Budget travel tips for planning your next vacation | Genni Franklin


1. Figure out a travel budget

Whether you’re learning how to plan a weekend getaway with friends, family, or by yourself, the planning shouldn’t be hard or expensive. There are so many easy things that you can do today that will put you in a better financial position. Traveling is important, but you don’t need to go into debt because of it!

2. Download a travel budget app

There are many great travel budget apps available to help you save money when planning your next vacation. The Points Guy has an awesome post on 8 apps that will help you track your travel expenses.

Splitwise is great for when you’re traveling with a group and need an easy way to track and split the expenses.

Here are some other great tools and posts that can get you set up for success!

Don’t let creating a travel budget get too complicated. Just start off with what you think you can afford for a weekend trip and then work backward from there. You don’t necessarily need to know how much things will cost before creating a budget. The whole point is to plan a trip that you can afford.

3. Open a High Yield Savings Account for your Travel fund

If you’re having a hard time figuring out how much you can afford, I’d recommend opening a high yield savings account as your travel fund. You can set up an automatic transfer and put in a little each day, week or month and it will collect interest that is way higher than a traditional savings account.

Here are the best high yield savings accounts according to Investopedia (and I agree). Most will not require a minimum balance to open the account and do not charge any maintenance fees.

It will take you only minutes to open an account and start earning interest. I opened a high yield savings account with American Express when it was below 2% APY. The APY has now increased to almost 3% and I’ve seen other banks offer even more than that.

A high yield savings account is a great option for a low risk and steady return. The money is liquid and can be readily available should you need it for travel or an emergency.

I love it because you can just “set it and forget it” and the next thing you know, you have enough for amazing vacation or weekend getaway!

4. Travel Hacking

In my post about ways to save money for your next vacation, I mention using credit card points and miles to book flights. The term for this strategy is Travel Hacking and it will save you a ton of money on travel.

I highly recommend adding Travel Hacking to your travel budget strategy. I will warn you that it sounds complicated and to be honest, it can be. But the key is not to let it get complicated (sensing a pattern here?). You should do what works for you. Doing something is better than doing nothing.

There are some really great travel hacking resources out there. The Points Guy was the first site that I started following. They have a wealth of articles and tools available including a guide for beginners.

You can use credit card points and miles for almost anything! Travel hacking is not just for flights and hotels. If the credit card you’re using has a travel portal, you can also use points to book transportation or tours.

Some credit cards have a “purchase eraser” feature which essentially lets you erase qualifying purchases from your credit card statement. This can really help keep costs down on travel expenses that you may not usually be able to book with points!

Don’t want to open a credit card?

If opening up a credit card sounds scary to you, that’s ok. There are other ways to earn airline miles and cash back without opening a credit card. Airlines have shopping portals that will allow you to earn points without setting foot on a plane.

Airline Shopping Portals

  • Simply Miles – American Airlines
  • Rapid Rewards Shopping – Southwest Airlines
  • Mileage Plus Shopping – United
  • TrueBlue Shopping – Jetblue
  • SkyMiles Shopping – Delta

Cashback Shopping Portals

  • Rakuten
  • BeFrugal
  • TopCashback

You should always check Cashback Monitor before you choose a shopping portal, but try to stick to only a few shopping portals that you use frequently. There’s no point in having a few points across many shopping portals. It would be too hard to earn enough to use effectively. Check out this post on how to maximize shopping portals from The Points Guy if you’re new to shopping portals.

Earn Bonus Hotel points

You can also earn extra points with Marriott Bonvoy or Hilton Honors by adding them to your Uber and Lyft accounts.

Photo byGenni Franklin

For Lyft Rewards, you can add your Hilton Honors Account or Delta Sky Miles account.

Navigate to the Rewards section from the Lyft app and add a travel partner, super easy! If you do not have a loyalty account with Hilton or Delta, what are you waiting for? Joining these loyalty programs are totally free.

You can also earn points with an eligible Chase credit card and earn credits with an eligible Mastercard.

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To earn Marriott Bonvoy points with Uber navigate to the Settings tab within the Uber app.

Add your Marriott Bonvoy account under the Rewards section and you’re good!

If you do not have a Marriott Bonvoy account – Go join the totally free Marriott loyalty program right now!

5. Be strategic and flexible about travel dates

When learning how to plan a weekend trip on a budget or any trip, you want to remember to be strategic and flexible about travel dates. For example, you don’t want to travel on holiday weekends or weekends that have big events like the Super Bowl.

Exception – Unless you’re looking to travel somewhere that does not observe that holiday (the Super Bowl feels like a holiday). Like traveling to Europe during Thanksgiving, this is a great time to travel overseas because they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.

Being flexible on travel dates helps with a lot of things, but the main things are booking flights and hotels. You can find better deals when traveling off-season.

Don’t travel on Fridays and Sundays – now this may not be as easy because we’re talking about a weekend getaway, but hear me out. Instead of traveling on a Friday, it may be cheaper to fly out on a Thursday evening. Or you may want to consider traveling early Monday morning instead of Sunday.

When you find that deal, book it! But before you do, make sure to read my post on 5 big mistakes to avoid when booking flights. It will save you a lot of headaches! You’ll also want to check out my tips for packing a carry on which can also save you some money on luggage fees.

Airlines are pretty flexible these days and most no longer charge change fees or cancellation fees. You can usually cancel within 24 hours for an automatic refund as well. This gives you the freedom to book a deal when you find one.

6. Use Google Flights and set flight alerts

A good strategy for how to plan a weekend trip on a budget is to set flight alerts with Google Flights. Google Flights is free and you can set alerts that will help you figure out when is the best time to travel to a certain destination.

I recommend that you check out my post on how to save money on holiday travel. A lot of the strategies that are good for booking holiday travel apply here as well. Especially when it comes to booking flights.

A great tool from Google Flights is the “Explore” tab. This tool will help you find a destination from your chosen airport that have cheap flights during your travel dates. You don’t even need to have specific travel dates.

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Navigate to the Explore tab in Google Flights.

Add in your home airport and/or nearby airports.

You’ll see a map with destinations and flight prices.

I love this feature because you may discover a destination that you’ve never considered before. The best part is that you’ll be experiencing it at a great price! Just be aware of traveling to a destination in their off-season because major attractions may be closed. Always take a look at what will be open or closed during your travel dates.

7. Travel somewhere local

Taking weekend trips doesn’t have to mean flying to a destination. Some of the best weekend getaways are somewhere close by. No matter where you live, chances are there are places or things you’ve never experienced right in your backyard!

Before you choose your destination, check out these posts and guides:

Choose a place that you have always wanted to visit or a place that you’ve never even thought of.

8. Research For Local Activities

There are many free things to do in a new city. One of the best things that can save money while visiting a new city is to research what local activities are available. This will help you decide what to do while you are there.

You can also research the cost of visiting certain places. Many museums, parks, and attractions will have their own website where you can find out how much they cost. This is a great way to find free things to do and save money while you are visiting a new city.

9. You don’t always have to pay for a hotel

When planning a weekend trip on a budget you don’t always have to default to staying at a hotel. Or if you do stay at a hotel, it doesn’t have to be expensive.

Use points or free night certificates

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As I mentioned earlier when we discussed Travel Hacking, using points can be a great addition to your strategy when it comes to how to plan a weekend trip on a budget. It can give you a chance to stay at a hotel without spending a dime.

I have the Hilton Surpass credit card from AMEX which earns me:

  • Automatic Gold status (I was able to get to Diamond quick).
  • Free Priority Pass lounge access.
  • 12X points per dollar on Hilton stays, 6x points per dollar on restaurants, supermarkets and gas.
  • 5th night free when you use Hilton Honors points.
  • Annual fee is waived the first year.

We stay at Hiltons a lot so it did not take long to earn enough points for a weekend stay at a Hilton hotel.

I was also able to earn a free night reward which we can use at almost any Hilton for a standard room. We didn’t want to worry about flying somewhere, so decided to just pick The Gabriel South Beach in Miami. We got upgraded as well and spent the night in a suite on South Beach. Not too shabby!

10. Stay in an Airbnbs, VRBO or Vacasa

I don’t usually choose to stay at vacation rentals, I’m a hotel girl. But if you’re with friends and family, it may make the most sense logistically and financially to rent a vacation home.

But thanks to sites like Airbnb, VRBO and Vacasa finding a rental home is easier and more convenient than ever before even for a short weekend getaway.

Use cozycozy to find the best vacation rental

If you’re like me and can get overwhelmed by “too many options”, use cozycozy to search all of the best vacation rental sites so you can find the best one. It works very similar to Google flights in the sense that you use the site to find the deals, but you book directly with sites like Airbnb and Vacasa.

Redeem Wyndham points for Vacasa

If you have Wyndham points or have a credit card or travel partner that you can transfer points from, then you can use them on the Vacasa website to book your vacation rental. Another great way to minimize travel expenses!

11. Go on a cruise

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If you like to book all-inclusive vacations so you don’t have to think about where to stay, what to do or where to eat all for one low price, then a cruise is for you! Some cruise lines will even include tips, wifi and drinks in the cruise fare.

My favorite Cruise lines:

  • Royal Caribbean
  • Disney Cruise line
  • Celebrity Cruise line
  • Norwegian Cruise line
  • Virgin Voyages

If you do book a cruise, make sure to check out my post on 25 cool things to bring on a cruise. Not only are cruises a great way to stay within your travel budget, but there are ways to book with points! Check out this article on how to book a cruise with points and miles from The Points Guy!

12. Go Camping

Ok, so this may not be for me, but I know that people like to go camping and honestly it’s so cheap! If it’s just for a weekend, you can handle it! Reserve America can help you find a campsite at your desired destination.

13. Rent an RV

So this may make camping a little bit easier for me haha! Renting an RV is so fun and can save you some serious cash on transportation and accommodations. Use Outdoorsy to find RV rentals that you can count on!

14. Research the best places to eat

If you are visiting a new city or country, you should research the best places to eat. You can do this by reading online reviews, visiting TripAdvisor, or downloading Yelp to see the best-rated restaurants. Checking out the prices of restaurants online can help you budget for your trip and save money!

Buy groceries! I’m not saying you have to cook on your vacation, but buying simple items for breakfast or lunch can save you some serious cash. Instead of eating out for breakfast every day, try only doing it once or twice.

15. Try Chase Dining experiences or similar

If you have an eligible Chase credit card, you can use your points for a variety of dining experiences! You just sign into the Chase Dining site with your Chase login and browse what is available at your destination.

Plan your trip

Planning a weekend trip doesn’t have to be complicated. If you are flexible on travel dates and destinations you can save money on flights, hotels, and activities. And if you know the best places to eat, you can save money on food too!

Some of the links contained in this post are affiliate links, meaning at no cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.


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