Traveling is one of my favorite things to do as a family. Taking little breaks from the everyday routine and scenery is so important for our well-being. We try to travel as much as possible, but the costs involved can add up. I’m always looking at different ways I can pinch a few pennies. Aside from the obvious, there are quite a few ways you’re probably not thinking of to save money while traveling. Aside from the obvious biggies like traveling in the off-season and scoping out the cheapest gas stations, I’ve learned that staying in the right hotel and taking advantage of all the amenities they have to offer makes our dollar stretch further.
You don’t have to follow all of the tips listed here, but even small things like paying closer attention to what you eat and asking for traveler discounts can make a big difference! I found over $2500 in savings* just on one trip alone. No joke.
1. Paying full price without asking for what discounts are available to you: If you only do one of the tips suggested here, do this one! A lot of hotels, restaurants, and attractions will offer discounts to AAA members or certain credit card carriers. Also keep in mind student and senior discounts! It’s doesn’t hurt to ask about all your options—the worst thing that happens is they say “no,” and the best thing that happens is you will save a bunch of money! SAVINGS: Approximately 10% of your bill.
2. Not signing up for hotel loyalty and rewards programs: Before you check in at your hotel, check and see if they have a rewards program. Most hotel families do, and you can earn some great perks just for signing up! For example, some Hampton Inn locations offer free valet parking to HHonors members. SAVINGS: $15 per car per night.
3. Hidden additional guest fees: Some hotels price their rooms based on the number of guests, usually for double occupancy. (Although to be fair, the only places I’ve been subjected to this are Las Vegas and cruise ships.) Always check the fine print, and look for hotels that charge the same rate whether it’s one person or four people. SAVINGS: $30 per extra person per night.
4. Breakfast: According to the U.S. Travel Association, travelers spend more money on food than anything else. Skew that statistic by searching for hotels that offer a free continental breakfast. Hampton Inn not only offers your standard breakfast pastries and fruit, but also hearty fare such as fresh-baked waffles and oatmeal with toppings. If you’re heading out for an active day, grab an apple or banana to put in your bag as a snack for later. SAVINGS: $10 per person per day.
5. Over ordering at meals knowing you can’t really take leftovers home: Speaking of food, this is a trick my husband and I often do while traveling. One of us will order an entrée, and the other will order a salad or appetizer, which is usually half the cost of the entrée, and we will split both dishes. Not only are we saving money but we are wasting less food (because, let’s face it—restaurant portions are WAY too big). For picky eaters, ask your server if the kids can eat off your plate verses getting them their own meal. For lunches we will usually grab something easy to eat on the go, like splitting a sandwich and a bag of chips, instead of dining at a more expensive sit-down restaurant. SAVINGS: $10 per person per day.
6. Wi-Fi: Did you know some hotels still charge for Wi-Fi? It’s pretty much a necessity these days, especially if you need to map your next location or get some work done while on the road (although vacations are best spent unplugging from work email for a while, if possible). Hampton Inn offers free Wi-Fi in all of their guest rooms and lobby, so you can post your best travel pictures on Instagram at no additional charge. SAVINGS: Approximately $15 per day.
7. Refreshments: Most hotels have water available in the lobby for free! Bring your own water bottles or tumblers from home and fill up each time you pass through. SAVINGS: $5 per person per day.
8. Coffee: As with water, most hotels have coffee available in the lobby and also coffee makers in your hotel room. SAVINGS: $3 per adult per day.
9. Flying: Obviously the best way to save money on flying is to not fly! Consider a road trip, if you have the time. SAVINGS: $400 per person.
10. Avoiding the hotel concierge: Don’t leave your hotel without first taking a stop at the concierge desk to see what the city has to offer. No matter how much research you’ve done online ahead of time, nothing beats the concierge when it comes to knowing exactly what’s happening around you at any given moment. If you’re going to a city with a lot of different attractions, such as Los Angeles or New York, look into buying a CityPASS, which will offer you several attraction tickets at a lower price than buying them all individually. For example, a Southern California CityPASS includes tickets for Disneyland, SeaWorld, and Legoland and is $122 cheaper than if you were to purchase all those tickets separately. The official CityPASS website offers deals in twelve geographic markets, but you can also ask your hotel concierge about any special deals or discounts being offered through your hotel. SAVINGS: $122 per person.
11. Forgotten items: Forgot an important toiletry such as toothpaste or a shaving razor? It doesn’t hurt to check with the front desk before going out to a convenience store to pick up forgotten items. A lot of hotels have travel-size amenities for free or a small fee in case their guests happen to forget something important. Savings: $5 total.
TOTAL SAVINGS: Over $2,500!
* Savings amounts are estimates based on a family of four (two adults and two children) for a two day/night vacation traveling within the U.S. and may vary depending on your geographic location. I live in Los Angeles where the price of living can only be described as totes crazy!
More Family Vacation Tips: