Travel for less: Smart (not cheap) ways to spend less on your next trip

Travels shouldn’t be reserved for the rich or (social media) famous. These travel tips can help you see and do more for less on your travels.


If you’re a seasoned traveler, you know we live in an extraordinary time for exploring our world. As we become more deeply connected through social media and mobile apps, living (and saving) like a savvy local can happen almost anywhere on the planet – if you follow a few basic rules. Here are some tips to plan for and experience an amazing vacation without breaking the bank.


1. Be flexible: Pick your destination OR your travel dates

It’s hard to get the best deal when you want to travel to a specific place at a specific time. Usually, you can find a better deal by being flexible about the destination or the time of year. Experiment ahead of time with different options to find the best deal. Many travel sites can even send you alerts when certain destinations are having lower-than-normal fares.


2. Cozy up to “shoulder season”

Shoulder season is the period between a destination's low and high tourism seasons. Shoulder seasons vary by location, depending on what the area is famous for. During these times, crowds are smaller and prices for hotels and airfare may be cheaper. If you’re open to exploring a must-see location during its off-season, you’ll likely save money and wait in shorter lines for attractions.


3. Opt for public transport

If you’re visiting a city with a developed public transportation system, skip the car rental (and related parking costs). Instead, ride the subway or city buses. You’ll see more of the city without the mental burden of navigating, and you’ll get a taste of how the locals travel. Another cheap travel tip for navigating a new location? Travel by overground train or bus between countries. Look for deals from the rail lines themselves and steer clear of third-party offers.


4. Purchase a reusable pass

Avoid the hassle of fishing for exact coins or buying multiple tickets. Ask about buying a transportation card you can pre-load with credit, and just swipe to ride. If you know you’ll be moving around a metro area quite a bit, ask about multi-day passes with unlimited rides. You can typically find these passes at airports or other ports of entry, as well as transportation hubs and subway stops.


5. Download and sign up for VoIP apps

Communicating with loved ones back home shouldn’t run you a high bill. WhatsApp, Viber, and Skype all offer free calling anywhere you can connect to WiFi. In certain countries you can also find international phone cards at newsstands. These cards offer calls back home for just a few cents per minute. Compare that to $3/minute with major US carriers, and the savings add up.


6. Be open to sharing common areas with fellow travelers

A cheap travel tip that may also enrich your experience – particularly if you’re vacationing abroad – is choosing to stay at a B&B or hostel with other people. There are a few bonuses: Your host can give you insider tips for events and sightseeing, and you might be able to share rides with other lodgers. Plus, you might just make new friends from other countries who can add to your current travel experience.


7. Rent a place with a kitchen

House swaps and room-sharing services (such as Airbnb and VRBO) give you the option to cook your own food on the cheap. Staying in a neighborhood also gives you a chance to play the part of local resident. Plan on cooking at least one meal a day to avoid overspending on service fees (and tips) in restaurants. Bonus: This gives you a reason to explore local markets!


8. Seek out a museum pass

If you’re an art or history buff, this step is a no-brainer. Getting a museum pass is especially smart if you’ll be staying somewhere for an extended period of time and will be exploring exhibits over multiple days. Most museum passes pay for themselves in just a few visits. They can also save you untold hours of waiting in line – let’s not forget that time is money, too.


Start putting money aside for your next vacation with a U.S. Bank savings account.

Related content

How to use credit cards wisely for a vacation budget

Major purchases: How to pay for big ticket items

You can take these 18 budgeting tips straight to the bank

Start of disclosure content

Loan approval is subject to credit approval and program guidelines. Not all loan programs are available in all states for all loan amounts. Interest rate and program terms are subject to change without notice. Mortgage, Home Equity and Credit products are offered through U.S. Bank National Association. Deposit products are offered through U.S. Bank National Association. Member FDIC.