3 Basic Rules I Follow to Make Travel Less Expensive

by Maurie Backman | Updated May 20, 2022 - First published on Sept. 13, 2021

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A family loading bags into a car in their driveway in preparation for a road trip.

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Want to spend less on travel? Here's how.

As someone who enjoys traveling, I know how expensive it can get. This especially holds true when I'm taking a family trip as opposed to a rare trip by myself or just with my husband. And while I do my part to book my vacations on the right credit cards to maximize cash back and reward points, the costs can still add up. But through the years, I've managed to keep my travel expenses down by following these basic rules.

1. Never travel on a holiday weekend

It can be tempting to travel on a holiday weekend. There's a free day off of work, and if you have children, school's out for an extra day, which means you don't have to worry about an unexcused absence.

But I pretty much never travel on a holiday weekend unless there's a specific reason like a friend getting married. Flights and hotels will almost always be pricier during holiday weekends, and they'll almost always be more crowded. Instead, I'll try to take shorter trips on regular weekends to keep my costs down.

2. Drive whenever it's feasible

Some destinations aren't reasonable to drive to. If you're an East Coaster looking to visit the West Coast and you only have a week of vacation time, hopping in the car to reach your destination clearly won't work. But if my family has enough time for a road trip, we'll take one rather than fly when possible. Doing so tends to save us a lot of money.

In fact, in recent years, we've driven from New Jersey to Florida on several occasions to visit Disney World, and driving has easily saved us more than $1,000 per trip. And while it certainly isn't the easiest drive (it's about 16 hours), we find it doable.

3. Don't overpay for hotels

When my family travels, we'll often stay at campgrounds to keep our costs down and also because we find camping fun. But sometimes, camping doesn't work out, or we'll want to be a little less grungy in the course of our travels, so we'll book a hotel room instead.

Hotels can be pricey, so one rule we always follow is to stay at a bare-bones property without extra amenities. When we're on the go, we tend to use our hotels as a place to sleep and bathe -- that's it. We don't need added perks like a swimming pool or fancy breakfast buffet because we'd usually rather spend our time out and about exploring the places we visit. And since I have children who are picky eaters, I often pack my own food for them anyway.

Traveling can cost a lot of money, whether you're doing it solo or with a family. But there are steps you can take to minimize that expense. Spending less on individual trips allows my family to take more trips. So for us, it's worth making some sacrifices in the course of our vacations.

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