10 Tips and Tricks to Save Money on Your Next Weekend Getaway
Short on cash but desperate for a getaway? You don’t need a ton of money to afford a trip to remember. You can plan a quick and affordable weekend trip when you follow our 10 tips for budget-friendly weekend travel!
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This post is contributed by Fit Well Traveler
Timing Your Travel
Your travel dates make a big difference in the total price of your getaway. These tips will help you choose the best travel dates for your budget.
1. Travel During the Shoulder Season
Summer is peak travel season throughout much of the world. With warm weather and school out of session, there’s no doubt it’s the most convenient time for a vacation. Unfortunately, for travelers on a budget, it’s also the time with the highest prices.
Thankfully, you don’t need to wait for winter to score a great travel deal. By traveling in the shoulder season — that’s spring and fall in most of Europe and North America — you can enjoy lower prices, smaller crowds, and weather that’s still perfectly pleasant.
2. Avoid Holiday Weekends
A long holiday weekend seems like the perfect time to travel, but you’re not the only person thinking that. Popular attractions get overcrowded on long weekends like Labor Day and Memorial Day. Since airlines and hotels know they’ll have no shortage of customers, prices skyrocket too. Even gas prices tend to surge over busy travel weekends.
Choose a slow travel weekend and you’ll find better deals on lodging and travel.
3. Be Flexible
Don't have your heart set on a specific destination? Search for flight deals and let low prices guide your getaway. With sites like Skyscanner, you can set travel dates and search for the lowest ticket prices to anywhere in the world. If you have a thirst for adventure, there’s no better strategy for exploring on a budget.
If your heart is set on a destination but your dates are flexible, use Google Flights to find the cheapest months to travel. Then, set flight alerts so you know when ticket prices drop. Frugal Travel Guy explains how to set flight alerts with various airfare websites.
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Having Fun On a Budget
Booking flights and lodging is usually the most expensive part of a weekend trip, but how you spend your money at your destination makes a difference too. Thankfully, you don’t need to sacrifice fun to save a few dollars. Here are some ways you can make the most of your trip while watching your budget.
4. Score Deals on Days Out
Are there museums, landmarks, and other tourist attractions on your must-see list? Search deals on Groupon to find discounts on popular attractions, but be sure to read the fine print. Groupon deals may have restrictions or limitations that full-price admission tickets don’t.
Prefer to live like a local while traveling? Skip the busy tourist sites and scope out free events at your destination! From gallery walks to street fairs to free concerts, you can find tons of possibilities if you know where to look. Check out local independent newspapers and online calendars or ask a friendly local about the best things to do.
5. Use Local Transit
Is there anything more frustrating than driving in an unfamiliar destination? Not only do you have to find your way from Point A to Point B, you also have to find and pay for parking. In a busy city, the parking can take twice as long as the driving!
Spare yourself the stress and use public transit instead. It might take some studying to learn the transit system, but in the end you’ll spend less money and less patience than you would driving.
6. Dine Outside Busy Tourist Areas
Menus posted at the front door, wait staff ready to greet you, and ample seating right on the main drag — it's tough to resist dining in the main tourist area, but convenience comes at a price. Restaurants that cater to tourists tend to have higher prices without the quality to back them up. Step a few blocks outside the busy tourism neighborhoods to find delicious, authentic dining at significantly lower prices.
7. Eat in Your Hotel Room
Book a room with a kitchen and cook meals in your hotel room to save on dining out. Eating three meals per day at restaurants isn't just expensive, it's also time-consuming! Eating in your hotel room means you have more time to see the sights.
Some hotels have rooms with kitchenettes, but rooms with full kitchens are rare. Vacation rentals are more likely to have kitchens included, so check out vacation rentals through Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO, or a similar service.
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Traveling smart makes for not only a better experience on your weekend getaway, but making smart choices will also save you money!
8. Avoid Travel Scams
From fraudulent travel agents to expensive sightseeing packages that never materialize, there are many ways you can get taken advantage of while traveling. That’s especially true for seniors, who are frequently the target of travel scams.
Thankfully, it’s fairly simple to avoid travel scams if you’re careful. Stay away from businesses that demand payment before service is rendered or a contract is written and be wary of prices that seem too good to be true. Whenever you’re working with a travel, lodging, or car rental company, research their reputation through online reviews and the Better Business Bureau.
It only takes a minute to check that a company is legitimate, and it could save you thousands of dollars — not to mention lots of stress.
9. Go as a Group
Traveling with others is a great way to make memories and save on everything from lodging to transportation to meals! You can split a multi-room Airbnb, order tapas to share at the restaurant, and split the cost of a rental car.
So grab a few friends, some family members, or another couple to take along for the weekend. As an added bonus, you may be able to splurge for a few extra luxuries, like hiring a private chef for an evening or renting a place with a view. Just be sure to ask your travel mates before you make any final decisions.
10. Travel Light
This one may seem obvious, but it’s one that amateur travelers can easily miss. Packing light in just a carry-on travel backpack or bag can save you a bundle on checked baggage! By choosing a smaller bag, you may even be able to save some money before you go because there will be no room for extra last-minute purchases.
Want to save even more? Make a commitment to only pack what you already own. Unless you are going on an extreme adventure, the gear and apparel you already own will be just fine.
Don’t miss our Ultimate Gear and Packing Lists! Whether you’re traveling long-term or going on a short vacation, we'll show you how to travel with a single carry-on. We share our packing lists (his and hers!), packing tips, and our favorite gear. Plus, we discuss what we don’t carry and why!
Bonus Tips – Protecting your Home
Spending all your cash on flights and meals isn’t the only way to blow your travel budget. If you don’t take the right precautions, your weekend trip could get a lot more expensive than you bargained for.
11. Secure Your Home
Don’t let your house become a target for crime while you’re away. Lock your doors and windows, set the alarm before leaving, and ask a trusted neighbor or house sitter to watch over the house. If you can recruit a neighbor or house sitter to collect your mail and park their car in the driveway, that’s even better. Opportunistic burglars look for signs that a home is empty, but making it look like someone’s home is an effective deterrent.
12. Don’t Advertise your Absence
Burglars don’t just case houses in person — they also look online for signs that you’re out of town. That’s why you should never share vacation photos or status updates about your trip on social media until after you’ve returned home. If you’re posting photos or sharing news of your flight delays while on the road, you’re effectively advertising your empty home to potential criminals.
A vacation doesn’t need to be weeks long or cost thousands of dollars to be worth your while. When you’re tight on funds and short on time, a budget-friendly weekend trip is the perfect opportunity to relax and refuel.
Henry is a travel and health advocate. He co-created Fit Well Traveler, a site that blends travel and health. He loves to share his tips and insights on how to get the most out of both.