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6 Ways to Save on Travel

Jul 02, 2019 4 min read Mike DiChiara

Key Takeaways

  • Make a budget before you leave — and be sure to stay within it.
  • Save money in advance of booking your trip.
  • Cash in any travel rewards you’ve earned.


When it comes to planning a dream vacation, you may find yourself leaving no expense unspared. After all, airfare and hotel rates can total up to a large sum — and once you reach your destination, you’ll still need money for eats, excursions and entertainment. Yes, travel can be an expensive activity, but there are ways to save while still squeezing out every last bit of enjoyment from your vacation.



Create a spending plan — and stick to it

Much like everyday life, saving money while on vacation comes down to a simple practice: budgeting. Before you leave, make note of how long you’ll be away and how much you’ll need while you’re there. You’ll want to set aside enough for meals, tips (if that’s a practice where you’re headed) and any other outings and experiences you may have planned for your trip.

Before you even book, start to set aside a set amount of money each month to ensure that you’ll have plenty by the time you leave. It’s also a good idea to bring a little more than you may need, just in case your luggage gets lost or money is stolen.


Keep track of your belongings

Storing your valuables in a hotel safe is always good practice, especially when visiting a foreign country. Also, exercise caution when it comes to your money. Be wary of pickpockets — particularly in big cities — looking to make an easy victim out of a tourist. Only take enough cash with you when you leave your hotel room to guarantee that you’ll have funds for each day. Avoid keeping your phone, cash or other belongings in your back pockets, and consider wearing a money pouch for especially touristy destinations.


Be aware of exchange rates

If you’re traveling to a foreign destination, you’ll want to exchange U.S. dollars for local currency, as well as notify your bank that you’ll be abroad. If you want to avoid hefty fees, you may want to exchange your money right at your local bank. Many banks offer exchange services to their customers — usually for a small fee.1 If you’d prefer to wait until you reach your destination to take out local currency, visit your bank’s ATM — you should be able to withdraw cash with a 1% to 3% fee. No matter which route take, keep the exchange rate in mind when making a purchase using an American debit/credit card. For example, at recent exchange rates something with a price tag of €1,000 in Europe will actually cost you $1,129.10.2 While this might not seem a massive difference, you should keep it in mind if you’re committed to saving money during your travels.


Reap your rewards

If you have airline miles or rewards credit cards, now is the time to use them. If you can be flexible with your travel dates and destination, you should be able to find a good value for rewards you’ve accrued. Even so, make sure you pay off any rewards-card balances in full; if not, the interest you’ll pay could nullify any savings you’d have netted in rewards.


Keep calm and carry on

Arguably, the most laborious — and expensive — part of travel is the physical act of traveling. If you’re flying, in addition to airfare you need to consider the cost of checking bags, including an extra tab if your bag is oversize or overweight. (Check the airline’s website for details.) If possible, try to fit everything into a carry-on bag — one that still fits within the airline’s guidelines — to avoid extra fees (and reduce the risk of the airline losing your luggage).


What you can do next

Do research to determine what you’d like to see and do on your vacation, then do the math to figure out how much money you’ll need to save to make the most of your trip. If you can, try to book hotel and airfare well in advance of your planned travel date. (You can often save a bundle by, well, bundling the two — even more if there’s a rental car in your itinerary.) This way, you can save money and get one of the biggest vacation hassles out of the way.


Mike DiChiara is an editorial manager at Prudential. His travel experience includes eating bread in Europe.



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