How I Save Money on Travel

I travel much more than the average person. I'm often asked how I do it. Some of it's my travel fund. But I also save money on travel through other strategies.

I've never been much of a penny pincher. Even during the days I was forced to pinch pennies, I didn't like doing it. I dreamed of the time when I no longer needed to watch every penny.

Today, I don't have to be as vigilant with my money. If I can spend $100 extra and leave at a better time, I'll do it. But that doesn't mean I'm not looking for deals and figuring out how to get more for my hard-earned dollars.

How to save money on travel

There are several strategies I combine to save money on travel so I can do more of it regularly.

Credit card rewards

I'm always revamping my credit card rewards strategy. For the most part, I put most of my purchases on rewards cards, and then pay off what I've spent that month when the statement comes. The result is that I add up credit card rewards for things I normally buy. Gas, groceries, utilities, and other items are all paid for with credit cards.

Thanks to credit card rewards, I've managed free airfare on numerous occasions. Not only that, but some of my cards offer extra points when I spend in certain categories, so it pays to make sure I line up my spending with the card I'm using.

For the most part, the cards I use most often are tied to airline miles and hotel points. I've actually received more value from airline miles cards than I have from cashback cards, once I consider bonus earnings.

In some cases, there are cards, like those from Capital One and Chase, that offer better redemption when you book travel through their portals. Additionally, if you find yourself traveling frequently with one airline, like United or Alaska, getting a connected credit card can make sense. Likewise, a branded credit card with your favorite hotel chain like Hilton or IHG, can help you get points faster.

Another trick I use is to sometimes buy one-way tickets on different airlines. If I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel with airline miles in one program, I can just get a one-way reward ticket, and book my return flight with a reward ticket from another program.

Other loyalty programs

Another way I save money on travel is through loyalty programs. I belong to a Marriott reward program, which is where we stay most often, as well as a Choice Hotels program, for those times when Marriott just isn't an option. I regularly earn free hotel stays, and that makes a nice change, especially if we are traveling for long periods of time.

I double up on my hotel rewards, though, because I'm part of the Orbucks program with Orbitz. I often book my airfare through Orbitz and use my rewards program card number. That way, I earn rewards on Orbitz for my booking, and I still get the airline miles. Depending on the situation, I might also book a hotel through Orbitz.

It's important to note that, unlike airlines, many hotels won't give you loyalty points when you book third party. So, I don't book Marriott or Hilton through Orbitz. I only book hotels through Orbitz when I'm looking for a deal, or if my preferred chain isn't available or too expensive.

With Orbucks, you can also get a discount on hotel bookings, and they apply each night you stay. In the past, when my son and I traveled for spring break, we used Orbitz to reduce the cost of each night's stay.

I also find that there's almost always a rental car discount involved somewhere as well. Many of my credit cards offer discounts, or you might be able to get discounts and earn points with partners of other programs. I don't have to be a member of a loyalty program with a rental car company to get discounts; I just book with whichever company is offering a discount associated with one of my other loyalty programs.

Stacking rewards and using cashback programs

Don't forget about all the rewards and cashback programs. Often, I can stack rewards. Some of the programs I have that allow me to get discounts and cashback on my regular travel purchases include:

When I make travel purchases, I can get rewards and cashback because of the browser extensions. On top of that, often I stack my savings and rewards earnings.

For example, when I book a stay on Marriott, I go through the Swagbucks extension on my browser. I earn Swagbucks for going to Marriott and making a purchase. Because I'm on the website and booking directly, I'll also get Bonvoy points. When I pay with a credit card that gives me a boost for travel purchases, I get extra cashback there. So, by making one purchase, I'm benefitting three times.

You can see a more in-depth look at how I stack rewards in an article I wrote for FinanceBuzz.

Make it tax deductible

One of my favorite ways to save money on travel is by making it tax deductible. Since my business revolves around content creation, I travel to conferences and do other business travel regularly. This is a great way to save money on travel. You can get your other discounts in, and then at tax time, you can reduce your liability. You just have to make sure that you follow the rules so that it actually counts as business travel. Understand the rules and plan accordingly so you don't get in trouble with Uncle Sam when tax time comes around.

Plan for travel

Travel is one of my top financial priorities. So, as a result, much of my planning revolves around making sure I have money for travel. I use a travel fund to continually replenish my resources to better prepare for travel.

For my step-by-step process, consider my mini-course on building a travel fund.

I also look ahead for special deals in areas I'm visiting. For example, I'll check to see if a location has City Pass as a way for me to get discounted access to multiple attractions. Another way I save money on travel by planning is by setting price alerts for airfare so I can see when it drops. I also try to travel during the off-season or shoulder season.

Don't forget that you can plan for travel in other ways. If I'm traveling and know others will be going to the same place, I often combine forces for an Airbnb. It often costs much less. For solo travel, I find h

Because I have freedom and flexibility in my lifestyle, I can plan trips that cost a little less. When my son was younger, we had to pay attention to things like summer travel and other breaks. Now that I'm in a different season of life, I have a little more freedom. Part of understanding travel is also looking at your obligations and where you're at.

Once you make travel a priority and start looking for ways to make it happen for you, you'll be surprised at how often you can get away.

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