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How to Travel on a Budget

How to Travel on a Budget

April 02, 2019
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This previous winter has left most of us craving a summer getaway. Maybe a week at Disney World with the kids or a no-kids weekend away with your spouse – whatever it may be, there are always creative ways to cut down the cost of your vacation.

Last week, we sat down with Karen Braden who is the wife of our co-founder, Blair, and the official Braden Family travel agent. Karen and Blair travel frequently – one of their most recent trips was to Australia. They are currently planning a trip to Alaska this summer.

With the amount of traveling they do, Karen is constantly finding the best deals and utilizing a variety of money saving techniques.


When planning a trip, you generally start with the flight – at least you should. Afterall, it’s a bit risky to sign up for activities if you have no means of transportation to your destination.

Also, the cost of airfare is usually the highest cost you’ll incur when taking a trip, especially if your trip is only one or two weeks long. If you’re looking to book a trip that’s maybe a month long, you may get more out of the flight experience as well.

We understand that may not be the reality for most of us, but if you have the time and the financial means, take trips for one or two months at a time. Maybe you’re retired or maybe you have the ability to work outside of your office; by taking longer vacations, you can get the most bang for your buck.  

If this isn’t realistic for you and your family, 1) you aren’t alone. And 2) there are more opportunities to save money on flights.

Another way to save is through a subscription service. Karen uses a service called Next Vacay, however, there are other services you can use as well. For these subscriptions, you put in some general information about yourself and your nearest airport, then they’ll send you flight deals from your home airport to destinations around the world.

These deals usually cover a large timeframe, three or four months of flights. However, you have to be ready to pull the trigger when the deals hit your inbox.

If it’s possible to travel during the week rather than the weekend, you can also cut down on the cost of your flights. For example, travel Wednesday to Wednesday, rather than Saturday to Saturday.  


Hotels are another large cost you will incur. The best way to save on hotels and lodging is by vetting multiple hotel-booking platforms. Check different sites (i.e. Groupon and Travel Zoo) to find the best deal.

Of course, this may take some time, but in the end, it may save you some money.

Karen’s favorite, Travel Zoo, is a subscription service similar to Next Vacay. Once you sign up, they’ll send you a weekly digest of the top travel deals, which can include lodging, activities, etc.

Another thing to consider when booking your lodging is Airbnb. For those of you who may not know about Airbnb, they’re essentially short-term rentals. Owners of the properties will rent their property out for short-term guests and travelers. They are becoming very popular among travelers; however, they may be more expensive than hotels at times.

When it comes to Airbnb’s, the savings can be acquired on food. Most Airbnb’s will offer a kitchen of some sort where you can prepare your own meals. We understand that food may be part of the cultural experience, so consider preparing and eating your breakfast at the Airbnb then lunch and dinner out. Throughout Blair’s travels, he’s found that most breakfasts are either continental or small and relatively similar to ours here in the U.S.

By preparing your own breakfast, you can save quite a bit on meals. Another benefit to Airbnb’s is the washer and drier. Sometimes the Airbnb’s will offer these amenities, so you can save money and have clean clothes throughout the trip – which is priceless.

One drawback to Airbnb is many other countries – depending on where you go – are hard to navigate and may not have street signs at all. Generally, you’d use your phone for directions, but when your carrier charges $10/day for internet access, you aren’t saving much money.

Instead, try to find a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi or ask locals for help.


Activities are a lot of fun when traveling, and depending on how you travel, you may have daily events lined up. For others, you may prefer to spend your vacation on the beach, drink in hand, soaking up the sun. Here are some money-saving tips for both types of traveler.  

Many countries will offer free walking tours. This is a great way to not only save money, but to get acclimated with the lay of the land on your first day. These tours will often cater to budget travelers as well, sharing some of the cheaper activities to participate in throughout your trip.

Many times these tour guides do work on tips – so tip. With that said, tipping cultures are different in other countries. Many places don’t accept tips at all. Blair recalls his trip to Australia where the waiter was shocked at the idea of a tip. Get to know the customs beforehand and you may save some cash.

Another way to save – this way caters to those who would rather sit on the beach with a drink all day – is to grab some wine and cheese (or whatever the cultural equivalent is), find a park, and people watch. Enjoy your time and take in the culture. This is good for both your pocketbook and your wellbeing.

Public bike rentals are becoming a staple in many larger and tourist cities. This is a great way to save money and have a look around. This is also a great way to get in some exercise and burn off those extra wine-and-cheese calories.

Disclaimer: be cognizant of countries in which the cars drive on the other side of the road.

If those aren’t enough money-saving activities, try out a tour group. Tour groups aren’t free, and they may seem a little pricey because you pay for everything in advance. But, when you consider the time saved from planning and the value you get from the experiences, the price is usually reasonable. Generally, these tour groups will highlight all of the popular sights in one day. On top of that, they take care of everything. You pay one fee and they do all of the work. As mentioned in the podcast, Blair and Karen have used Gate 1 Travel, which has offered them some great experiences. That’s not to say there aren’t many other tour services you can utilize which may offer great experiences as well.

Traveling with Credit Cards

Many credit cards offer points and miles that you can use for your vacations. You can use points for restaurants and hotels, or you can use miles for flights. This is a great way to save IF you can pay off those charges immediately.

We don’t recommend credit cards in any financial plan, especially if you’re not the type to go in and pay them off right away. If you’re the type of person to let those charges sit or if you don’t have the financial means to pay off the cards, DO NOT go into debt for a vacation. The cost outweighs any of the benefits the card may offer.


There are a lot of ways you can cut back on costs without cutting back on your vacation experience. Here is a recap of the ways you can save when traveling:

  • Take longer flights and fly on weekdays if possible. Travel subscriptions can help reduce the cost of flights as well.
  • Travel subscriptions can help find the best deals on lodging. Airbnb’s are a great way to cut down the cost of food on vacation even if it’s just breakfast.
  • Activities such as walking tours, people watching, and bike riding are great ways to cut down on the daily costs of activities. Tours can be a great way to see a lot for a little.
  • DO NOT incur debt for a vacation. Only utilize the points if you’re the type to realistically have a zero balance every month. If you can’t pay down the balance immediately, the cost outweighs the benefits.

For more on traveling affordably, check out the Mind of a Millionaire podcast.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

The services provided by the companies mentioned in this podcast are for informational purposes and are separate from and are not affiliated with or endorsed by LPL Financial.

You are under no obligation to use the services of any company mentioned and may use any company to provide travel services. These entities and their services are not affiliated with LPL Financial and Denver Wealth Management.