10 Tips to Help You Prepare For a Vacation and Save Money

Preparing for VacationVacations are a lot of fun.

But they can get expensive pretty quickly.

By taking a few money saving steps prior to leaving, you’ll be in good shape to enjoy your trip without all the extra expense.

Mrs. PT and I are on vacation this week celebrating our 2nd Anniversary. We were able to use some of these tips before we left. Check them out…

Buy Your Sunblock Before You Go

We’re headed to the beach and so we’ll need a lot of sunscreen. We visited our local drug store to pick some up before we left.

Sunscreen selection at your destination is likely to be limited and have a pretty decent markup. So shop around while at home and find the sunscreen you need at the best price.

Prior to Your Trip, Visit the Library

You’re going to want something to read while in route or while relaxing. And you could use a nice travel guide for when you get there. Swing by your local library and check out some books for free.

A close second is a used book store like Half-Priced Books. We visited there and purchased a few books and some $1 Magazines. This helps curb the temptation of buying at the airport.

Read from Your Laptop or (if you’re not bringing one) Print Articles to Bring Along

Visit your favorite magazine’s online page, browse the PT Money archives and print some articles to enjoy and help pass the time. Need a book to read online? Try Google Books.

Exchange Your Money in The States Before Leaving

Try and do your conversion (to foreign currency) prior to leaving the US with your US bank or the institution that will give you the best rate with the lowest commission. Shop around.

As a bonus, you’ll have local cash on hand when you hit the ground. See what I wrote last week on travel and international banking, including bringing the right credit card.

Bring A Soft-Side Cooler

One thing we really like doing when on a beach vacation is bringing our own Collapsible Cooler. Not only is this cheaper than buying a new disposable one when you get there, it’s environmentally friendly. We bring a cooler sized perfect for keeping a few waters and snacks nice and cool.

Look for Online Coupons for Your Destination

Now that you know where you’re going and you’ve booked your flights and hotel, scour the Internet for dining and activity deals in your location. You should be able to score a couple of two-for-one meals or discounts on activities.

Looking for more online deals? Subscribe to PT Money to stay informed.

Bring a Few Snacks

It’s probably a good idea to pack a few snacks for the trip and in case of an emergency. This also helps you deal with the temptations of expensive snacks at the airport or on the plane.

Purchase Your Waterproof Camera and Film Before Your Go

Like sunscreen, these one-time use items are more available and less-expensive usually when purchased before you head out on your trip. Gone digital? Make sure you have enough space in your media card and think about bringing a Waterproof Case for your digital camera.

Inform the Hotel About Your Special Occasion

If, like us, you’re vacation is planned around a special occasion, call or email the hotel ahead of time to inform them.

Most places like to make a big deal out of this and will throw in some nice freebies on your arrival. Who knows, you may get a complimentary meal as well. Doesn’t hurt to let them know.

I hope you enjoyed these tips. Where’s #10? That’s for you to add. Leave your pre-vacation money saving tip in the comments below.

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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. @FFB – great point..when travelling regionally, your best bet is to hit up the local walmart for some of these things. something fun about grocery shopping on vacation…feels extra special for some reason.

  2. Nice stuff! I would agree on the cameras and sunscreen. Stuff that they sell on resorts are 50% higher than on the actual market. When going to a trip, we usually have just a couple of bags, all clothes and gadgets that we would use in the trip. And we pack our lunch rather than buying it.

  3. Great tips. Stuff like sunscreen and cameras will usually be cheaper at home than at a resort (by a lot!!). The only exception would be if you’re traveling somewhere that has a WalMart or something like that. Buying the items there could save you some space in your luggage.

    And buying snacks has helped us soo much. We’ll usually go to BJ’s and buy a box of snack bars for the trip. They’re great for the place rides and to snack during the day on vacation. Some days a snack bar and coffee have been substitutes for breakfast (poor substitutes but cheaper and quicker than getting breakfast in the hotel).