4 Tips to Save Money on Vacation

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My husband and I celebrated our 5-year anniversary this past May. We waited until the end of June to take a celebratory trip so we’d be more confident about the weather since we intended to enjoy the beach on Lake Michigan. For 3 full days and two nights we spent a total of $142. Dave’s parents and siblings took care of our 18-month old while we were gone so we even enjoyed the luxury of free babysitting!

4 Tips to Save Money on Vacation

After we thoroughly enjoyed our last vacation without spending much money at all, I decided to put together the four main tips to save money on vacation that we typically use. Hopefully they’ll be useful for you too!

tips to save money on vacation1. Hit the grocery store

Eating out is expensive. By using just a little bit of creativity, you’ll realize that you don’t need to eat out for every meal. If you have a mini fridge and microwave in your hotel room, why not take advantage of it? You can bring some hardboiled eggs, veggies, hummus, string cheese, and fruit to cover snacks and supplement the carb-heavy continental breakfast often provided. Bring a lunchbox or small cooler so you can take some of these snacks with you (and maybe even items to make sandwiches for lunch).

If you don’t take anything else away from these tips to save money on vacation, just realize that buying food at the grocery store could save you hundreds of dollars over the course of just a few days!

2. Eat out for lunch, not dinner

If you take a look at Yelp or Trip Advisor, you’ll notice that many restaurants have different price ranges depending when you go out to eat. You’ll likely see something like “Lunch: $$, Dinner: $$$.” The lunch portions may be a little smaller which could be one reason the prices are cheaper than dinner but hey, we could probably afford some self-control when it comes to food portions at restaurants anyway. While on our vacation, my husband and I enjoyed a specialty wood-fired pizza for lunch that would have cost $5 more per person if we went for dinner. We still had an enjoyable time for dinner at Culvers (everyone had raved about it so we thought it would be a cheap dinner option). If you have access to a grill at a local park then you can save money by grilling out for dinner or even cooking it over a campfire.

3. Make FREE your priority

There are many opportunities to enjoy free stuff. I’m not picky about toiletry brands so I just used the free shampoo & soap provided at our hotel instead of bringing my own. As a dietitian, I’m an advocate of eating balanced meals that contain protein, fat, and carbs, so I wasn’t too thrilled with the complimentary breakfast: waffles, sugary cereal, and bagels. We poured a cup of coffee and grabbed a bagel (carb) so we could top it with our own meat (protein) and cheese (fat) that we picked up at the grocery store the day before.

Free entertainment is all around as well (and it’s one of our favorite tips to save money on vacation), especially in the summer. We put on over 10 miles in one day from walking everywhere.

  1. We parked at the beach & read our borrowed library books (free).
  2. We walked to the pier and enjoyed the view.
  3. We walked to get ice cream (not free but you can split a cone to cut down on cost and avoid over-indulging).
  4. And, we walked down the beach with our feet in the water for miles.

A quick Google search will tell you what events are going on in the area as well.

tips to save money on vacation4. Camp

Camping is a super inexpensive way to take a vacation. You get to see all the sites and still have all the fun, AND you get to sleep under the stars. And just to be clear, you don’t need to be a camping expert to camp. We were gifted a two-person tent for our wedding and FINALLY used it for real camping (we set it up in our living room for a movie night once). Prices vary depending where you stay but you can definitely camp for less than $50. We spent all day hanging out by the beach, set up our tent before dinner, and returned to the campsite after to roast s’mores and relax in front of the fire until we got tired. Being 6 months pregnant, I do wish I had brought an air mattress since all we used was a sleeping bag on the hard ground. However, it was only one night and having an air mattress would take away from the ‘roughing it’ that accompanies camping.

There are countless ways to save money on vacation but these four simple tips made a big difference for our total cost. You don’t need an elaborate all-inclusive trip or a flight far away to enjoy a vacation. We loved our time spent just a couple hours away from where we call home, and can afford to take more vacations like this throughout the year because of how we saved money.

What are some of your money-saving tips for vacation? How about with kids? 

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3 comments to 4 Tips to Save Money on Vacation

  • Vacations are great; vacation (financial) hangovers are not. On one trip to Hawaii we hit Costco on the first day and saved hundred by cooking many meals in our room. Splurging on a fancy lunch and having a tame dinner experience is wise. There are so many free activities. Parks make me happy. I like exploring for milkweed and monarch butterflies any chance I get. It cost’s me nothing but is very entertaining. If only Mrs. MBG liked camping… fortunately we save for our hotel before we visit the property. Street meat is a great stop at mealtime.

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