10 Ways to Save on Travel

Save on Travel

Automatic airport kiosks: maybe not the best way to purchase electronics?

With everyone wanting to save as much money as possible these days, many of us spend a great deal of time planning to make a vacation as frugal as possible.

We watch airfares for months, we buy flights on the best days, and we bid on hotel rooms and get good deals.

And while all of those things definitely contribute to making our vacations as cost-effective as possible, they are not the only costs involved. Often we can sabotage our vacation budgets by the “little things” that occur once we get to the airport or train station or when we put the car in drive and head off on our road trip.

Planning ahead for all aspects of a vacation is the #1 thing we can do to cut costs. If we only consider how we’re going to get there and where we’ll stay, chances are we’ll find ourselves spending way more money than we want to.

Here are some ways to save on travel when you’re at the airport, train station, or in your car:

Eat Outside of the Airport – Your best bet is always going to be eating at home, if your schedule allows. If you can’t eat at home, pick up something on the way; it’s still going to be cheaper than eating in the terminal. Yes, it might be fast food, but there are healthier fast food options available for you to choose from.

Bring a Few of Your Own Snacks – Even if you eat a meal before you get to the airport or train station, it’s easy to find yourself with a case of the munchies before you board. Snacks are rarely cheap in airports or train stations. If you pack your own, you’ll be better prepared to resist the urge to make an impulsive purchase.

Make sure your snacks are dry goods and don’t include liquids or gels, though. If you’re driving, take a small cooler with drinks and even picnic items. Stop at a park and give the kids a chance to get out of the car for a bit. It’s a win-win.

Bring My Own Reading Material – Load up some books on your eReader or bring some from home. Better yet, go to the library and pick up a few or share eBooks with a friend. If books are too heavy, consider borrowing magazines instead. Rarely is one magazine going to be enough for one vacation, and if you wait to buy them while you’re away, then you’re looking at extra money.

Carry On Your Bags – Checked baggage fees are astronomical these days. Inasmuch as you are able, pack lightly and take a carry on bag instead of a large piece of luggage. If you’re traveling as a family, try to pack everything into fewer suitcases than you have family members. You will still have fees, of course, but less than you would have if everyone took his/her own.

Catch a Ride to the Airport or Train Station – Parking fees will add up if you are gone for even just a few days. Another way to save money is to ask a friend or a family member to drop you and your family off and have them pick you up when you arrive home.

Sure, it might be inconvenient for them, but offering to reimburse them for gas money is still probably going to be cheaper than if you paid parking fees or for a taxi service.

Use Public Transportation – Sure it would be nice to jump in a taxi and be dropped off at your hotel, but it is going to cost more money than if you were to take a bus or subway. It would be helpful if you researched routes before you left home, so that you could already have your plan in mind before you even picked up your baggage.

Consider Off-Site Car Rental – An additional way to save is to rent a car from a location away from the airport. Just be sure to note what time the off-site office opens and closes and plan your pick-up/drop-off accordingly because you’ll want to leave yourself enough time to clear security after dropping the car off.

You’ll also want to consider the price of getting to/from the airport to the car rental site, which might involve public transportation or hailing a taxi back to the airport, another expense.

Refuel Your Rental Car Yourself – Their gas is always more expensive because you’re paying them for the time and effort it takes to refuel the car after you’ve returned it. Save yourself a few bucks and fill it up at a gas station down the street before you return it.

Carpool to Save Money on Gas – Going on a road trip in the family minivan? Depending on how much space you have, is it possible to invite a friend or another family to join you? It sure would help save on gas and other expenses, not to mention add more adventure to your vacation!

Many of these ideas might seem insignificant, but they add up over time—especially if you’re traveling as a family and not an individual. And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t like to save on travel when they can?

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About Philip Taylor, CPA

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a CPA, blogger, podcaster, husband, and father of three. PT is also the founder and CEO of the personal finance industry conference and trade show, FinCon. He created this website back in 2007 to share his advice on money, hold himself accountable (while paying off over $75k in debt), and to meet others passionate about moving toward financial independence. He uses Personal Capital to track his wealth. All the content on this blog is original and created or edited by PT.


  1. There’s a bar at JFK where I had a drink and it came to $11!
    I was shocked but still gave the guy a tip.
    When I took a closer look at the receipt, the tips was already included!
    I just smiled at the bartender …

  2. Cheapchick says

    I also am flying out tommorrow. Packed some used books for reading material and snacks for hubby. Additional things I do when travelling: Always pack tea, coffee, sweetener and own 2 travel mugs. Hotels usually have some of this but they certainly do not usually have the brand you prefer. Normal hotel sized coffee cups are 1/3 the size I actually prefer for my tea. Always pack a very small umbrella. Many years ago I was stuck forking over big bucks when caught without one. Instead of using hotel giftshops for anything other than a paper I try to see if there is a regular grocery store nearby in case any items are required like bottled water or forgotten items. If going somewhere snorkelling I always prepurchase underwater disposable cameras at home as usually they tend to be three times the cost in Tropical destinations.

  3. We are flying next week (vacation!! YAY!!) so this comes in handy. I was wondering about the water bottle. Hoping I don’t get my empty SIGG taken away.

    I picked up 50 books last week for $12.00 at my local library’s annual book sale. I think my husband and I are set for reading material…

    Speaking of gels…I was reading TSA’s site last night just to make sure I don’t get cavity searched or something…I didn’t realize gel sole inserts for your shoes were “verboten”! I guess no one is “Gellin'” (those crazy commercials) at the airport!

  4. Studenomics says

    I tried saving money at the airport back in February but the security was so strict they took my water bottle away. Thank god for my iphone I was able to kill time reading while my friends were passed out.

  5. I also bring a reusable water bottle with me on trips – empty of course. Once I walk through the check point I fill it up at the water fountain. That easily saves me $3 or more each way. (I drink a lot of water on flights because the recycled air is so dry).