Creative Ways to Save Money While Traveling

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This is a post by MPFJ staff writer, Jeff. Jeff writes about Sustainable living and finances at his website, Sustainable Life Blog. Jeff really enjoys traveling with his wife as much as he can, to wherever he can.

One of my favorite things to do (and my wife’s) is to travel because we get to check out new places and experience new things.  There’s always something different to see in a new place, and I personally find it fascinating to see other cultures and other parts of the country – how they act, what they like to do, and what they eat.  Over Christmas, we got the chance to head over to New York City for a few days, and had a lot of fun.

We were able to keep to a pretty strict budget though, and there were multiple ways that we were able to score some awesome deals:

Local Flavors – 

When we are out traveling, we always look to see what the locals do and eat there.  New York was no exception, but there were so many different places to eat, and lots of them are very good and very cheap.

There’s a lot of different ethnic neighborhoods in New York, and we were able to have some northeastern kosher vegetarian Indian food for dinner.  The total cost to us was around $25, for 2 entrees and water to drink.  The food was so good that I couldn’t believe it!  The next night, we had Chinese food, and we spent around $27 for an 2 entrees and an appetizer (it was happy hour so the appetizer was half off).  Not only do we get great, cheap food, but we also get to see how other people live!

Public Transit – 

This one is pretty obvious, but should be repeated.  We each got $29 subway passes that were good for 7 days when we were in New York.  This is just a fraction of what you would pay getting taken all over the city by the taxi (which costs about $25 from LaGuardia airport to midtown).  Each ride on the subway costs $2.25, and in two days, the pass had paid for itself.

Free Museum Days – 

On the way back from New York, my wife and I got unexpectedly delayed for about 12 hours in Charlotte, NC.  Instead of staying at the airport, we paid $10 to rent a car for the afternoon and drove into town (the bus stopped running at 2 pm since it was Sunday).  We had some lunch and then found some museums nearby.  One of them was free that day because it was the last day of one of the exhibits that they were showing.  We were able to enjoy an awesome museum for free!  Some museums have free days once a week, some vary, but its a great way to save a few bucks when traveling.  If you are not in town when any are free, don’t worry, there are plenty of other ways to save.

Public Art/Street Festivals – 

This is one of my personal favorites when I’m traveling.  I love going to check out the public art around towns.  My personal favorites is this giant blue bear in Denver, Colorado.  No matter the size of the town, there is usually a public art display, or many.  They make great stops on walking tours on nice days, and the best part about them is that they are free!

Schedule Around 1 Big Event – 

In New York, we scheduled the trip around 1 big event – a play on Broadway.  My wife really wanted to see one, so we made that the focus of our trip and did cheap stuff other than that.  We were able to get student tickets for a discount, but they were still pretty expensive (you can also get discounted tickets to Broadway shows at a booth near Times Square if you’re in NYC ever!).  We had a lot of fun and will remember it for a while, so it was a very good way to spend our money.

How about you all? What ways do you save money on vacation? 

Share your experiences by commenting below!

    ***Photo courtesy of


    1. Pauline @ Reach Financial Independence says:

      $10 for a rental car, that's a bargain! I focus most of the saving on housing, as it is usually the biggest part of the budget. Renting apartments from sites like airbnb or friends of friends generally allow for central location at a cheaper price, and you can cook breakfast and dinner there too.
      My recent post 99 money mistakes and a $999.99 giveaway!

    2. Most of my travel is done very cheaply. For example I am going to Tasmania in 2 weeks. I signed up to airline emails so I knew when the best flights deals were on. I stay with friends and family (they stay with me in Sydney when needed), they also give me a car to use or drive me around, they use their connections to get free tickets to things etc…
      I always return the favour of course. My house is always open, I pick up anyone from the airport whenever needed, take them around, lend them my car etc. All my friends and family work this way. I've gotten into Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure for free, stayed at Beverly Hills, stayed on the beach in Maui, got free concerts etc. Fortunately for me when I married, his family and friends were the same.
      And I wish I could rent a car for $10! lol. That is great.

      • Sustainable Blog says:

        Those are some great deals! I always offer my house to friends as well. There's a week long party in my town during the summer, so we get a few takers for that but otherwize people either dont want to visit (dont really blame them) or they think im kidding.
        My recent post Through the Looking Glass: At What Price Point Would You Get a Loan for Windows

    3. These are great tips! I love free museum days when traveling. We planned a Paris trip around the students free day at the Louvre when we went backpacking in college

      • sustainable blog says:

        that is a great idea – i'm typically not that organized to plan a whole trip around a free day of any type!@
        My recent post Through the Looking Glass: At What Price Point Would You Get a Loan for Windows

    4. I try to find hotels that have a kitchen in the room so that we can buy/bring groceries and cook as opposed to eating out all of the time.

      I also look into all inclusive vacations and do a rough calculation to see if the increased cost is enough to offset what we would spend on food and drinks. Most times it works out in our favor, but there are times when it doesn't make sense to go all inclusive.
      My recent post Hidden Inflation

      • I occasionally look into all inclusive and typically have found the same things. sometimes there's a good deal to be had if you can work to make it happen, but usually it's not that close.
        My recent post Through the Looking Glass: At What Price Point Would You Get a Loan for Windows

    5. Canadianbudgetbinder says:

      I love to travel and one thing I don't fancy is resorts as I like to see cultures and what they have to offer. I've always put myself in the middle , talked to people, asked questions and actually went home with knowledge that I never left with. Great tips.
      My recent post Mr.CBB’s Spinach and Ricotta Fettuccine

      • I agree – I always have the best time on days where there's not really an agenda and I can go wherever the day takes me.
        My recent post Through the Looking Glass: At What Price Point Would You Get a Loan for Windows

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