5 Quick Actions You Can Take to Save Money Travelling

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop. -Ovid

Does your budget take a beating when you travel? Mine too.

With summer vacations, writing retreats and a trip to Portland this fall, the need to travel light has taken a new meaning. Here are a few ways I minimize the cost of travelling with my family of four.

Action #1: Stock up on vacation-friendly food during sales. (1 minute during regular shopping trip)

We don’t buy much junk food, but it’s nice to have prepackaged snacks when we travel. Keep an eye out for incredible sales months before your trip. I bought 10 bags of chips for $2 each – enough to use for all our upcoming vacations. Most prepackaged food is made to last forever. Check the expiration date before you buy.

  • Savings: About $1.50 per snack

Action #2: Fill reusable water bottles. (5 minutes)

The night before a trip, the kids fill their water bottles and put them in the fridge. The water is ice cold for our journey and we don’t waste money – or the earth’s resources – on bottled water.

  • Savings: About $4 per trip

Action #3: Pack your own air mattress. (15 minutes with set up)

Since my kids don’t share a bed anymore, we bring our own air mattress instead of paying for the cot rental fee at hotels.

  • Savings: About $10

Action #4: Drink water at restaurants. (2 seconds to request 🙂 )

Eating out can still feel like a treat while enjoying a glass of ice water. Sip with a lemon slice and a smile.

  • Savings: About $8 per meal for a family of four

Action #5: Make car snack bags (10 – 15 minutes)

If we are travelling for longer than an hour, snacks keep riders happy. To avoid gas station snack prices, buy snacks in bulk and portion into smaller, resealable bags for each family member. (Try Green Genius biodegradable plastic bags. Unlike traditional bags that [almost] never biodegrade, these are designed to break down.)

To save even more, I wash and dry the bags for future trips. Avoid a bag-saster by putting the smaller bags into a gallon-size bag with each person’s initial.

  • Savings: $5 – $10 per trip

* * *

It’s no fun to pinch pennies on vacation. It’s much less fun to go into debt in a matter of days. Plan ahead, ask you kids for help and scoop up on sales. A little extra work can result in cash well saved.

Readers: How do you save money while travelling?

Photo by mrtopp

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Check out Arrows by Melissa Gorzelanczyk, coming January 2016 from Delacorte Press/Random House. Visit her author site here.


1 Nicole July 28, 2011 at 7:49 am

During school holidays I bake alot of biscuits, muffins and muesli bars and keep them in the freezer. I also have a “to-go” container ready for longish trips which is handy if we caught out and the kids are hungry (it has sultanas, almonds, dried apricots, crackers etc). For the planned long trips we start with chopped up fresh fruit and then slowly hand out sandwiches and baked stuff from the freezer. For really long trips over more than a day we do what you suggested – buy beforehand. My kids love getting store bought muesli bars, crackers and cheese. I also buy cheap cereal and decant into little containers for quick cheap snacks that keep fresh for days.

2 Melissa July 28, 2011 at 2:31 pm

My mouth is watering reading your snacks! They sound delicious. I might have to raid your freezer. 🙂

Great suggestion about the cereal. It’s yummy to munch on and doesn’t spoil easily. Excellent additions, Nicole!

3 Lisa @ Just here. Just now. July 28, 2011 at 8:29 am

Great list. Also, if I am flying, I take my (empty) Sigg bottle with me. That way, I can fill it up after I go through security. I’ve had to throw out way too many half full plastic water bottles while traveling – which is wasteful in so many ways!

4 Melissa July 28, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Great tip, Lisa. Thanks for sharing!

5 Lisa Ahn July 28, 2011 at 7:12 pm

We recently went on a month-long car trip with our kids and we saved money by having snacks and water bottles at the ready. We’ve also found these bags from Snack Taxi to be a great bargain in the long run. You can use them forever and they have sandwich sized or snack size. http://www.snacktaxi.com/

6 Melissa August 1, 2011 at 7:11 am

Awesome link, Lisa! From experience, do the snack bags keep snacks fresh? Or do they start to go stale after a couple days?

7 Lynn July 29, 2011 at 10:46 am

I found these at the grocery store – http://www.ziploc.com/Products/Pages/EvolveSandwichStorageBags.aspx?SizeName=Sandwich

They didn’t cost much more than the usual bag. Also I wash and reuse my zipper bags unless they’ve had raw meat in them or something so greasy or gross that they won’t clean up well.

Great tips for traveling Melissa! Doesn’t bottled water seem like the most ridiculous thing, once you’re used to byob?

8 Melissa August 1, 2011 at 7:10 am

Cool link! I haven’t seen these before. I’m glad they are coming up with better options … things I would actually buy.

Yes – bottled water is the silliest. Such a waste on every level.
See you soon!

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