6 Tips to Stretch Your Travel Budget

By Amanda Wowk

March 23, 2021

You’re probably ready for a trip—and you’re not alone. 94 percent of Americans are planning to take a trip this year. If you’re getting back in the trip planning saddle, setting your travel budget is a good place to start. 

If you’re thinking ‘What travel budget?’—not to worry! These six money-saving tips will help you stretch your travel budget further the next time you plan a trip.

1. Set fare alerts

You know the old travel adage—if at first you don’t find a good flight price, set a fare alert. No? Well, the advice still holds.

Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Head to your preferred flight booking platform and perform a search.
Step 2: Set a fare alert. 
Step 3: Be ready to book if the price drops into a range that matches your budget. 

Questioning whether you should book? Here are few things to consider: 

  • U.S. law requires all airlines (foreign and domestic) to give travelers a full refund if they cancel within a 24-hour window of booking.
  • TripIt Pro regularly checks airline prices, always looking to see if there’s a better price than what you paid (less any change fees). If you’re eligible for a credit or refund, TripIt will send you an alert to contact your carrier or booking agent. 
  • Our friends at Thrifty Traveler, a site that helps you travel more for less, are a great resource for finding flight deals.    

2. Use points and miles to stretch your travel budget

For many travelers, travel credit card points and airline miles have been piling up (or sitting idle) over the past year or so. If that’s the case, there’s perhaps no better way to stretch your travel budget than cashing in your miles for a free or discounted ticket. (That goes for your expiring airline credits, too!)

Point Tracker in TripIt Pro stores your reward account numbers, balances, and expiration dates in one place—now with an improved view of your point balances and history to help you manage your reward programs.

Read more: Travel Has Changed Over the Last Year: Here’s How TripIt Has Kept Up

3. Avoid baggage fees

Ideally, all of your travel essentials would fit into a carry-on bag, but that’s not always the case. Extended WFA (that is, work from anywhere) trips, bleisure travel, and seasonal weather patterns can all impact your need to check a bag. If you do need to pay a visit to bag drop, be sure to book airfare that includes a checked bag. (A Basic Economy fare, for example, typically does not include a checked bag.) Doing so will not only save you time at the airport, it will also help prevent unexpected charges from draining your travel budget.

4. Consider a vacation rental for group travel

Staying in a vacation rental is a great way to save money and stretch your travel budget in many destinations. Booking an entire home is especially beneficial for group or family trips—providing enough space for everyone to have their own room, while offering a communal spot to hang out or plan the day’s adventure. 

Speaking of group travel, if you’re planning a trip with members outside your household, plan to discuss any health- and safety-related topics, such as getting tested for COVID-19 before you embark on your trip and how you’ll plan to stay safe during your trip, as well.

5. Cook your own meals

A great perk of booking a vacation rental is access to a kitchen. Cooking your own meals on vacation is not only cost-effective, it’s healthier for you, too. Meanwhile, you’re able to experience your destination in ways you might otherwise miss if you ate every meal in restaurants—like, the experience of shopping in local grocery stores; perusing local farmers markets; and meeting vendors and buying direct from the source. Cooking your own meals with locally procured ingredients gives you a unique feel for a place, at a price your wallet will love.

Read more: 8 Ways to Make Your Next Stay at a Vacation Rental More Eco-Friendly

6. Find free things to do to stretch your travel budget

Of course, the most effective way to stretch your travel budget is to spend no money at all. And there are loads of free activities available in every type of destination:

  • Look for free walking tours, where local guides will offer their services for gratuity only
  • Entry to museums is often free
  • Hiking is free (not to mention, a great workout)
  • Checking out street art and murals is free—cities like Vancouver, Detroit, Melbourne, Paris, Glasgow, Berlin, and L.A. have stunning collections of murals featuring artists from all over the world

Tip: International travel restrictions related to COVID-19 vary widely and change constantly. You can find the latest COVID-19 travel guidelines, restrictions, and requirements—alongside infection rates—for the destinations you’re visiting in TripIt’s COVID-19 Travel Guidance feature. 

Mix in free fun with bargain airfare and home-cooked meals, and soon your friends will start asking for your travel tips, too.