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Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips. This post was updated August 7, 2020.

You’ve probably been cooped up for a while now and are already thinking longingly ahead for when you can travel again. Same. But now is actually a great time to start preparing for that much-needed vacation, by saving up money wherever and whenever you can. So while the internet is rife with articles telling you how to save money while you’re on vacation—from packing your own snacks for theme parks to bringing a refillable water bottle through airport security—we’re here to share tips for saving money right now, before your trip even starts.

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First, set a travel budget

Young woman working on a laptop
It may sound like a buzzkill to start trip planning with a budget number in mind, but too often budget travelers limit themselves by assuming they can’t possibly afford an overseas trip or popular city. In reality, there are so many places accessible to travelers today that just might not be on their radar. One tool we recommend is Vacation Value Finder from CheapTickets. You start your vacation search by inputting the price you want to pay up front and a few preferences like season and activities. It returns trip ideas based on what you can actually afford—and you’d be surprised at the places you can go. It’s a great way to get an idea of what’s possible.

Then, start saving

If you’re just starting you career or are still a student working part-time, this might seem easier said than done. But there are many mostly pain-free ways to save. Cut out extras by making your own coffee in the morning, riding your bike or taking public transit instead of Uber, and bringing a lunch more often. But you can also skim off the top of your own paycheck with an app like Digit, a money-saving app that lets you “set it and forget it” by connecting with your bank account. The app monitors your spending habits and saves money accordingly, so you might save $3.25 one day and $26.23 on another, depending on your balance and spending habits. Set up personal savings goal to fund your trip and the app will make sure you meet it by your deadline—without much thought on your part. You can try it free for the first 100 days; it’s $2.99 a month after that.

Look for last-minute deals

While you might not be ready to book now, shopping for last-minute deals can really save travelers a lot when the time comes. If you are flexible and can travel at a moment’s notice, you’ll unlock savings on last-minute inventory, especially with hotels or vacation packages where you book a combination like hotel and airfare or hotel and car together. When CheapTickets compared booking windows for spring break this year, the cheapest time to book a vacation package was just one week out. Setting up alerts, shopping via apps on your mobile phone or getting on an email list for travel deals from an online travel agency is a great way to find extra savings.

Take a road trip

Shot of a young man enjoying a road trip

Budget travelers know that when you are looking to save, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. Taking the long route, aka making a road trip of it and driving, is an easy way to cut back on airfare costs, which do tend to spike during the busy summer travel season. This is especially true if you’re traveling with more than two people.

Go farther afield

This tip has double meaning, too: Look for accommodations and airports further out from your desired destination to save. Budget airlines, like Dublin-based Ryanair, are known for flying in and out of smaller or secondary European airports like London-Stanstead to save on fares. The same applies for hotels. If you can stay in a neighborhood on the edge of downtown or in a nearby suburb you can often find better deals.

Search for hotels with free perks

Sometimes the little extras at hotels can add up. We’re talking parking fees, resort fees, airport transportation, breakfast, etc. When it comes time to book, search on sites like CheapTickets for hotels that include all these amenities for free. It’s as easy as clicking a few boxes to filter your results.

Challenge yourself to a no-spend month

Think you can do it? Try it! You’ll still have to pay your rent, of course, but for everything else, set your credit cards aside and try to resist all spending. You might have to get creative cooking with what you have in your pantry, and you’ll have to quit eating out or buying any new clothes for a month but a no-spend month could mean the difference between a summer vacation closer to home or a plane ticket to someplace new. Don’t discount just how far a little penny pinching can take you!

Tagged: Cheap Tips, Tips & advice

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

CheapTickets Blog Editors

CheapTickets Blog Editors

CheapTickets editors are a diverse group of writers and bloggers who live and work all over the world and who have a passion for student-friendly budget travel coursing through their veins. Whether it's finding the most Instagrammable yurt in the Coachella Valley or uncovering dirt cheap eats in expensive cities like Tokyo and Paris, our writers take the road less traveled to uncover the world's best deals and destinations.

One thought on “Easy tips for saving up money BEFORE your next vacation”

  1. what are the baggage requirements, weight and sizes. Can I take my backpack with my laptop, besides the Carry-On baggage??

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