woman in braids looking at the sea on vacation

24 Creative Ways To Save Money For Travel

Traveling is one of my favorite things to do. I enjoy every part of it, the airport (not really the flying part), the people watching, the feeling of discovering a place for the first or tenth time, the food, the immersive experiences, and the time to take time.  For us immigrants, travel also means the opportunity to be reunited with our loved ones. It isn’t always just a luxury but a necessity. But there’s one problem, travel costs money! In order to make travel happen, I often think up creative ways to save money for travel. Here are 24 creative ways to save money for travel.

1. Automate Your Savings In A Separate Travel Savings Account

One of the best things I did when I first started traveling was to open a separate high-yield savings account specifically for travel. I started putting $50 away in my travel sinking fund each month, it wasn’t much but it added up over time. This $50 was deducted automatically on the 15th of each month and my travel fund grew slowlt but steadily. When I got bonuses I also sent a portion to my travel fund. Today, I’m able to save more than $50 each month for travel but the habit remains the same. Many banks even allow you to give your savings account a fun name. My travel savings account is called ‘See The World.’

2. Ask For and Use Gift Cards

Got a birthday or special occasion coming up? Make it clear to your loved ones that you want to travel more and you’d really appreciate it if you could receive specific gift cards to help you achieve that goal. Our loved ones want to give us gifts that are meaningful to us, sometimes they just need to know what we’d appreciate. You can ask for Airbnb gift cards, specific airline gift cards, hotel gift cards, rental car gift cards, and so on. These gift cards can then be applied to reduce the cost of your travels as you plan upcoming trips.

3. Sell Things You Don’t Use

We all have things that we do not use, essentially sitting on a stack of cash without realizing it.  What if your unwanted items could get you a round-trip ticket to your dream destination? It’s never been easier to sell items with eBay, Facebook market place and other options available. Need any ideas of things to sell? Here are some:

  1. Old electronics – computers, games, kitchen equipment
  2. Clothes and shoes in great condition
  3. Toys
  4. Furniture

Have fun decluttering and raising some cool cash!

4. Couch Surf

Couch surfing is a service that connects its member to a global community of travelers. Travelers use couch surfing to find a place to stay or to share their homes and hometowns with travelers. While I have never used this service, I know several people who have used it successfully and have not only enjoyed free accommodation but they have also fostered new friendships around the world. As always, use discretion in these situations.

5. Skip Souvenirs, Take Photos Instead

How many key chains, magnets, or shot glasses do you REALLY need from your vacation? A creative way to save money for travel would be to skip the excessive souvenirs and use the cash to fund your actual travels. I say this as a recovered souvenir-obsessed traveler. Now, this is not to say it is wrong to buy souvenirs but when short on cash, this is an easy way to eliminate some travel expenses. Take photos instead!

6. Get A Travel Rewards Credit Card

The most common rewards cards are either airline cards or rewards earning cards with financial institutions.  These cards card help you save money through statement credits, waived checked bag fees, rental car insurance, and points that can be redeemed for free or reduced air travel, hotel stays, rental cars, or even cash. Personally, I have had an airline credit card for the longest time but also added a regular travel rewards card a year ago.  A travel rewards card is only recommended if you have the discipline to pay off the card monthly as it comes due.

7. Trim Daily Excess/Frivolous Spending

If I’m being honest, though this may not seem like a creative way to save money for travel, it can be one of the most impactful tips. We all have things that if we’re not careful; we’ll spend way too much money on. For me, that’s shoes! I have over 50 pairs of shoes and can easily try to justify buying another cute pair. Buying more shoes will mean that I have less each month to save for travel.

Take a look at your monthly bank and credit card statements, where do you need to trim frivolous spending?

8. Use A No-Fee Travel Debit Card/Credit Card

When already on a trip, banks and other financial institutions can sneak up on you with fees on every transaction. ATM fees and foreign transaction fees can add up very quickly but there are ways to avoid or minimize these expenses while traveling. There are debit cards that will not charge a fee for ATM withdrawals or for international transactions, consider getting one of those and using that card on international trips. If this option is not available to you for any reason, then the next suggestion would be to limit the number of your transaction to refuse being hit with fee multiple times.

When in a country, plan for a number of ATM withdrawals, such that each withdrawal is for a decent amount that will last you a few days without being uncomfortable with the amount of cash on your person.

9. Subscribe To Travel Newsletters For Flight Deals

A few years ago, I scored a 55GBP round-trip fare to Morocco. I didn’t have to think about it twice, I booked the ticket and spent 3 days in Marrakesh. One of my favorite creative ways to save money for travel is by subscribing to travel newsletters or websites to snag amazing deals. To get the best deals, travelers will need to the flexible with destinations and/or travel dates. Some of my favorite travel deal sites/newsletters are Secret Flying and Scottscheapflights.

10. Travel In The Off/Shoulder Season

Everyone wants to travel during certain times of the year (think spring break, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas/New Year, and the months of July and August. If possible, avoid traveling during these periods (aka High season). Instead, travel in the off-season and you’ll find yourself saving up to 40% on both flights and accommodations.

11. Shop Smarter on Groceries

I don’t know about you but I find that I can always shop smarter when it comes to my grocery shopping. Saving on groceries leaves more discretionary income for travel. Here are five ways to shop smarter for groceries

  • Always shop with a list
  • Plan your meals ahead
  • Buy fresh fruit and vegetables in season

12. Get A Roommate To Reduce Fixed Costs

One of the easiest ways to save money for travel is to reduce your largest expense – housing. If you’re renting, consider getting a roommate and reducing your housing expenses by at least 40%. If you have the option to live at home, do so for a short while. Lastly, if you own a home of your own, consider renting a room on Airbnb or putting up your home on Airbnb when you are out of town.

13. Sign Up For Cash Back Sites

I haven’t really tried this but I know a few people that swear by cashback sites and to be honest, it makes a lot of sense! Cashback sites offer a way to get money back when shopping. If you’re going to shop anyway, why not earn some extra cash while you do it? Some of the most popular cash-back websites are Capital One Shopping (I just signed up for this one personally so I’m checking it out), Rakuten, Ibotta, and Swagbucks. This post by wellkeptwallet does a great job of summarizing some of the largest and best cash-back sites.  The cash saved can either be directly put towards travel, or the gift cards can be redeemed towards travel or travel-related expenses. Sounds like a win-win!

14. Have A Side Hustle

There’s a side hustle for everyone. Depending on your personality, time, and location preferences, you can choose from hundreds of side hustles to save money for travel. You can choose to use your income from your 9-5 for your living expenses, saving, or investing, and use your side hustle income to fund travel or other things you enjoy. Some side hustle ideas include being an online virtual assistant, mystery shopping, personal shopper, blogger, coach, course creator, uber or Lyft driving, instacart delivery, tutor, food delivery, editing/proofreading, Pinterest virtual assistant, becoming an Etsy seller, furniture flipping/reselling and so on.

15. Participate in Paid Online Surveys

What if I told you that you could participate in online surveys and studies for a little extra cash? I did this quite a bit when I was in college and also participated in focus groups for companies looking to get customer opinions on current or future products. As a student, my biggest payout was about $300 and that was huge, I was making $10 per hour so this was more than a week’s worth of pay (before taxes). These days, Survey Junkie, Inbox Dollars, and Branded Surveys are some of the platforms for paid surveys. Consider checking them out.

16. Combine a Work Trip with a Mini Getaway

Earlier in my career, I had the opportunity to travel domestically for work, whether to attend training, serve clients, or attend conferences. I took those opportunities whenever they came and it allowed me to see at least 15 US States! If the opportunity arises, go early or stay for the weekend to explore the city/state or even a neighboring state. Your employer, saving you a decent amount of money on the trip, has already covered the cost of the flight. Take advantage of it.

17. Cancel Subscriptions You Don’t Need or Use

Looking for creative ways to save money for travel? Then it might be time to audit your subscriptions. Look at all your subscriptions from skincare, shopping, entertainment, and so on. Do you need every subscription? Identify subscriptions to cancel and reroute your monthly costs to your automated travel savings account.

18. Go On A Shopping Fast

A shopping fast is a  break from shopping. I’ve seen people take 2-month shopping fasts and I’ve seen others take yearlong shopping fasts. The goals of these fasts are often simple: to instill discipline and curb habits of excessive consumerism, or to save money towards a particular goal, or both. While I don’t believe in a life of deprivation, I know that temporary sacrifices can often lead to great gain. So, if you need to save money for travel in the near term, consider a shopping fast to help you accomplish your goal faster.

19. Be Ruthless About Sticking To Your Budget

Without a doubt, this is a top tip for saving money for travel. When you want something (travel in this case), you’ll need to be ruthless in your commitment to your goal of traveling. The very first step is having a budget and the second step is ruthlessly following/sticking to your budget so that you can meet your goals. Are you new to budgeting? Read this Budgeting 101 post to help you get started right away.

20. Rent Out Your Place While You Travel

You might not want to live with a roommate permanently but another creative way to save money for travel is to rent out your place on Airbnb or vrbo when you are out of town. If you’re paying your rent or mortgage while you’re away, why not give someone the opportunity to enjoy your space and pay you for the service? The funds can be used to offset your cost of lodging on your trip or to pay for future trips!

21. Meal Plan and Make Your Own Lunches

Meal planning is such a time saver and a budget saver at the time. Today, buying lunch at work in my city would cost me at least $12 a day or $60 a week, or $240 a month. That adds up pretty fast! Not only does meal planning save me precious time during the workweek, but it also saves me close to $300 a month. Even when I allow myself to buy lunch and eat with colleagues once a week, I still save about $200 a month on eating out. Meal planning and eating in will save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars towards your dream trip!

22. Change Jobs And Increase Your Income

This is hands-down one of the most effective ways to save more money. The truth is, we can only decrease our expenses by so much but there are no upper bounds on our income. By continuing to gain skills and provide value to your employers you can ask for raises at your current employer or transition companies while getting more compensation for your services. On average, Indeed.com recommends a 10% to 20% increase when changing jobs. This would make a remarkable difference on your disposable income and increase funds available for travel.

23. Pack Light -Avoid Luggage Fees

Depending on where you live, very few airlines offer free checked-in luggage. One creative way to save money for travel is to pack as light as possible to avoid or minimize luggage fees. Consider using packing cubes, writing down a packing list, and doing laundry once on your trip to keep your luggage to carry-on only. Living and traveling on budget airlines in Europe taught me a thing or two about packing light. It amazing how we can make do with less once we commit to it.

24. Apply For Study Abroad Scholarships

This one is for the college students, study abroad is a wonderful immersive life experience. There’s nothing quite like being young exploring the world, it is life changing. The opportunity to study abroad is a privilege that many may not have access to due to the cost of travel and other expenses associated with it. However, there are study abroad scholarship programs that help you see the world without crippling you with debt.

There are so many creative ways to save money for travel and while all this ideas may not work for you, I’m certain that each person can at least take 5 ideas away to make their travel dreams come true. Which of these tips resonate the most with you? I cannot wait to see you exploring the world.


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