how to save money on vacation

Let’s face it: travel, including outdoor activities, can be incredibly expensive. A morning on the river or an afternoon ziplining through the mountains can cost more than you were expecting. And the last thing you want to do is waste money on things you don’t need, missing out on these exciting opportunities.

As a solution, I present to you my ten tips for saving your money for making long-lasting memories rather than spending on unnecessary luxuries. If you’re on a tight budget but still want to get the most out of your trip, this post is for you.

1. Skip the flight and take a road trip

how to save money traveling

Although gas prices can be a pain, traveling to your destination by car is exponentially cheaper than paying hundreds of dollars for a plane ticket. Bring along some friends, take turns driving, and have a much more memorable experience on the way to your destination.

You will also save a ton by skipping out on ridiculously priced airport food and car rental fees. If it’s possible, choose to drive to your vacation, a no-brainer financially.

2. Visit during “off season”

how to save money for travel

Popular travel times (like holidays) are also the most expensive travel times. Instead of spending extra money on a trip just because it’s Christmastime, choose to travel when others aren’t.

A good example is visiting the Rocky Mountains. Usually swamped with skiers in the winter months, the area turns into a barren wasteland in the summer.

Choosing to visit at this time means cheaper lodging, tours and attractions. Plus, traveling during the off season means less crowds and shorter lines! Take advantage of any special deals these locations offer when not a lot of people are around to take them.

3. Come prepared

save money to travel

We’ve all been there. You sped through your packing and forgot to put something essential in your luggage. But to save money while traveling, it’s important to be intentional about packing anything you could possibly need.

For instance, if you’re packing for a ski trip and forget your brand new poles at home, even renting some from a local ski shop can cost you more than you spent buying them yourself.

Instead, start early and spend some time creating the ultimate packing list. Anything that you can buy at home, do so. Amazon typically has much more affordable prices than shops on the beach or in the mountains.

4. Save on food

how to save for a vacation on a tight budget

This seems like an obvious one, but it is critical! It’s easy to give into the temptation to visit a fancy restaurant while on vacation, but doing so is wasting an unreasonable amount of your budget on something you could probably get at home.

For meals, take the opportunity to save. Run by the local Walmart at the beginning of your trip and stock up on groceries. You’ll be surprised how rewarding it is to have a picnic after a long hike or how enjoyable it is to have a freshly cooked meal by the ocean.

5. Don’t waste on fancy hotels

how to save money on vacation

One of the easiest ways to lose money fast is staying in an expensive hotel. It may only seem like a few bucks at first, but with each additional night, your extra expenses are multiplied.

The good news is there are tons of options to save on lodging! From hostels to motels to old-fashioned camping, there are always choices for cheaper stays.

Also, do your research early and find special packages or deals for cheaper stays. It’s these dollars saved that can really add up in the long run.

6. Rent, don’t buy

how to save money

When you need some of your own outdoor equipment, such as climbing gear, kayaks or hiking poles, the prices can be intimidating. Even if you buy your own before your trip, it’s a lot to spend on items you may never use again.

Instead, find places to rent these items by day or week. Whether local or at your destination, renting is always a cheaper option for one time activities.

7. Choose public transit over valet

travel hacks

Everyone knows that prices to park can be insane. And it’s hard not to roll your eyes when a hotel or restaurant requires valet. The best way to avoid these expenses is to use the available public transportation.

If there aren’t any buses or subways nearby, consider using Uber. It’s very possible that their round trip price will be less than potential parking fees.

8. Cut back on souvenirs

saving on vacation

T-shirts and knickknacks are overpriced items that we feel obligated to pay for. But why is this the case? What’s the point of spending on needless souvenirs that we’ll probably never use or look at again?

A more practical (and free) option is saving pictures from your trip. Instead of a pricey, poorly-made tee, make a photo album with your favorite memories. It will be much more enjoyable to look through later when you’re feeling nostalgic.

9. Plan what you want to splurge on

how to save money

No one is perfect. It’s practically impossible to keep your tight budget forever, especially on an exciting trip to somewhere new.

That’s why you should plan for certain expenses to splurge on. Maybe you’re a sucker for collectible mugs, or maybe you can’t live without visiting the top-rated restaurant. Put some money aside before you arrive to spend a little extra on something you think will be worth the price.

Something else to consider is saving some room in your budget for emergencies. From breakdowns on the highway to broken legs, don’t let unexpected expenses throw you off guard.

10. If all else fails, find free adventures

free vacation

The end goal is to save all of your funds for exciting activities, but if you don’t think you have enough left for a guided whitewater rafting tour, there are plenty of other fun outdoor attractions that are completely free.

A day on the beach or a long hike are usually free of charge. Plus, these are more great opportunity to bring along your packed lunch. Never underestimate how exciting these cheap attractions can be.

taylor untamed

With infinite possibilities for spending, it’s easy to waste the money you’ve saved on luxury items. But you have to remember why you’re there.

If you’re like me, the purpose of your trip is exploring the most exciting attractions and creating timeless memories, not buying fleeting luxuries that won’t be worth it in the long run.

On your next trip, choose to spend your money on what you truly care about, and be mindful of what you want to get out of your adventure.


  1. aaaah. we just had a GREAT trip that incorporated several of your ideas.
    we visited the high sierras recently in august to skip the massive skier periods, the condos are much cheaper in august vs. january, the condo allowed us to cook all our meals without eating expensive restaurant food, and our best and most relaxing activity is lots of fishing(and super cheap).
    but great tips T!

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