The world is just asking to be explored, but with the cost of vacation sitting at an average of $1,145 per person in 2013, a trip this year may require some price cuts. Do a home budget analysis before you plan a trip, and if applicable, check on the currency rate of the place you’re visiting. Even if you have a set limit to spend, vacations tend to cost more than you expect. Flights, hotels, food, transportation and entertainment all add up, but here are three ways to cut costs significantly without cutting into your fun.


Get around for cheap

Many people opt for the convenience of a rental car or taxi on vacation. But, as with most nice things, it costs more. Though a rental car’s upfront costs may make it seem like a cost-effective option, you have to account for gas, parking and tolls, among other expenses, which raise the price up considerably. If you’re traveling to a bigger city, get to know the public transit options ¾ bus, subway, trolley, train ¾ that get you from A to B on the cheap. It’s also a great way to absorb some of the local culture by observing the locals that ride public transit daily.

Apart from motorized transportation, bike-sharing programs and walking tours can get you well-acquainted with an area. In fact, you may realize that it’s easier to get around some places by foot.


Cut your food costs.

Eating three meals a day at restaurants can add up quickly. One way to cut those costs is to cook your own meals. In the process, you may discover local markets and find more ingredients and options to cook with than you’re used to at home. Book your stay at a home or hotel with a kitchen, and let the culinary adventure happen. Don’t be afraid to ask vendors for recipes or experiment with the local cuisine.

When you do want to eat out, don’t pay full price. Visit sites like or other sites to get deals for restaurants wherever you are. If planning ahead isn’t your strong suit, ask locals for recommendations for good, inexpensive restaurants. If you have kids, look for restaurants that offer “kids eat free” deals.


Forgo the hotel

A hotel stay can turn your vacation into a bank-breaker pretty quickly, especially if your stay is more than a few days. Bear in mind that if you’re willing to forgo hotel luxury, you’ll have more spending power for the rest of the trip.

As far as alternative housing accommodations go, there are a few options you may not have considered: friends or family’s guest rooms and house rentals. First, if you have the opportunity to stay with friends or relatives—otherwise known as a “home stay vacation”—don’t shy away from asking. You can get a chance to rekindle old connections in the process and see what local places they recommend seeing. Plus, you won’t be paying for your stay.

In the event that you aim to find other housing for a domestic experience, you could also rent someone’s home or a room on a site such as Airbnb. Even a private room tends to be considerably cheaper than a hotel room.

In sum, transportation, food and housing are the main categories to target when you want to travel for less. When these three have lower price tags, the financial stress for the whole vacation will decrease. Don’t forget to contact your local credit union to see if they can help you with any travel discounts.


Final tip: It’s never too early to start planning for your next vacation! Open a Vacation Club account this summer, so you can start saving for next year.


Cherise Fantus, NerdWallet