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10+ effortless ways to save money on travel

Save money on travel by choosing small villages like this one, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, in Germany. ©AlonzoWright
You could be in the office, or you could be wandering through this charming village, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, along Germany's Romantic Road. ©AlonzoWright

Ah, it’s just another blissful day at the office. Mary has packed her second tuna fish sandwich this week, Bob's cackle is echoing across three conference rooms, and you’ve got back-to-back meetings all day. Naturally, your mind starts to drift and before you know it, you're daydreaming about your next vacation. You can almost see yourself swinging your afternoons away in that hammock, trailing your toe through the sugary sand, your worries a million miles away. And then reality creeps back in. You start thinking, “I have too many bills to take a vacation right now,” “everything is so expensive,” and of course, “can I even afford to take the whole family?’

I’ll be honest, I don’t like to talk about money when it comes to travel. It’s value that I find most important. I’m one of those people who knows incredible food is found in places ranging from a family farm down a lonely dirt road in Viñales, to the Michelin-starred restaurants in San Sebastian. Both are exceptional experiences that are worth no more or less than the other. But I also know that not everyone thinks the same way I do. There are about three main reasons the majority of people think they can’t travel, and money is one of them (you can find the other two here).

So I put together a list of 10+ effortless ways to save money on travel, both before and during your trip. And speaking of ways to save money, Manifesting Travel was named a top Austin, TX, travel expert by Redfin. Check out the article we were featured in:

10 Most Affordable Austin Suburbs to Live In.

Remember, you can’t afford not to take a vacation, your mental health and happiness depend on it. And while we’re at it, start making a plan to finally ask your boss for that raise. We both know you deserve it.

The red Canal Street cable car in New Orleans snapped on a trip where we used Google Flights to save money on travel. ©AlonzoWright
Scored a flight from Vegas to New Orleans for $89+tax using Google Flights. How's that for saving money on travel? ©AlonzoWright

1. Stay flexible

Set up a Google Flights alert for destinations you’d like to travel to and let them do the work. Don’t have a particular destination in mind? Even better. Use the “explore” feature on Google Travel. Just plug in your home airport, the month or months you’re willing to travel, and the duration of your trip. Move the map around and you’ll be served up dozens of destinations at various price points. Are you a CapitalOne credit card holder? You can set up flight alerts with them too. Staying flexible allows you to book when the prices drop. One thing to note, you'll have to head to Southwest Airlines for their deals, they're not on Google Flights.

2. Use your credit card points

In this day and age, there is absolutely no reason anyone should ever have a credit card with no perks. The competition is too fierce between credit card companies. Each month, put as much of your ordinary living expenses on your credit card as you can, so you can start accruing the points. Some companies will even offer double the points on entertainment and dining out. This isn’t an evaluation of credit cards, just a note to say you’re missing out on free money if you don’t have the right credit cards in your wallet. Redeeming your points for flights and hotel stays can save you a ton of money on travel. I just booked two round trip flights to Europe using nothing but my credit points.

Travel saving tip: go during the off season to a beautiful city like Florence, Italy with the River Arno and the Duomo and city lights sparkling. ©AlonzoWright
Travel saving tip? Go during the shoulder seasons. How beautiful is Florence in October? ©AlonzoWright

3. Travel in off seasons and shoulder seasons

Everybody travels in the summer, and why wouldn’t they? The weather is nice, the flowers are blooming, the kids are out of school. But you’re also going to pay for it because it’s high season. Here’s the thing, you aren’t going to have any less of an incredible time if you go during a shoulder season. September is one of the best months to travel anywhere and it’s cheaper because it’s just outside of peak season. We had a destination wedding in Italy in October, just one week outside the peak harvest season, and it saved us almost $10,000 (USD). Just by moving our wedding date one week later.

Here’s what you have to remember, it’s always the off-season somewhere. If you’re limited to summer travel because of the kids (and you’re in the northern hemisphere), try visiting someplace in the southern hemisphere where the seasons are flipped like Argentina or Uruguay. And read this if you’re looking for the best time to travel.

4. Stay just outside the prime tourist locations

Say you want to visit Las Vegas but don’t have a budget for the gorgeous, fancy hotels. You can stay one block off the Strip or in the bustling downtown Las Vegas neighborhood for sometimes less than half the price. The same goes for other cities you may visit. Staying as close to the prime location as possible, but not actually in it, will save you tons of money. Just make sure you’re not staying so far out, that you end up spending the money you saved on public transportation to get back and forth to the sites you want to see.

Save money on travel by going to fancy restaurants like Estiatorio Milos inside the Venetian Resort Las Vegas during lunch time instead of dinner.
One of the best kept secrets in Las Vegas is the special 3-course lunch menu at Estiatorio Milos inside the Venetian Resort Las Vegas. Photo courtesy of the Venetian Resort Las Vegas.

5. How to save money on food

Listen, nobody is advocating you eat off the dollar menu. But there are tons of ways to save money on food while on vacation. Do you plan to rent an apartment? Then stock the kitchen at the local market and cook for yourself. Are you staying in a hotel? Find one that serves a complimentary breakfast. If you don’t want to compromise on fancy restaurants (you’re in good company), then go at lunchtime. You’ll be absolutely shocked at how many exceptional restaurants offer a prix-fixe lunch menu, that is a fraction of what it would cost you to eat there at dinner.

Take the swanky Estiatorio Milos in The Venetian Resort Las Vegas for example. You can have an incredible three-course meal with a selection of chilled oysters on the half shell, wild salmon from the Faroe Islands, and a karidopita spiced walnut cake for just $38 (USD). And that's just what I would order, there are several other delectable choices on the lunch menu. Take it from me, let the expert sommelier choose your Greek wine pairings for an additional $19. This is literally one of the best kept secrets in Las Vegas.

6. How to save money on drinks

Want to head out for drinks? Go during happy hour so you can get a better deal on those highly coveted craft cocktails. While you probably already know you can save by not drinking top shelf brands, you’ll typically save quite a few bucks by ordering the house wine as well. Before you grimace at the recommendation, it’s worth mentioning that not all house wines are a Frankenstein blend of dusty old discarded bottles. They’re cheaper because the supplier gives the bar or restaurant a better discount when they’re ordered in bulk. And in some instances, house wines are made specifically for the restaurants who’ve ordered them; so it’s actually a signature blend.

Save money on travel by saving what you'd spend on your weekly coffee habit on a ticket to the top of the Eiffel Tower, like this loving couple kissing with the city of Paris and iron Tour Eiffel as their backdrop. ©AlonzoWright
This could be you inside the Eiffel Tower. P.S. if you know this love-struck couple, please let us know so we can send them their terribly romantic photo. ©AlonzoWright

7. Stop spending your money on crap you don’t really need or want

One of the biggest ways to save your money is to watch where you spend it. Too many people are at the mercy of their impulses; why do you think grocery stores put so many random items on the ends of the aisles? Because you walk by and think “oh that sounds good.” You weren’t searching for it, but they dangled it in front of your face like horse with a carrot. For the price of your Venti, no foam, no whip, double the pump, triple the calories with one ice cube latte costs you a week, you could pay for a ticket to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I promise you won’t miss the cups of coffee you didn’t have…but you’ll remember seeing the Parisian city lights for the rest of your life.

8. Sell your old junk

You can’t tell me you don’t have something stuffed in the garage that you can’t put on OfferUp or Facebook Marketplace. Have your kids grown out of their strollers or car seats? Sell them. Are you still holding on to those old cell phones? Sell them. Those old work clothes that were headed