TOP 10 BUDGET TIPS TO SAVE MONEY ON YOUR NEXT VACATION | Published November 24th, 2020 | Last Updated July 14th, 2021

Woman on a laptop creating a travel budget

Don't Skip One of the Most Important Aspects of Trip Planning - The Budget

A budget may be the most essential aspect of planning your next getaway. Will you be able to afford mid-range to luxury dining and accommodations, or are you hitting hostels and backpacking your way through Europe? No matter which travel style you can afford, everyone wants to save money where they can. Follow these budget tips to cut costs as much as possible when booking your next journey.

Booking Flights

1 - USE WEBSITES LIKE SKYSCANNER TO GET THE BEST POSSIBLE PRICES - In Canada, Skyscanner suggests that you book one month in advance to get the best deals on both international and domestic flights. Algorithms that determine pricing in Canada also indicate that the best day to book a Domestic flight is Sunday, while you're more likely to get a better deal on an International flight if you book on a Thursday.

View of the clouds and the wing of a plane during flight

Use Sites Like Skyscanner to Get the Best Prices on Flights

Contingency Fund

2- HAVE A CONTINGENCY FUND IN YOUR BUDGET JUST IN CASE SOMETHING GOES WRONG - It would be a tough break to be stuck in a jam in a foreign country without backup money to help you out of it. There are differing ideas on how much the contingency fund should be; some fly by the seat of their pants with no spare money while others say they feel comfortable with 10% of the trip’s cost or a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. The amount is entirely up to you, but it seems sensible to have a bit stashed away for emergencies.

Budget Planner

3 - USE A BUDGET PLANNER TO SEE HOW MUCH YOU CAN AFFORD TO SPEND ON THE TRIP - Planning your budget ahead of time will help to determine how much you can spend on accommodations, attractions and dining. Will you be able to splurge for that dream hotel, or will you stay in budget accommodations to afford the trip? Seeing it on paper and saving as you go will help to cater your vacation to your style of travel. You can find a PDF budget planner here to help you get started.

PDF of travel budget planner from

Use a Travel Budget Planner to See How Much you can Afford to Spend on your Trip

Travel Points

4 - USE TRAVEL POINTS FROM YOUR CREDIT CARDS IF YOU HAVE THEM - While travel reward credit cards may have a higher interest rate attached to them, the benefit of getting flights for free seems to offset that interest rate, if you're paying off your balances, of course. Be sure to check the terms of the credit card you're applying for, especially when it comes to blackout periods and other stumbling blocks that may not allow you to book flights when you want them.

Exchanging Money

5 - DON'T EXCHANGE MONEY AT THE AIRPORT, OR AT YOUR HOTEL - The rates are not to your benefit, and the fees can be exorbitant.

In Canada, I use KnigtsBridgeFX, which allows me to get what I feel is the best deal on currency exchange before departing for my trip. I only carry a bit of cash with me then use my credit card and pay in local currency.

Since my credit card does not charge on foreign transactions, I use it to pay for most items. When the prompt comes up and asks if I want to pay in my own currency or the local currency, I ALWAYS choose local which saves on fees.

Try to avoid ATMs if you can. ATMs across Europe called Euronet, and even some bank ATMs recognize your card as foreign and charge higher fees for your withdrawal. Since I don't know which bank ATMs do this, I play it safe and stick with my credit card.

Various denominations of Canadian and American bills fanned out

To Save on Fees, Don't use Hotels or Airports to Exchange Currency

City Passes

6 - WILL A CITY PASS SAVE YOU MONEY ON THE ATTRACTIONS YOU WANT TO SEE? - There are numerous cities worldwide that offer these passes, and most of them are set up in a similar way.

  • You are provided with a list of attractions.

  • You choose the number of days you that you will use the pass. (For example, you can buy a Paris Pass for 2, 3, 4 or 6 days). The price increases as the number of days increases. NOTE: The days need to be consecutive, so it’s best to ensure the attractions you want to see all fall one day after the other.

  • An added benefit is that some of these passes include skip-the-line privileges, which in itself may be worth it to travellers that don’t want to spend their vacations waiting in long queues.

I've found that some of these passes are worth it, while others are not. I look at the list of attractions I want to see and add up how much it would cost on their own and then figure out if there would be savings using the pass. If you're in a city with numerous attractions, these passes are often worth the cost.

Renting Cars

7 - IF YOU'RE RENTING A CAR, RENT A SMALL ONE - Both compact and economy cars will not only have a lower rental cost, but they are also less expensive on gas.

  • When budgeting for the cost of fuel, be sure you find out if the vehicle requires gas or diesel and the average price of fuel for that country.

  • If you require a GPS, use a Garmin system if you already have one or possibly borrow one. It's costly to rent a GPS daily, but on the flip side, it’s worth its weight in gold, especially if you're a solo traveller.

  • If you're able to drive manual (standard), it's cheaper to rent than automatic.

Interior of a rental car with GPS navigation on the dashboard

Renting a Compact or Economy Car Saves on Rental Costs and Fuel Prices

Save on Food

8 - CUT FOOD COSTS BY BOOKING A ROOM OR APARTMENT WITH A KITCHEN - Whether you want to cook full meals daily or grab cheap and easy take away, having a kitchen with a few amenities can go a long way in cutting down on food costs.

Here are a few other ideas to save money on meals:

  • Try to book accommodations that have breakfasts included.

  • Pack snacks to take with you during the day.

  • Eat out at lunch instead of dinner when prices tend to be higher.

  • Eat at cafes instead of restaurants.

  • Avoid tourist areas! The food prices are higher, and unfortunately, the food is often not as good as the local's restaurants.

Take away tiled on a floor with man and woman's shoes

Eating Take Away or Having a Kitchen to Cook Meals will Save on Food Costs

Booking Hotels

9 - BOOKING HOTELS 1 TO 3 DAYS AHEAD OFTEN MEANS THEY ARE LESS EXPENSIVE - If you're comfortable not planning ahead of time, you can show up in a city and book a hotel the same day to save money. However, this may mean not having as many hotels to choose from.

If you prefer to have options or want to stay at a specific hotel, it's best to book far in advance. When making reservations early on, more rooms will be available to you. For example you may want a standard room and since these tend to sell out first, if you wait you may need to book for a suite instead.

When to Travel

10 - TO GET THE BEST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK, TRAVEL DURING OFF SEASON OR SHOULDER SEASON - Not everyone has a choice of travel time, but if you can book when you want, here are the pros and cons of both periods.

Off Season

  • The Pro - You can save a significant amount of money on everything from flights to accommodations and car rentals. You'll save more money in off-season than any other time of the year.

  • The Con - The weather is often poor, and many attractions may not operate.

Shoulder Season

  • The Pro - The weather can be as nice, if not nicer, than high season since the temperatures won't be as extreme. Also most, if not all attractions are in operation.

  • The Con - It will be more expensive than off season.

The key to planning a fabulous vacation has to start with a solid budget. Knowing how and where you’ll spend your money and how to stretch your dollars can add up not only to incredible cost savings but a more enjoyable trip. Start budgeting, start planning, and enjoy your next adventure!

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