Ways to Save Money for Travel

** This post contains referral links that I could receive compensation for. It helps me pay for travel!

In 2007, I decided I wanted to travel to a new place every year. I was inspired by the Dalai Lama quote you often see on Pinterest: “Once a year, go some place you’ve never been before.” Back then I had student loan and credit card debt, and I was living paycheck to paycheck. I worked at a newspaper that had furloughs or layoffs every year, too. (I loved the job, though!) Despite all that, I knew I wanted to make travel a priority, even if it meant traveling to nearby cities I had never been to and saving international travel for later. That’s how this blog started. It was a way for me to see new places and experience new things. Now I am in a better financial position, but I still take many of the same small steps to save cash throughout the year for travel.

  • Using Ebates for online purchases and transferring cash-back checks to savings. I only recently started using Ebates but I’ve already accumulated $111.06. Tip: If you’re headed to a store, try shopping online first using Ebates and then pick the order up! That way you earn for purchases you would already be making. Also, I only shop online if I get free shipping.
  • Ebates Coupons and Cash Back
  • Also, booking hotel rooms and airfare with Ebates and using deals sites! Example: I recently used Priceline via Ebates when it was offering 12 percent cash back. I booked an Express Deal, which was 30 percent off on a 4-star hotel. My room was even more affordable! (You don’t know which hotel you are getting with Express Deals, but I have practiced figuring out which hotel is the secret deal.) Orbitz, Expedia, Hotwire, Travelocity and Booking.com are also on Ebates, along with many other travel sites. When booking airfare I almost always use a site on Ebates.
  • Keeping a good old-fashioned change jar and enrolling in automatic transfers to savings. It works. You’ve heard it before because you really do build up some savings. When Graham and I saved for our honeymoon, we had enough loose change to pay for our car rental for about a week, plus some gas money! If I pay with something with cash, I put all or most of the change into the jar. 
  • Sharing referral and affiliate codes and links with friends and family so that if they use a particular service you recommend, you get paid! For example, Booking.com offers a referral bonus of $20 for you and $20 for the friends you refer; I’ve used the booking site many times to find affordable lodging options. I try to reciprocate by using friends’ and fellow bloggers’ codes as well.
  • Freelance writing and editing. Do you have a side hustle? It could help you pay for travel!
  • Decluttering and selling extra items on eBay, Craigslist, Poshmark and other sites. I regularly sell books, clothes and handbags I no longer use. I use cash-back sites to sell old electronics, like laptops, cellphones and cameras. (I have used eBay and Gazelle.)
  • Participating in no-buy months for specific categories of items, such as makeup, clothing and books. Overall, things I don’t spend money on include getting nails done, shoes, books, magazines and going out to bars. Identify what you can go without. (I have only bought two or three pairs of shoes in the past year and I received my new running shoes as a gift. Also, I allow myself one or two brunches with friends a month, but during most months I don’t even go once.) I’m not saying these are bad items to spend money on, but I have found that I can go without them. I also find that good friends will let you borrow books when they are done with them. 
  • Analyzing subscriptions and cutting back on them. I had an Audible subscription until recently, when I decided to put it on hold. I plan to revive it when a certain book is released soon. Cancel memberships you’re not using!
  • Save a portion of all bonuses, raises or overtime pay for travel. Whenever I get a bonus at work I use half for bills and half for fun. 
  • Using Spothero to save on parking costs in Chicago. Paying for parking and transportation is unavoidable here, so I might as well find ways to save. I regularly get emails from Spothero with promo codes that I keep in mind when we need parking. I have found spots for $10 that are normally more than $25 in the Loop. Sometimes I take the train so that I don’t have to pay for parking at all (Train tickets are $3-6.).
Saving during travel:
  • Stay in accommodations that have kitchens so you can cook at least part of your meals.
  • Share accommodations with friends and split the cost.
  • Pack snacks and drinks in a cooler (if you’re on a road trip) and shop at grocery stores for at least some of your meals on vacation. 
  • Bring a water bottle to refill.
  • Camp at your destination! Graham and I camped on Maui and it was amazing! It saved us hundreds on lodging.
  • Bring your own snorkel or beach gear to save on rental costs.
What are some of your tricks for saving money for travel or fun?