Whether you’re prepping for a spring break escapade or a summer abroad — we’ve got some essential tips for saving and protecting money on your trip.
The 2017 LearnVest Money Habits and Confessions Survey found that while, on average, Americans spend 10-15% of their annual income on vacations, — 55% of us don’t account for travel in our annual budget. It’s not so surprising, then, that 74% of people report going into debt to fund a vacation. The benefits to traveling are vast, it can lower the risk of heart disease, improve problem-solving skills, support the economy, and increase satisfaction with life. Basically, the cost of taking a vacation is worth it. But that doesn’t mean the cost has to be so steep.
We’ve outlined seven ways to save and protect your money when it comes to traveling. It’s best for your budget to start planning as early as possible and have some flexibility on your destination.
Even before you start booking your trip, applying for a travel credit card can be a great way to earn savings on travel. Rewards for spending on this kind of card can lead to free flights, discounted hotels, and exclusive vacation packages. Our favorite travel credit cards offer at least 1.5x points or miles, low annual fees, and no international fees. If you use these cards to pay for most of your vacation, they’ll likely reimburse you for lost luggage and a percentage of loss from canceled trips.
Whether you know exactly where you’d like to go, or are still exploring options, we advise you start vacation exploration with a travel site. They’re essentially digital travel agents and can help you book every aspect of your vacation while searching for great deals along the way. A good travel site can consolidate your internet search to everything you’ll need for your vacation — rental car, hotel, flights, and excursions. It’s the best way to find flights and accommodations that match your budget. For example, one of our top picks, Kayak, is a travel-focused search engine and scours the internet for the best deals. Kayak even puts together something called a “hacker fare” — two one-way flights at a cheaper bottom line price than a round trip booking.
You can save a lot of money by choosing to travel off-season, during the week, or to a cheaper location. According to Hopper, a site that predicts and analyzes airfare found you can save about 20% by flying out on a Tuesday instead of a Friday (the most expensive day to depart). For spring break specifically, Hopper claims the most expensive time to travel from a U.S. airport will be between April 2nd and April 15th — flights have a 25% premium during this time.
Some locales are cheaper too. According to Kayak, Germany and Greece are trending destinations right now, but some flights to Australia are down 25%. Popularity, economy, and seasonality all influence the flux of cost for different destinations. If you do your research and keep an open mind on the when and where — you’ll have a better chance of getting a good deal.
Some memberships, banks, credit unions, and insurance providers will offer exclusive deals on travel-related products. It can be a discounted rental car, resort, cruise, or hotel. For example, one of our writers saved $100 on her rental car in Puerto Rico by going through her insurance provider, USAA. When shopping around for your vacation essentials, we recommend checking for discounts with any service or membership you’re a part of — whether it’s Costco or American Express. You can even sign up for new memberships and rewards programs, like Hilton Honors or a frequent flyer program, and earn points and discounts for traveling.
Popular Airline Rewards Programs
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
- American Airlines AAdvantage
- Delta Air Lines SkyMiles
- Frontier Miles
- JetBlue True Blue
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- Spirit Airlines Free Spirit
- United Airlines MileagePlus
Popular Hotel Rewards Programs
- Best Western Rewards
- Choice Privileges
- Hilton Honors
- IHG Rewards
- Marriott Rewards
- Radisson Rewards
- World of Hyatt
- Wyndham Rewards
Depending on the kind of trip you’re planning, a small investment in travel insurance can protect the financial expense of vacationing. You can purchase coverage for a refund in case of a sudden trip cancellation, lost or delayed baggage, international medical cover, medical evacuation coverage, and 24/7 worldwide assistance. Essentially, if anything goes wrong on or before your trip, especially an international one, you’ll have coverage to protect the money you invested in traveling. And perhaps even more valuable, you’ll have medical coverage and emergency transportation to the U.S. when abroad. We recommend shopping around for a quote, but it will typically cost between 4-10% percent of your total trip cost.
While an identity theft protection service can’t prevent your identity from being stolen, it can help you restore your identity if it happens. The service will monitor your personal information and alert you to any suspicious activity. They’ll then help you contact creditors, employers, and law enforcement, coordinate legal support, and help you reclaim your identity.
“One in five consumers has had an item with sensitive information lost or stolen while traveling, such as a driver’s license, passport, smartphone or credit/debit card.”
And with the increase in popularity of online and mobile banking, using free public Wi-fi could put your digital information at risk too. There are some simple steps to help protect your money and information while traveling, like password protecting your phone, not using public Wi-fi, and keeping your wallet in a secure place.
While you’re traveling, your home is vacated and potentially vulnerable to break-ins. According to the FBI, “About one burglary takes place every 15 seconds and the typical homeowner suffers a loss of nearly $2,000 in stolen goods or property damage.”
Whether you own a house or rent an apartment, there are a few ways you can protect your home while away. The most obvious is a home security system. They allow you to monitor entry, environmental factors (like fire), and systems with cameras can even lend digital eyes. Some security systems even have a “vacation mode” that arm the system, keep a steady temperature, and turn lights on and off to suggest that someone’s home. If you aren’t interested in outfitting a whole system, you can purchase and install security cameras independently. Without proper measures taken to protect your home while you’re away, your vacation could end up costing you far more than budgeted.