7 Ways To Save Money While Traveling This Summer

Penni Schewe

Keep these tips in your back pocket.

Marissa Dickson/Thrillist

Let’s face it: It feels like the only “vacation” we’ve had since March 2020 is a trip to the local park. Now that we’re vaxxed, it’s time to make up for a year of missed travel all within a single summer. But booking flights and hotels can drain your budget fast. Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway to Austin or looking at lounging beach-side in Cyprus, we’ve compiled a list of ways to save a few dollars while on your summer travels. With these money-saving tips at your disposal, you might just have enough left over in your budget to stay an extra night (or two).

Look out for special discounts

Student discounts stretch far and wide — train tickets, performance venues, restaurants — it’s almost like a golden ticket while traveling. But if your student ID expired one-too-many years ago, there’s another way to score some free stuff. To kick-start economies after a year of laying low, many cities have partnered with local businesses to give out freebies and deals for vaccinated folks. Perks go anywhere from free donuts to public transit passes and even baseball tickets, so make sure you bring your vaccination card. A quick online search for deals in your destination will reveal what’s available where you’re heading. 

Eat at a fancy restaurant for lunch

Dining during lunch time is an easy way to get a taste of the high life, at a lower price point. While restaurants will often have a separate lunch menu, the featured dishes are notably cheaper and might include some of their dinner specialties. Since dinner reservations at trendy restaurants tend to fill up much further than advance, you’re more likely to secure a table for lunch without needing an “in” with the owner. Bonus: you’re probably not drinking as much during lunchtime, which helps keep the tab lower.

Marissa Dickson/Thrillist

Pick a credit card with travel rewards

Any seasoned traveler knows that having a credit card with strategic benefits is the best way to save big. With so many options out there, reading through the fine print to determine which ones are actually good for travel can become a chore. If you prioritize booking hotels when you travel, the Hotels.com® Rewards Visa ® Credit Card is for you. For example: for a limited time, when you spend $1,000 in your first three months of being a cardholder, you’ll get two reward nights worth $250 (up to a maximum of $125 per night, excluding taxes and fees). And if you make $500 in purchases on the card, you’ll get one stamp worth $110 added to your Hotels.com Rewards account to use in the future. Collect 10 stamps from card purchases, and you can redeem one reward night bookable on Hotels.com worth $110 (equal to the average of your 10 stamps). The more you use the card to book hotels, the more stamps you collect, so using the card strategically could mean lots of reward stays.

Ask for a room upgrade

Getting a hotel room upgrade may seem like something that only happens in the movies, but it’s not as hard as it sounds — and it doesn’t require advanced negotiation skills, either. When you’re checking in at the front desk, simply ask the staff if it is possible to get an upgrade (politely, of course). After all, the worst they can say is no. If you’re celebrating an anniversary or birthday, don’t be shy about it, as letting the check-in staff know may up your chances of getting extra perks. Even if they can’t upgrade you to a room with a view, they may at the very least give you a free bottle of bubbly to encourage you to book another stay with them down the line.

Marissa Dickson/Thrillist

Go to museums on discounted days

Seeing the works of painting masters can add up quickly. Luckily, many museums around the world offer discounted and even free admission days. It’s a chance to see the world’s greatest art while saving around $25. These free admission days often happen around the first weekend of the month or, at the least, a pay-what-you-wish option. By digging through the museum’s website ahead of your travels, you can plan when to visit and take advantage of the program. Don’t forget to still support the arts by dropping a few dollars in the donation bin on arrival.

Book hotel stays for during the week

If you’re planning a getaway, consider shifting your itinerary from the weekend to weekdays. Hotel rates are typically more affordable during the week, not to mention, less busy. You’ll have what feels like a full reign of the amenities. Think: solo pool-side lounging, a private gym, and an entire rooftop to yourself. To get even more out of your trip, if you have reward nights available from the Hotels.com Credit Card, redeem them when you book on Hotels.com. They offer more than 500,000 properties around the world, so you can crash virtually anywhere. Plus, if you book with the card, you’ll score one stamp valued at the price of each hotel night you stay at an eligible property booked on Hotels.com. So if you pay for a three-night stay with the card for $500, you’ll get four stamps, all in one trip. 

Explore vintage stores

No trip is really complete without exploring the destination’s shopping scene. Instead of hitting up franchised stores that aren’t really special to the city—and that can come with a higher price tag— we recommend browsing through vintage and thrift boutiques. Not only are they great places to uncover rare and designer items at a discount, but you can also snag some unique souvenirs for friends at home.

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