1. Only rent a car if you truly need to
Some cities require a rental car while others don’t. Check out the area and see if you think that you will need to drive when you are there. A good indication is usually the parking fee – the higher the daily parking rate, the less likely you will need a car.
If you don’t have a car – get around like the locals walking or taking public transportation. Google maps is a godsend, allowing you to easily get around without continually asking for directions.
Should you rent a car, make sure you pay the lowest possible rental fee by searching around. Also, make sure that you fill up your car further away from the airport as the closer you get, the more expensive the gas gets.
2. Don’t pay to check your bags
Unless you’re flying Southwest Airlines, you’ll be charged for every bag that you check. See if you can fit everything for your trip into a carry on bag. It’s not as challenging as you think if you plan it out and don’t blindly throw things that you may need into your bag. As an added bonus, once you deplane, you can immediately leave the airport, you don’t have to wait to collect your luggage.
Should you check your bag, sometimes the second bag is less expensive than the first. If you’re traveling in a group, see if you can check both bags under the same person to save a little money.
If you are flying a deep discount carrier such as Frontier Airlines or Spirit Airlines, you will be charged for a carry on as well. You can carry on a personal item (deemed anything that can fit under the seat in front of you) for free. If you can cram everything into a backpack, you can get away without paying any fees. If you are going to have to carry on a bag, make sure that you factor in your carry on bag fee to your ticket price and make sure that you’re still getting a good deal. Sometimes once you add your fees, taking a traditional airline may be cheaper than the discount airline.
3. Stay at a hotel that includes breakfast
Ironically most nicer hotels don’t include breakfast but basic hotels do. We try and stay at hotels that include breakfast because even though it isn’t the best breakfast that we have ever eaten, it’s free. We take the savings and apply it to things that we really want to do when we’re on our trip.
4. See if there are any free things to see/do
Google [city name] free events and see what turns up. Most cities have websites dedicated to free events in their area. Even if there isn’t a website there are likely things that you can do in the area such as visiting the beach, walking around a cool neighborhood or finding a street musician that you can listen to.
As a bonus, if you’re traveling the first weekend of the month and have a Bank of America account, there are a number of museums that you can get free entry to.
5. Dine away from the tourist areas
Tourist areas are usually filled with overpriced, mediocre restaurants. Venture outside of the area and you can likely find less expensive, better restaurants. Not sure where to go? Ask a local that is walking by or check highly rated restaurants on Yelp.
Proceed with caution when asking your hotel where to dine. Often times they get kickbacks for referring guests to certain restaurants or recommend chain restaurants which have a broad appeal to guests.
6. Look for happy hour/daily deals
Google [city name] happy hour specials and see if anything pops up. Many bars offer deals during their slowest times of the day – typically late afternoon to early evening. Even if the bar/restaurant isn’t listed on a website, you can always ask the waitress or hostess if there is a happy hour deal or daily special.
If you are traveling on a weekday, there are likely more specials than a weekend but it’s always worth a look.
7. Consider switching hotels during the trip
If you are arriving late or leaving early, consider staying at a less expensive hotel for the night. From there, you can move to your nicer hotel for the balance of the trip.
If you’re renting a car, consider picking it up the following morning or returning it the night before your flight. By taking advantage of a hotel’s free airport shuttle, you won’t have to pay an extra day of your rental car.
8. Before paying any entry fees, see if there is a discount
Sometimes museums will give you a discount if you purchase your ticket online. Always check the day before as some discounts are not valid the day of the purchase. As an added bonus, you also don’t have to wait in line.
If you have children, are a senior citizen, student, AAA member or an active/former military, there may be additional discounts available to you.
9. Eat one less expensive meal once a day
Hopefully your breakfast is already included in your hotel room rate. That leaves 2 meals a day that you have to pay for. Consider going out for a basic lunch so you have more money left over for a nicer dinner. Watch your drinks during dinner though, alcohol can drive your bill up very quickly!
10. Join the hotel loyalty program
You should join the hotel loyalty program for every hotel that you stay at for 3 reasons:
- You earn points which you can apply to upcoming trips
Even if you don’t stay at a hotel chain often, you can usually credit your hotel points to an airline which for leisure travelers might be a better redemption value.
- You can get free wifi
For some reason, higher end hotels make it seem as though you have to pay for wifi in your room. Typically if you are a loyalty club member, you accept the most basic wifi fee and the charge is reversed off your bill. All hotels are different though, so check with the front desk before accepting any charges.
- You are more likely to get upgraded
While the odds of a leisure traveler getting upgraded are lower than those who travel often for business, it can still happen. Make sure that your loyalty program is included on your reservation when you check in and be nice to the front desk agent. Even if you aren’t upgraded, you could be placed in a room that is quieter or has a better view if you ask nicely.
11. Bring home hotel toiletries
Whenever we leave a hotel, we always grab the travel size toiletries and take them home. Once the bottles are opened, the hotel can’t use them again so they would just get thrown away. While it isn’t going to make you independently wealthy, it’ll make it so you don’t have to purchase shampoo, conditioner, body wash or lotion quite as often.
If you’re particular about your toiletries, still grab them and donate to a not for profit which will put them to good use.