Getting the travel itch this holiday season?
Holiday travel can be the most spectacular way to see a new country or experience new traditions. But it can also do some damage to your wallet, and leave you feeling high and dry when the holidays roll around.
Not all vacations and travel destinations are affordable — especially this time of year. According to a new study, domestic flights are up 55% since 2020, while hotel prices are also up 40% from the beginning of this year alone.
That doesn’t mean you can’t save money while traveling and stay on budget. There are plenty of easy ways to see the world affordably that won’t take away from having an incredible experience this holiday season.
We’ve rounded up some little-known money saving tips that’ll help you travel on a budget and save some extra cash for your holiday shopping list when you get home.
1. Cook (and Drink) at Home
Going out to experience local nightlife in bars and restaurants can be fun when traveling — but it’s the fastest way to blow your travel budget!
You can save hundreds (or thousands, depending on the local currency) just by cooking most of your meals at your Airbnb or hostel kitchen — and drinking at home, too.
If you’re staying in a hotel, this can get more difficult, but there’s almost always a mini-fridge and a microwave included. If you’re feeling crafty, you can bring your own travel cooking set or rely on quick meals that just need hot water, like ramen.
For a cheap drink hack, hit up the duty-free liquor store at the airport so you won’t be tempted to go to bars and order expensive cocktails while you’re out.
If you can afford it, plan one special meal for your trip to look forward to. Dress up and go all out! It’ll feel like a treat after saving money during the rest of your trip.
2. Travel During the Off-Seasons
Every avid traveler knows the best (and worst) times to visit popular destinations. When you do the research, it’s significantly cheaper to opt for off-seasons.
Places like Orlando, Florida are surprisingly cheap in December, with hotels offering 50% off in many instances. With that extra cash, you can splurge on a trip to Disney World or have a cocktail on the beach.
If you’re craving a ski vacation but don’t want to foot the bill to hit the Alps, try Banff, Alberta in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. You’ll also find plenty of affordable ski areas in Colorado like Eldora, Loveland, and Monarch.
If you book early enough you can find cheaper room rates, discounted lift tickets, and more during the off-season.
3. Skip Buying Souvenirs
It’s tempting to load up on souvenirs when you’re traveling, especially if you’re buying thoughtful gifts for friends and family during the holidays. But be cautious — you might end up paying more than you bargained for. Souvenir shops are very tempting, even for the savvy and frugal traveler.
If you have something specific in mind, do your research ahead of time to make sure you’re getting the best price. This’ll keep you from impulse buying and spending more on something than you normally would at home.
Plus: souvenirs and knickknacks weigh down your Sherpani luggage, anyway!
4. Find Free Things to Enjoy
Your dad may have once said, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” But these cheap vacation ideas get close to proving him wrong.
You’d be surprised how many free things you can enjoy while traveling on a budget:
- National Parks may have entrance fees, but you won’t be charged if you walk or bike in.
- Museums also tend to offer reduced-fair or free days, depending on the season.
- Historic towns are plenty fun and cheap to walk around (so long as you stay out of the souvenir shop!) and public libraries are always free no matter where you go.
- Public parks are also a great way to get the local flavor of a place without spending a ton of cash.
Enjoy reading? That’s free to do anywhere, too. Read our favorite books about female adventurers to enjoy while globetrotting >
5. Walk and Use Public Transit
Renting a car can really get expensive when you travel. While this option isn’t always practical in countries that don’t have public transit, the best way to save on travel is to pick a location that’s highly walkable.
New York City obviously comes to mind, but there are plenty of walkable cities around the world like Vancouver, Canada, and Dubrovnik, Croatia, where you can save loads of money on vacation.
You can also try alternative ways to get around, like car sharing or renting (and sleeping) in a van.
6. Connect with Locals
If you’re feeling a little off your socializing game due to isolation during the pandemic, we don’t blame you. But if this is your first trip out since 2020, now’s a great time to meet new people once again.
For a frugal vacation, make a point to get friendly with the locals for travel suggestions and money saving tips. This can be the barista in town, people you strike up conversation with in the line at the grocery store, or your Airbnb host.
They can give you tips for cheap things to do in the area and little-known places that most tourists miss out on.
The best part about connecting with people you meet on trips is that if you make a great connection, they may offer to host you next time so you can save on accommodations.
It pays off big time to have friends all around the world. So be courageous and go make some friends!
Book Your Next Holiday Adventure
You’ve done your research. You know how to save money while traveling. And you’ve got the perfect Sherpani anti-theft bag for the trip. Now it’s time to explore!
Maybe you’re ready to skip the standard holiday destinations this year and opt for an unexpected adventure that you’ll never forget. This holiday season, get outside the box with your travel itinerary.