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5 Best Ways to Save Money on Vacation
1. Use Travel Rewards Credit Cards
Let's talk about the big one right away.
Applying for travel rewards credit cards is one of the easiest ways to accumulate points for vacation flights, hotels, and even activities.
Take the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, for example. This card offers 50,000 Ultimate Reward points as a bonus, which is worth $500 if you cash the points out directly.
But this is not what I would recommend doing.
The Preferred also gives a 25% bonus to points if used on the Chase Travel website. This means those 50,000 bonus points are worth $625 towards anything they offer. Flights are comparable to using other travel booking sites such as Expedia (in fact, Chase will soon be using Expedia as the back-end to their travel searches, and are already doing this on some cards).
If you're interested in this card or the higher-end Chase Sapphire Reserve, check out the Chase Sapphire Comparison Tool I included in my post, Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Preferred. I also included a link below (but make sure you read the post for instructions on how to use).
Another great option would be an airlines card, such as the Barclay Aviator or Aviator Business. I did a review for the business card in my post, Review of the Barclay Aviator Business Card.
What's really nice about the Barclay card is that you can earn 60,000 American Airlines miles for simply paying the $95 dollar annual fee and making a single purchase.
That's right! That banana you just spent $0.12 on just gave you enough points for at least two round-trip tickets anywhere in the continental United States. And you got some Potassium, so that's good too!
Keep in mind that rules are constantly changing, new cards with new bonuses pop into the scene, and others ride off into the sunset. Continue to follow us here at Frugal Firefly for the latest reviews and opportunities!
You can sometimes get amazing deals on a hotel, especially if you sign up for a co-branded hotel card or trade your points to a travel partner.
But if you are spending cold, hard cash, I'd recommend taking a look at AirBnB instead. The reason why? More for less.
AirBnB hosts are private individuals instead of corporate entities. They may be renting a room while they're out of town, hosting to earn a bit of money as a side-gig, or just subsidizing the cost of a place that's bigger than they need.
Regardless of the reason, you can often get much more for your money. My wife and I traveled to England and Ireland for our 3rd anniversary, and managed to stay for twelve nights for under $1,000! Good luck finding hotels for that price.
But the real benefit is not in the raw cost - again, it's the cost-value equation that means the most to us. No place offered a higher value on that trip than The Shepherd's Hut, a "tiny home" that had been converted from an old Shepherd's Hut found on the property many years before.
Seriously. Check out this place!
Courtesy of AirBnB
Courtesy of AirBnB
Courtesy of AirBnB
We spent less here than the going rates of hotels in the area, and it absolutely made the trip.
The other major benefit of AirBnB is getting to know the local area. Our host tipped us to a countryside path beside fields and over a river, to a local pub.
Now that is vacationing!
3. Dining In
Another perk of staying at most AirBnB's is the access to a kitchen, which means that you can opt to dine in instead of going out each night. Why dine in?
We personally love making the trip to the local supermarkets during a vacation. Different produce options, styles of cooking, and spices are often highlighted at local markets. Plus the farther you are away from home, the more of an adventure this can be.
Going out to restaurants can sometimes highlight the same options, but meals must cater to all patrons, especially in a touristy area. Cooking at home lets you experience meals that the locals eat.
Learning New Styles
Vacationing can be a prime opportunity to expand your culinary horizons, and cooking at your home-away-from-home teaches you methods and styles that you can replicate once you return.
If you get really adventurous, take a cooking class or make friends with someone from the area. Offer to pay for the supplies, and your AirBnB host might even be willing to teach you how to make a local favorite.
Experience the Best of the Area
We visited Hawaii for our honeymoon, and visited the local supermarket very soon after arriving. Most items were similar to what we saw at home (after all, Hawaii is not that far away), but the two standout items were Kona coffee and pineapple.
We've never found pineapple that was sweeter that what we found in Oahu, which should come as no surprise since Dole Pineapple Plantation is just a short drive from where we stayed.
Each morning, we woke to fresh-brewed Kona coffee. We'd pour ourselves a cup and sit out on the balcony looking out to the ocean. That, my friends, is living the dream.
4. Get Excited About History
Do not get swept up in tourist attractions! These can be expensive, and are often not worth it in the end. Instead, check out local historical sites.
In England, my wife and I followed a loosely scheduled tour of Jane Austen sites. From her childhood home in Chawton that cost us $10 each, to her burial site in Westminster Abby for another $10 each, we were able to tour this beloved writer's life for next to nothing.
We added historical homes featured in film adaptations of her novels, most of which were part of the National Trust. Here is a picture of the beautiful Basildon Park from Pride and Prejudice fame:
If we did it again, we would purchase a family membership to the National Trust instead of paying for each park on its own. A family membership is only 120 pounds ($157), and offers free admission to all National Trust sites. At around $15 per person per site, it doesn't take long to make up that cost. And the value you get is much greater.
5. The Great Outdoors
Nature has already provided some of the best activities and most amazing views, and you can experience it for free (or very inexpensively).
In Hawaii, we took the "Pillbox hike" in Lanakai. Pill boxes are manufactured bunkers that were used in World War II. These are positioned on a beautiful steady-grade hike in Oahu. This article, Lanakai Pillbox Hike gives more information about this picturesque path. Unfortunately, pictures don't do it justice.
The hike itself was free, and we were able to spend time outdoors watching the sunrise from one of the most scenic places in the world. Frugal has never looked this good!
There you have it - 5 Best Ways to Save Money on Vacation and still have a phenomenal time. The world is a big and beautiful place, so do yourself a favor and get away from home. And with these tips, you can do it without breaking the bank!
If you're interested in squeezing out that last bit of value, make sure to check out my Travel Rewards page for more ways to get rewards!
Where is your favorite place to go on vacation? How have you saved money and experienced frugal wins during travel? Do you have any tips that can beat our savings? Let me know in the comments!