Top 10 Summer Travel Budgeting Tips


By Jamie Wagner, Ph.D.
Travel items flip flops, hat, camera, ipad, phone

How to Travel on a Budget

Summer is upon us. The days are getting longer, and everyone seems to have an itch to go on some kind of an adventure. I love to travel and my husband and I even have a growing “adventure wall” in our house where we put pictures up from some of our traveling adventures. However, as you throw caution to the wind there are some pretty simple ways to still be mindful of your budget. Here are some of my favorite ways to save money without sacrificing experience while I travel.

Bring a reusable water bottle

We all have what seems like a million water bottles. So, when you’re traveling make sure you put them to good use and bring them along. Purchasing water in the airport or at resorts can get quite expensive so save yourself the stops and cost to get a water bottle and bring one to fill up. When we travel by car I regularly fill up water bottles at gas stations or rest stops, and in the airport my first stop after TSA is at a water fountain. Bonus – using a reusable water bottle is good for your budget and for the environment.

Pack lunches rather than eating out

This is a commonly used tip for car trips. I don’t generally eat a lot of fast food so a day of eating fast food isn’t my favorite way to start the trip. Instead of stopping for a burger, pack up sandwiches or a bento box, add in fruit, carrot sticks and hummus and a sweet treat and you’ll be able to save yourself quite a bit of money. We’ve also made a habit of stopping at a park or rest area and letting the dog and my daughter out to stretch their legs a bit while we have a little picnic.

Consider Airbnbs or VRBOs for families

Hotels can be expensive when you have to buy more rooms for growing families so look into renting a house for your trip. I like that we can have our own rooms, spread out a bit, and I especially love having a kitchen. Again, we don’t eat out all the time so vacations can be tough on our wallets and tummies and purchasing breakfast and lunch groceries seems like a win-win.

Try to travel in off-peak seasons or times

If possible, travel during off-peak times. You can save money by traveling or visiting during the week or at a time when fewer people go. This can be more difficult when you have kids in school and are limited on when you have breaks, but there are definitely better and worse times to travel. Do research before your trip using blogs or other travel sites to learn about the most cost effective times to travel.

Limit souvenirs

Focus more on the experience and less on the stuff. Do you really need that $30 vacation t-shirt or the $7 shot glass?! Buy a few mementos but spend more time making memories than shopping for the trinket that you’ll sell at your next garage sale. Those with kids can attest to how hard this can be but you can set limits – one per person or $20 to buy whatever they want.

Look into local travel guides

My husband and I went to New York a couple years ago, and we bought a New York City PASS. It allowed us to visit some of the tourist attractions at a cheaper price. We even got to jump certain lines because we had already bought tickets. Most cities have something similar so look into local travel guides that can help you save money. I also search sites like Groupon or Living Social in the area that I am vacationing to see if there are any restaurant or attraction deals.

Plan ahead

Much like a trip to the grocery store, a little prep work before your trip can help you save money because you’re less likely to make impulse purchases. Do some research before your trip so you know what you want to do and take note of how much it will cost.

Use cash

Many families already use cash to help with their regular budgeting, but you can use a similar technique for vacations. Set a limit on how much you are going to spend on something like souvenirs and only use cash. Don’t be tempted to get out the credit card as using cash will force you to really think about what you want.


The amount of money spent on a trip is not directly related to the fun you’re going to have. Sometimes taking a break and exploring your city or state is the best way to get away without actually getting away. One of my favorite ways to explore the unique attractions in Nebraska is through their passport program.

Get creative

This tip is actually from a friend of mine. She buys groceries or items her family might need once they’re at their travel destination (i.e. shampoos, sunscreen, etc.) from Amazon and then uses her Amazon Prime account to ship them to the location two days later. It is a creative and simple way to not pack a bunch of suitcases.

There are many more ways to save money and these are just a few of my favorites. Do you have any good tips to share? I’m always trying to learn new and creative ways to make my vacation life less complex and less expensive.  After all, if I save money on one trip that means I have money to spend on another trip!

<a href="" target="_self">Liz Nowaczyk</a>

Liz Nowaczyk


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