7 Ways to Save Money While Traveling

Updated February 5, 2020 . AmFam Team

Family vacations can sometimes be overwhelming.The good news is there are many ways to thoroughly enjoy every moment of your vacation without going over budget. Learn how with American Family Insurance.

After careful planning and budgeting, requesting your PTO and organizing your family’s calendars, you’re finally ready to set sail on a new adventure. Family vacations are excursions everyone in your household looks forward to, but for financially-conscious parents, they can sometimes be overwhelming.

The good news is there are many ways to thoroughly enjoy every moment of your vacation without going over budget. From being strategic about your credit card purchases to registering for rebate offers, consider these simple ways to save money on your next vacation.

Start Saving for Your Vacation

There are some great ways to prepare your finances and plan a budget before you even start packing for your next vacation. Here are a few pre-vacation tips for saving as much money as possible.

Choose an off-season destination

Instead of following the snow bunnies to Colorado in January or taking the kids to Disney World for spring break, choose a destination during the off-season for potential huge savings. Not only can you find better deals for flights and hotels, you'll also be able to take in the scenery without the crowds.

Plan your transportation

Many international and domestic cities offer family-friendly metro systems that feature elevators and escalators to make sightseeing with a stroller or a toddler seamless. Because bus or metro tickets can be far less expensive than multiple cab trips, this could make a big difference when you’re hopping between cities in Europe or getting the most out of your adventure in the Big Apple.

Going out west or staying in a single country? It could also be more cost-effective to rent a car than to buy multiple plane or train tickets, if your whole gang can fit in sedan or an SUV. Booking far in advance is recommended for the most savings, too!

Be creative with meals

Before you book your trip, consider upgrading to a suite that features a full kitchen. Eating out for every meal can add up over a long weekend or a 7-night stay, and having access to a stove or microwave can cut down on the cost of fueling your family. Find a local grocery store and stock up on breakfast essentials, snacks, water, coffee and other necessities. Also look into what your hotel offers — choose a hotel with continental breakfast or free happy hour.

Are you road-tripping to your vacation destination? Make a pit stop at a wholesaler and buy in bulk before hitting the road. If you’re looking for other cash-saving meal options, consider bringing reusable bottles — if the tap water is drinkable at your vacation spot.

Research rebates

Have any recurring purchases you make every single month? Think about household items, snacks the kids simply can’t get enough of and beauty products you swear by. Believe it or not, restocking on these necessities by ordering online can earn you cash! There are plenty of coupon or rebate options, depending on what you’re buying. If you have a go-to airline, check to see if they offer similar thank-you points that translate into dollars over time.

Saving Money While Traveling

So you’ve prepared your budget and are ready to hit the road. But how else can you save money while you’re on the vacation itself? Here are a few more tips to help you keep your cash in your wallet while on your trip.

Skip a checked bag

While some airlines do offer one checked bag per passenger for free, others charge upwards of $25. For a family of four, that can add up fast. Try fitting all of your essentials into four carry-on suitcases that won’t cost you a penny to bring on board.

Collect photos, not things

Want to have a keepsake from your family vacation? Instead of buying t-shirts, magnets, stickers and other souvenirs, one way to save money is to exercise your iPhone. Because it can cost as little as five cents to print a photo once you’re back home, it’s more cost-effective to take a selfie than roam a gift shop. And if you’re visiting a kid-centric destination like Disney World where your little princess or Jedi will definitely want a costume, purchase a cheaper version online so you won’t be tempted to buy an expensive one at the park.

Have one staycation day

As much fun as it is to see national monuments, worldwide treasures, wonders of the globe and beat your daily step count, vacationing is about relaxing, too. Chill out with your family by planning a staycation day where you lounge around your hotel, vacation rental or suite. Enjoy movies, cooking or practicing cannonballs in the pool! Because you aren’t shelling out dough for tickets to attractions, you’ll give your bank account — and your body and mind — the R&R it deserves.

The bottom line? An amazing vacation doesn’t have to break the bank. With a little strategic planning, you can take your loved ones on an unforgettable trip and even save a few dollars to start padding the budget for your next adventure.

Before you head out on vacation, don’t forget travel insurance! Connect with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) to learn more about how travel insurance can help protect what matters most while you’re on vacation.

This article is for informational purposes only and based on information that is widely available. This information does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. You should contact a professional for advice specific to your situation.

Related Articles

  • Family of four walking hand in hand down beach
    Family of four walking hand in hand down beach
    Ways to Save Money for a Family Trip

    Among the many joys of being a parent is the opportunity to share your passions with your children. From exploring your favorite hobbies to diving into cherished family recipes, as your kids grow so do the memories you create together.

    Going on vacation with your children is a great way to bond with them, but it can get costly. The good news is that getting out of town doesn’t have to break the bank. Plan for your next family adventure by exploring the tips in these family vacation FAQs.

  • Man using entering his credit card info into his cellphone.
    Man using entering his credit card info into his cellphone.
    Credit and Identity Theft Monitoring

    Protecting your home with a security system and locking your doors when you leave for the day are measures you might take to protect your home from intruders. Credit and identity theft monitoring are a type of “security system” that protects you from intruders gaining access to your personal information. From credit fraud to identity theft, everyone is susceptible to these types of breaches — that’s why it’s so important to defend yourself against them.

    Credit monitoring and identity theft protection are two different ways to proactively protect yourself if your personal information gets into the wrong hands. Let’s take a look at the differences and why it’s important to implement them both together.

  • Couple looking at housing prices
    Couple looking at housing prices
    Saving for a House

    There are a few defining moments in our lives. For some, it’s the realization that buying that first home is within reach, both financially and emotionally. It’s a big step, and it’s one that’s built into the American dream. And if you’re left wondering how much money you should save before buying a house, you’re not alone. These costs can add up quickly.

    After you’ve made the big decision to start shopping for a home, you might be surprised to find that coming up with the cash down payment is only one of several financial hurdles you’ll need to clear. Exactly how much you should save for a house depends on a number of factors, like the value of the home you’re targeting and the amount of money you intend on pushing into your down payment.

  • A white woman budgets for saving money using a calculator at a cafe.
    A white redheaded woman works on her budget for saving money with a calculator at a cafe.
    Pay Off Student Loans or Buy a House?

    After college, life moves fast. You get your first big job, move out of your parents’ house and start a whole new life on your own. For most people, this also means paying off student loan debt from your college tuition. Having this debt may make big milestones like buying a house seem far off, but there are ways to make the leap from renter to homeowner even if you have student loans. So can you get a mortgage while also paying off student debt? Or should you wait to pay it off before you buy a house?

    Every situation is different, so it’s important to do the right research and choose the best option for you. Luckily, we’ve done some of the breakdown for you to help you decide whether to pay off your student loan entirely or buy a house.

    Can Student Loans Affect Buying a House?

    Typically, student loan debt doesn’t prevent you from getting a mortgage. The biggest thing to note is that student loan debt does influence your debt-to-income ratio, which is a factor lenders consider before giving you a loan. It can also affect the interest rate you pay on your mortgage.

    Buying a house with defaulted student loans

    If you’ve defaulted on your student loans, it’ll be more difficult — but not impossible — for you to get a mortgage. Because defaulting negatively affects your credit score, lenders will be less likely to want to give you a loan or will charge a much higher interest rate on a loan.

    Getting a home loan with student loan deferment

    If you’ve deferred your student loans, this usually won’t affect your chances of getting a mortgage. Just be sure to consider how the future estimated payments will factor your debt-to-income ratio. Some types of mortgages may reject applicants with deferred loans, so do your research on the different types of mortgages before shopping.

    Should You Pay Off Student Loans Before Buying a House?

    Buying a house is expensive, there’s no doubt about that. It can seem smart to hold off on house shopping while you still have student loan debt, and it can be even more difficult to save for a house if you’ve got a high debt-to-income ratio. But if you have enough income to handle the payments for both, you may want to consider investing in your first home.

    Signs You Should Pay Off Student Loans

    When considering whether to pay student loans or save for a house, there are a few factors that can help you decide if paying off your student loans should be a priority.

    Your debt-to-income ratio is too high

    If the amount of money you bring in monthly or yearly is almost the same as the amount of money you pay out in debts — like student and car loans or credit cards — it may be best to pay down your debt before buying a house.

    You’ve defaulted on your loans

    Defaulting on your loans has a severe negative impact on your credit score, which tells lenders that you’re a bigger risk to take on. Work on improving your credit score before shopping for a mortgage.

    You’re struggling to make payments

    If you feel like you’re living paycheck to paycheck or struggling to make payments on your loan every month, it’s best to hold off on saving for a house. Need help keeping track of your student loan payments? Try our student loan payment tracker to get organized.

    You haven’t saved for a down payment or emergency fund

    Before you start picking out which houses you want to tour, you should take a look at your savings. If you don’t have enough for a 5 to 10 percent down payment or enough as an emergency fund for home expenses — like a broken dishwasher or damaged roof — take more time to put money away for your first home.