Frugal travel tips as you make plans for a new year

Making the best use of low cost airlines is a great start for those wishing to travel a bit more frugally. Southwest (who controls nearly all of Terminal A at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport DCA, shown here) and jetBlue are the premier options in the United States (avoid the bargain basement airlines like Spirit and Frontier), while Norwegian Air and AirBerlin offer great options in and to Europe.

Guest blog post by Jason Mueller, of Things to do in Santa Cruz (CA) and Costa Rica Vacation Rentals, on this second to last day of December when plans are being laid for adventures in the year to come. Some will work for you, and some may suit you less well. Travel should be an adventure that is uniquely yours. Enjoy!

Plan Ahead

  • Search for reviews of events that you plan to attend. Chances are that if the event is not worth going to, you will find bad reviews. For instance, you wouldn’t want to waste your money going to the Uncorked Wine Festival in Washington, DC after reading this article
  • Look for things-to-do websites that list activities for certain areas and conveniently show a price break down, for instance if you are traveling to Santa Cruz, CA,, is very helpful and can save you money.  

Be Strategic

  • Travel during low season. Not only will your flights and hotels be cheaper, but the attractions are likely to give a better deal because competition is fierce and merchants need the money to carry them through to the next high season.
  • Do some research on where the local currency is weak so that you can take your dollar further (or so that you can take whatever your preferred currency is… further).
  • Travel at night… OK this can be a pain, but if you can manage to sleep on the flight, bus or train you can save money on a hotel room. 
  • Pack light. Many budget airlines charge a base fee, but you can only have one carry on.  Checked bags (and in some cases carry-ons as well!) will cost extra.   

Be smart with local transport

  • Know your traveling options, as prices will vary from plane vs train. You should never forget to check your options, especially for buses. 
  • Uber (or Lyft) when you are unfamiliar with a certain area. Uber is a great option not only are they usually cheaper than a taxi, but you know exactly what you are paying before your ride arrives. 
  • Don’t let your ego be too big to ride the bus which is always the cheapest mode of transport, especially in cities. 

Travel in Groups

  • Ask about group discounts. This tip works for just about anything. Traveling with friends or family may allow you to book a house together and eat in.
  • Book a vacation home or condo for the family instead of multiple hotel rooms.  This will save money, and you may even get a nicer option. It also facilitates eating-in. VRBO, Flipkey, and Airbnb are the popular ones… but if you do a quick search “vacation home” + location you can find several others or a private company that specializes in the specific area (like this in Costa Rica).

Get Local

  • Buy your wine at the winery. You may get a discount at the source when you have already bought tickets to the tasting or tour, or when you are buying multiple bottles.
  • Ask the locals where to eat, drink, and what to do. Tourist traps are exactly that, usually on the main strip, they sucker you in with a good location as they force you to over pay. If you’re looking for a real deal find out where the locals are eating and what they are doing, usually off the beaten path but worth the time if you want to save money (and go beyond basic tourist exposure). 
  • Volunteer, if you don’t mind doing a little work there are many hostels or farms that will give a free bed and food in exchange for some help. WWoof is good one, and Work Away is another. 
  • Go to bakeries at the end of the day to find deals on baked goods at a discount. 
  • Home Exchange: If you have a nice home in a desirable location, then you can sign up for this service an find someone that will give you their house for a vacation and you swap homes by letting them vacation in your home. 


  • Bringing your own alcohol can save hundreds of dollars over drinking in bars. Pick up a bottle of wine, crackers and cheese for a picnic in the park. 
  • Pack a water bottle. The price of drinks adds up so having your own water can save you some extra lunch money. If you are worried about bad local water, a life straw or other filter will save you money in the long run. 
  • Take a hike! The best free activity in practically any location is to just go for a hike or a nice walk. You’ll see a lot.

Be smart with your finances and logistics

  • Don’t forget travel insurance. Though this costs you money, it may save you a lot if something does happen.
  • Pick up a guide book, they usually cost around $20, but show all the options while helping you scope out the cheaper accommodations, restaurants, and activities to save you plenty. 
  • Avoid getting overcharged at the ATM machine. Most ATM’s in foreign countries charge $3-$5 depending on the bank. Only use cash when you need to, and try not to withdraw smaller amounts.
  • Use a free online calling service such as Whatsapp, Skype, or Facebook for international calls over WiFi service. Both parties need to have the service in order for it to work, but they are free to set up. 
  • Find a favorite online booking source for hotels and other travel necessities.,, Trivago, and Hotwire are just a few of the popular websites. 
  • Look for free activities. Search for free activities in the area you are traveling to and you will find some great suggestions.