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Budget Friendly Travel Planning Tips and Hacks

November 22, 2023

Leather suitcase with straw hat, and digital camera.

Traveling during the holiday season can be a costly endeavor, but there are several ways to make it more affordable and enjoyable. Keep reading for some valuable tips and hacks to achieve your financial goals while still having a fantastic holiday experience.

Research and Compare Accommodation Options

When planning to travel for the holidays, one of the best ways to save money is by researching and comparing accommodation options. Instead of automatically booking a hotel, consider alternative options such as vacation rentals, hostels, or even staying with friends or family. Not only can these options be more budget-friendly, but they can also provide a unique and immersive travel experience.

To find the best deals on accommodation, make use of online platforms and websites that specialize in comparing prices and reading reviews. Websites like Airbnb,, and TripAdvisor allow you to search for accommodation options based on your budget, preferred location and desired amenities. 

By taking the time to research and compare, you can often find more affordable accommodation options that still offer comfort and convenience. Remember, the money you save on accommodation can be used for other holiday activities or souvenirs, making your trip even more enjoyable.

Another tip is to be flexible with your location. Sometimes staying slightly outside of popular tourist areas can save you a significant amount of money while still allowing you to easily access all the attractions and activities you want to experience. Don't be afraid to explore different neighborhoods or towns and consider the cost of transportation when making your decision.

Utilize Travel Rewards and Loyalty Programs

Maximize your savings while planning your holiday travels by taking advantage of travel rewards and loyalty programs. Many airlines, hotels, and car rental companies offer these programs, allowing you to earn points or miles for your purchases. These points can then be redeemed for free flights, hotel stays, or other travel-related expenses. Before booking your trip, make sure to check if you are a member of any loyalty programs and make the most of the rewards and discounts available to you.

Additionally, consider applying for a travel credit card that offers sign-up bonuses and additional rewards for travel-related expenses. These credit cards often come with exciting perks like airport lounge access, travel insurance, and no foreign transaction fees, but beware of the dark side of these cards. Oftentimes airline credit cards have a stipulation that you must spend a certain minimum amount to obtain the benefits from the card, which could be thousands of dollars over the course of a few months. These cards often tend to have higher than average interest rates and an annual fee, so keep in mind that no amount of free points is worth getting into debt.

At Education First,  we offer the best of both worlds. Our members earn points with our totalREWARDS debit and credit cards! The debit card allows you to accumulate points on your everyday purchases, and our credit card has no annual fee, minimum spending requirement, and one of the lowest credit card rates. These points never expire and can be used towards incredible travel opportunities, making your holiday adventures even more affordable and enjoyable.

Be Flexible with Travel Dates

Another way to save money on travel is to be flexible with your travel dates. By avoiding peak travel seasons and choosing to travel during off-peak times or on weekdays, you can often find cheaper rates for flights and accommodations. Airlines and hotels tend to increase their prices during popular holiday periods and weekends due to high demand. However, by adjusting your travel dates and times, you can take advantage of lower rates and save money.

If you have the flexibility, another option to consider is booking your trip at the last minute. Many travel providers offer discounted rates for last-minute bookings in order to fill up empty seats or rooms. This can be a great way to save money, especially if you're able to be spontaneous with your travel plans. However, it's important to note that this strategy may not work for everyone, especially if you have specific travel dates or if you're traveling with a large group or small children. It's always a good idea to weigh the pros and cons and consider your individual circumstances before deciding to book last minute.

Being flexible with your travel dates not only helps you save money but can also provide other benefits. For example, traveling during off-peak times often means fewer crowds and a more peaceful and enjoyable experience. And if you've ever stood in a TSA line at the airport, you'll understand exactly how this can impact your travel plans.

Pack Light and Smart

When it comes to packing for your holiday travels, it's essential to be strategic and efficient. By packing light and smart, you can not only save money on baggage fees but also make your travel experience more convenient and hassle-free.

To start, it's important to create a packing list and only bring the essentials. Consider the weather and activities you'll be participating in during your trip to determine the appropriate clothing and gear to pack. This will help you avoid overpacking and ensure that you have everything you need without going overboard.

A packing travel hack that could be useful would be maximizing space in your suitcase by rolling your clothes instead of folding them. Rolling your clothes not only saves space but also helps prevent wrinkles. Additionally, using packing cubes or compression bags can further optimize the space in your suitcase and keep your items organized.

When choosing what clothes to pack, try to mix and match items to create different outfits. This way, you can minimize the number of clothing items you need to bring while still having a variety of options. By packing versatile pieces that can be dressed up or down, you can easily transition from day to night without carrying excess clothing.

Another way to save space and money is to pack travel-sized toiletries or purchase them at your destination. Carrying heavy and bulky full-sized toiletries can take up valuable space in your suitcase. Instead, opt for travel-sized versions or buy them upon arrival to avoid any hassle.

In addition to toiletries, consider bringing a reusable water bottle and snacks with you. This can save you from buying expensive bottled water and snacks at airports where prices tend to be inflated. Just make sure that if you are traveling internationally, research the local customs regulations regarding food and beverage to ensure compliance.

Plan and Cook Your Own Meals

In addition to saving money, planning and cooking your own meals while on holiday can also offer a range of other benefits. This is the beauty of Airbnb and VRBO. Not only do you have the place to yourself, but you have the flexibility to accommodate food allergies or dietary restrictions, and you also will save a lot of money on food, beverage, and gratuity. Cooking your own meals also allows for a fun and interactive experience, especially when traveling with friends and loved ones. It strengthens relationships and creates lasting memories as you try different recipes and experiment with local ingredients. 

Worried that you'll miss out on the culture and local cuisine of your destination? No need. You can save and splurge at the same time. For example, if you commit to eating breakfast at your rental, you'll save enough to sample some of the local fare at other meals while not breaking the bank. 

Ultimately, embarking on a holiday adventure during the festive season doesn't have to drain your wallet. By following these tips and hacks, you can make your holiday travels more affordable and enjoyable. Research and compare accommodation options, utilize rewards and loyalty programs to maximize your savings, be flexible, pack light, and keep an open mind. By implementing these strategies, you can have a fantastic holiday experience while still staying on track financially.