As a kid, I loved staying at a hotel — especially if it had an indoor pool. But what really amazed me was room service. I would see trays from dinner outside of other people’s rooms or signs hanging off their door for tomorrow’s breakfast order. That was the epitome of luxury. I longed for the day that I’d be able to order it for myself.
Now that I’m a seasoned traveler, I still can’t deny that there’s something absolutely delightful about having someone prepare, deliver, and serve a meal in your room right when you want it. But I also know that if my husband and I indulged in room service too often, we’d never be able to afford to travel as much as we want to!
For me, travel is all about finding the balance between spending and splurging. When you use your money with intention, you can make your trips even more special, make your hard-earned dollars go even further, and make even more travel possible.
Here are some of my favorite travel hacks to help you save money without sacrificing the fun:
1. Get It “To Go”: Looking for the feeling of room service at a cheaper price? Call down to your hotel’s restaurant and order your meal “to go.” Then throw on a pair of comfy pants, pick up your meal, and bring it back up to your room. You’ll get to enjoy breakfast in bed without the fees.
Tip: Don’t be fooled when the person on the other end of the line says “but we can just bring it up to your room” — that’s room service! To avoid the fees, you’ll actually need to head down there yourself.
2. Stay Near the Airport: If you are coming into your destination on a late night flight (or leaving really early the next day to head home), this will save you the stress of additional nighttime travel (or having to check out ridiculously early). You might even save quite a bit of money also, as airport hotels tend to be relatively cheap. Make it even more economical by finding a hotel that has a free airport shuttle or even one that’s connected to the airport terminal.
Tip: If you rented a car for your trip and you’re on your way home, return the car the night before and take the airport shuttle back to your hotel. You can save a bundle by keeping your car for one less day.
3. Think Twice Before Renting a Car: Speaking of cars, make sure you actually need one. Public transit or ridesharing can save you a bundle if you’re planning on hanging around locally. If you’re planning to venture out further, see if a one-day rental will do the trick.
Tip: Taking Uber or Lyft can certainly add up. Wondering if taking an Uber when you need it will really save all that much money? Use Uber Estimate to see how much your trip(s) might cost and compare that with rental car prices. As you compare, remember to take into account the cost of gas and parking with your rental car.
4. One-Bag Your Trip: Over the last few years, my husband has become obsessed with taking just one bag when we travel. He’s inspired me to successfully minimize my luggage to my backpack and my small Away carry-on bag. This both reduces the cost of checked luggage and simplifies travel — which we learned recently as we went from a hotel shuttle to an airport hotel to an Uber to a ferry to a rental car to our Airbnb all in the span of 12 hours! An added money-saver: There wasn’t any extra room to pack our bags with excess souvenirs.
Tip: Struggling to get it all in one bag? My husband and I swear by packing cubes. They have not only streamlined our packing, but have made it so much easier to keep everything in our bags organized throughout our trip.
5. Choose Your Lodging Strategically: Airbnbs are best for longer trips when you really want to live like a local, or if you are hoping to stay with a group of people all under one roof. Hotels are great for in-and-out trips or trips where you’d like conveniences like free breakfast, a gym, or restaurants on site.
Tip: Opting for Airbnb? We only stay in properties with a Superhost. These are experienced hosts with exceptional ratings. We also make sure to choose a property with a kitchen so we can bring in our food and eat in for much of our trip.
6. Find a Local Grocery Store: Whether you are staying in a hotel or an Airbnb, find a nearby store where you can buy snacks, drinks, breakfast food, and “on the go” meal items so you don’t have to eat out for every meal.
Tip: No matter where you are staying, make sure you have access to a fridge and a microwave. This will help keep food fresh, and let you enjoy those leftovers from the night before.
7. Flex Your Mealtimes: Eating out can get really expensive, so choose a few special places you’d like to try and make those the focal point of your trip. Then see how you can get the most bang for your buck. Do they have any happy hour discounts? Check into the menu — nicer restaurants often serve a similar fare for lunch that’s much less expensive than dinner.
Tip: To get the best local dining experience, ask the concierge at your hotel or your Airbnb host for recommendations. They’re more reliable than TripAdvisor or Yelp.
What are your favorite travel hacks? Share below!
This Thursday, Sept. 26, I’ll be going live on Facebook at 8pm Central to share some of my favorite tips to save money on food while you travel and enjoy the best of what your destination has to offer. Haven’t liked my Facebook page yet? Now is a great time to do it. Only have Instagram? Don’t worry — I’ll be posting the recording to IGTV later.
Twin Cities friends, next month, I’m hosting my first Love & Money workshop on Oct. 19 from 9am-noon. I’ll help you break the ice, talk honestly about money with your partner, and discover your money superpowers. You'll leave with a better understanding of how you can use your individual money strengths to create a fulfilling life together. Can’t wait to see you there!