According to an American Express study, the typical American spends $1,145 per person, per year on travel. That’s $2,290 for the average couple and $4,580 for a family of four.
Travel spending doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Travelers have countless home-front expenses to worry about: rent or mortgage payments, tuition, utilities, groceries and food, and on and on. Every dollar saved on the road is a dollar to spend on life’s overhead — or an extra weekend getaway.
Slim down your travel budget this year with these six thrifty tips.
1. Start a Travel Fund
Before you even know where you’re going, reduce the hit to your wallet by starting a travel fund. This is one of the most straightforward ways to save for travel: any old FDIC-insured savings account, preferably one bearing a competitive interest rate, will do.
Make regular deposits into this account, as your budget allows. Take the average of your total spending over the past few years and divide it by your total income to determine what percentage of your take-home you’re spending on trips. Then, set aside that percentage from each paycheck. Watch your balance grow — and don’t use the funds for anything other than travel.
2. Use an Airline Credit Card
First, get a free credit report from each of the three major consumer credit reporting bureaus. You’re entitled to do so by law, and it’s a great way to get a handle on your personal credit.
Next, use reliable third-party reviews to find the best airline credit card for your needs. Ideally, you want a card that earns points on every dollar spent with your favorite airline — or if you don’t have a favorite airline, every dollar spent on air travel. When you have enough points, you can redeem for award flights that cost little or nothing out of pocket, dramatically reducing your vacation budget.
3. Don’t Eat Every Meal Out
Learn to love cooking away from home — or grabbing and going from the grocery store or corner shop. Try to find a hotel with at least a basic kitchenette, and go on a grocery run shortly after you get settled.
Food is an important aspect of the travel experience, so don’t feel like you have to eat every meal at your home base. Just limit your on-the-town consumption to one meal per day.
4. Use Destination Passes and Social Coupons Wherever Possible
If you’re visiting a larger city, look for bulk destination passes that provide discounted admission to multiple attractions in town. CityPASS and Smart Destinations both offer such passes at impressive discounts — often 50% or more to face value.
5. Stay in a Cheaper Hotel or Hostel
Stretch your hospitality budget further by compromising on lodging quality or location. Do you really need to stay on the central square, or will a suburban pad near a major transit line do just fine? Likewise, do you really need that hotel suite, or is a private hostel room sufficient?
6. Consider Short-Term Rentals
If you crave a true “live like a local” experience and enjoy saving money, consider renting at a vacation house or apartment. Short-term rentals are generally larger and cheaper than hotels, though pricing varies by location and quality. And they’re more likely to have cooking facilities — another money-saver.
How do you stretch your travel budget further? Share with our readers in the comments box below.