How to Save Money on Vacation
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How to Save Money on Vacation

AFFORDABLE TRAVEL: HOW TO SAVE MONEY AT YOUR DESTINATION

In my last post, I shared simple money-saving hacks to help you save money on travel, focusing mainly on transportation and lodging.

But how do you save money once you get where you’re going? Will cutting costs affect your level of enjoyment? Good news: It doesn’t have to!

Following are some painless ways on how to save money on vacation.

Transportation

Public Transportation

On a recent trip to Charleston, South Carolina, I learned that residents and visitors alike were able to ride the trolley at no cost, with the option to hop on and off whenever they wanted. There were 3 different trolleys driving 3 different routes throughout the historic downtown area. What a great perk!

This is a great way to get acclimated to the area and find your way around. It’s also helpful after a long day of walking. When your feet hurt and you feel like you can’t take another step, you’ll be grateful for a free trolley ride!

Other types of public transportation such as buses and subways are typically much less expensive than cabs, Ubers, etc. Buses with hop on/hop off options offer you the most flexibility in terms of sightseeing.

Tours

When I visit a new place, I enjoy touring around just like anyone else. But I rarely pay for a tour.

Self-Guided Walking Tours

I am a tourist at heart and love wandering around a new place, looking here and stopping there. For me, this is the best way to explore a new place.

Why? Well, for several reasons.

Self-guided walking tours allow me to:

  • Save money (after all, that‘s our main goal, right?!)
  • Get some exercise (Bonus! And it doesn’t feel like exercise when you’re pleasantly and having a good time exploring)
  • Spend as much time as I want at any given place instead of being at the mercy of someone else’s schedule
  • Discover places and things that I may not have seen from a carriage, bus or other mode of transportation
  • Stop and take photos, with plenty of time to experiment with different angles

How do I know where I’m going in a new city? The most obvious way is to Google the destination and search for a downloadable map of the area I want to visit.

Another option is to go to the local Visitor’s Center and ask for a map of the area. Typically, they have them printed out and ready for visitors. And 99.9% of the times, maps are FREE!

Free Guided Tours

When I went to Italy, I ended up getting a wonderful free tour of the Vatican Museum by a professional tour guide. The woman standing outside the museum holding up a huge sunflower on a stick so people could see her (a tactic many tour guides use) and yelling “Free tours!” What’s the catch? I asked her. “There IS no catch,” she told me. She explained that she and other guides frequently offer a free tour with the hope that you will be so pleased and impressed with the level of knowledge that you will pay them for the next one. She was smart, knowledgeable and an excellent guide. Sometimes you don’t get what you pay for – you get more!

City Passes

Many large cities in the U.S. offer something called a City Pass. This pass gives you VIP admission to the most iconic attractions in the city, handpicked and packaged into one convenient ticket. The savings can be significant – sometimes 50% or more! The passes allow you to skip the long ticket lines and go right up to the door and give them either a printed ticket or electronic ticket via your mobile phone. The best part: the passes are good for more than a week, so there’s no need to rush to see the sights all in one day. (Whew. What a relief!)

These types of discounts aren’t limited to the U.S., though. Many popular destinations throughout the world, such as Paris, offer similar of passes. A little bit of research before your trip can result in significant savings once you arrive.

Discount Tickets

Websites such as Groupon.com and LivingSocial.com feature deals on a variety of things, including tours. The amount of the discount varies from deal to deal, but can result in significant savings.

How to Save Money on Vacation

Visiting Famous Churches

I LOVE visiting churches. I love seeing the décor, the stained glass windows, and the architectural features. Some churches, especially those in other countries, require visitors to pay to tour them. A simple way to get around that is to attend a service or mass, then stay afterward so you can look around. It sounds simple because it is…and it works.

Free Activities

Many places offer a variety of free activities, especially during warm weather. These activities can include live music, outdoor movie night with the movies played on a big screen, seasonal festivals, and more.

To find out if any events will be taking place during your visit, check with the Visitors Center or local Chamber of Commerce (in person or online). You can also ask a local once you arrive.

Visiting Museums

Museum Passes

Some cities have museums that either do not charge to get in (like Washington, DC) or they take donations in lieu of admissions. However, museums located in most large cities do charge to get in.

If you’ re interested in exploring a museum during your next vacation, consider purchasing a museum pass. Just as with City Passes, museum passes offer significant savings on the regular admission price, are valid for a week or more, and you can save up to 50% off the regular admission price.

Dining: How to save on meals

Book a Hotel that Offers Breakfast

If you find a place that includes breakfast in the cost of your room, you’ll be saving money right from the start of your trip. And you can often grab a few pieces or fruit or other snacks to take with you for later.

Book a Hotel Room with a Mini Fridge

One of the most frustrating things is when I eat out and have food leftover, but I have nowhere to store it for later. A room with a mini fridge, you can save leftovers and buy some of your own food and drinks to eat as needed, thus eliminating some (or all) of the need to eat out.

Have a Picnic

A great way to dine at a reduced price and enjoy your surroundings is to have a picnic. Most grocery stores offer pre-made sandwiches, small bags of chips and drinks at an affordable cost. Then, find a park, beach, or other enjoyable spot and enjoy your meal.

Dine Out at Lunch Instead of Dinner

If you do decide to dine out while you’re traveling, try to dine out at lunchtime vs. dinnertime. Why? Lunch prices are much cheaper than dinner prices. If you DO dine out at dinner, you can save money by sharing an entrée with another person (unless you are traveling alone).

Share a Meal with Someone Else and Split the Check

If you’re traveling with someone else, this is a great way to save money. Most restaurants serve oversized portions, so half a meal is usually more than enough for each person.

Find Restaurant Discounts

Who says you have to pay full price when you eat out? With the addition of new websites and mobile apps everyday, there is no reason dining out can’t be both fun and affordable. Groupon.com, Restaurant.com, and SlickDeals.com provide options for saving money when dining out. Simply logon to the website or use the app and begin your search. You can look for deals geographically.

Drinking

If you’re like me, you enjoy an “adult beverage” (alcoholic drink) from time to time. But drinking at a restaurant/bar can be expensive! There are a few ways to cut the costs while still allowing you to relax and unwind.

Buy Your Own Alcohol and Drink Before You Go Out

My drink of choice is wine. However, one glass at a restaurant or bar often costs almost as much as an entire bottle. (Ok, so I don’t have expensive taste.) To cut costs, I buy a bottle of wine and enjoy a glass or two before I head out for the evening. This way, I still get to enjoy a drink without the hefty markup.

Go to Happy Hour

Happy Hours typically feature special prices or discounts on drinks (and food). Prices range from place to place, but typical happy hour discounts make it worthwhile. For example, $3 beers, $2 off wine and mixed drinks, etc.

This goes without saying but I’m going to say it anyway: DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE! The cost of a ride back to your room via cab, Uber, or other form of transportation will be MUCH less than the cost of a DUI.

I hope you got some new ideas to help you save money on your next trip. Do you have any suggestions that aren’t included here? If so, please share them in the comments below.

Wishing you awesome travels!

Amy Stark, A Traveling Broad | June 16, 2016

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