agent to get free stuff.
Sometimes travel agents get better prices and offer great freebies if you go through them to book a flight, hotel or in our case, a cruise. Not only did we get a much better rate than if we had booked the cruise on our own, we also got a substantial on-board credit that we used for some glorious massages and they gave us a nice bottle of wine and a few desserts along the way. Definitely check out what options are available through an agent and compare their offers with what you could get on your own.
9. Pack light!
This is one area that we COMPLETELY failed. Not only did we start out with wayyy too much luggage, it continued to expand and expand as we shopped. Too much luggage might sound like more of a nuisance than a cost factor but take it from me, it will cost you everywhere! First and most obvious are flights. If you are over the baggage limit due to weight or number of items, it’s going to cost you. Second, if you have so much luggage that you can’t handle it on your own, you will have to tip people or pay people to move it every time you change locations. Third, it takes away some of your flexibility which can also increase the cost of travel. Justin and I took the train a couple of times and it was quite rigorous to get our luggage to the platform, up the stairs and then to the correct car of the train. While most of the trip we rented a car, we opted out of the train a few times for more expensive options so that we didn’t have to go through the strain again!
10. Follow the reviews rather than the star ratings.
During our trip we stayed at fabulous two star hotels as well as incredible five star hotels. The one thing all the great hotels had in common were great reviews on sites like TripAdvisor. Higher star ratings typically meant more expensive hotels but the low stars ratings with great reviews were also great hotels but a whole lot cheaper. If you are looking to save on hotels, follow the reviews rather than the stars. You can find some wonderful hotels that are very reasonably priced. If you’re looking for the highest level of luxury, follow both!