Featured image: Peggy Farren (centre) on a car tour in Cuba
How to save on travel without sacrificing your experience
By Amanda Burgess, Editor, JourneyWoman
As we look to the future, the cost of travel is top-of-mind for budget-conscious travellers. Compared to 2020 when the pandemic kept people close to home and travel prices plummeted, 2021 has seen travel costs across the board – from hotels to flights – dramatically increase with demand. This has been especially true for rental cars, where the industry has seen demand outpace supply. As the world starts moving again, savvy JourneyWomen will be looking for ways to offset rising costs.
Where women want to save money
In our recent budget travel survey, two travel categories rose to the top as the areas respondents look to save on most often: Airfare and accommodation. To that end, we asked women to divulge tips and tricks for how they save in these categories.
7 Money-Saving Tips from Budget-Savvy Women
Accommodation and Meals
1. Look for accommodation with breakfast included, kitchen amenities, or a mini-fridge
When travelling solo, a hotel, homestay or B&B that includes breakfast, or has some kitchen amenities can help keep food costs down. This is a smart tactic for picky eaters, travellers with special dietary needs, or those for whom dining out isn’t one of the richest parts of the travel experience.
- Breakfast included
- Accommodation with a kitchen
“If I am travelling solo, I eat my biggest meal at lunch or in the afternoon and either pick up take away or buy from a grocery store for dinner. I look for accommodation that has a breakfast included when possible.” – Julie Iuvancigh
“I find accommodation with cooking facilities so I can shop and cook. This can be both a splurge and strategy for saving money as I buy excellent ingredients and wine. For splurge meals out I look for excellent restaurants that serve lunch. I shop in drug stores and other shops that locals use for small gifts.” – Anne Mauch
2. Eat two meals a day, and make one of them take-out or make-yourself
Even when staying in a hotel or accommodation without provided meals or kitchen amenities, you can save on meals by reducing the number of times you eat out in a day, focusing on lower-cost take-out, or grabbing easy throw-it-together ingredients from a local grocery store. This last strategy has the dual effect of allowing you to peruse international food items that you may never have encountered before and is a great way to meet locals!
- Eat your biggest meal at lunch
- Stop at bakeries and grocery stores for dinner
“I eat my main meal at lunchtime in a restaurant with good food and service. I stop at a bakery and supermarket to pick up bread, cheese, fruit and yogurt for a light dinner in my room. I often buy a bottle of wine to make those room dinners feel special. Or I do a picnic in a lovely park.” – Arlene Polangin
“I eat my main meal at lunch when servings are a bit smaller, and less expensive, and a light snack in the evening. I also bring a tiny drip coffee maker and coffee for the room.” – Wendy Brooke
Finding accommodation with a kitchen can help you save money
“I like to grab a “take away” pastie/meat pie in a bakery or stop in a grocery and get ready to eat things like fruit or cheese for a fraction of the cost.” – Ariannah Skye de Avalon
“I save on food as I am not a foodie, so often pick up something simple and eat it outside during a walk. I always have a good breakfast which takes me through to dinner – I eat only two meals a day while travelling.” – Joy Fox
3. Try a home exchange or nab yourself a housesitting/pet-sitting gig
Accommodation is one of the most expensive components of travel, depending on location, your needs and preferences, and length of stay – but it doesn’t have to be. Open and flexible travellers can push accommodation costs down to zero through home exchanges and posts as house-sitters or pet-sitters.
Peggy Farren’s views from a month-long home exchange in Tuscany
“HomeExchange.com was a game changer in my life. I realized I could take LONG vacations. No more one-week vacations for me since I rarely pay for lodging. I sold my house this spring so that leads me to my next favorite way to travel, TrustedHousesitters.com. I am just finishing up a seven-week cat-sitting gig in Denver. I took a long, slow, and wonderful road trip to get here so I could have my vehicle. I work all winter in Florida, so I have several short-term pet-sitting assignments lined up in between my photography jobs. I love to hike and it’s more fun with a dog. And if I am watching cats, I can leave for several hours to go out site-seeing.” – Peggy Farren
Looking for a more cost-effective way to travel? Here are 10 ways for women to travel, recommended by women, including housesitting, volunteering and more.
4. Join a hospitality service
For a small annual gratuity ($50 – $65), travellers can join travel clubs that focus on home exchanges or couch-surfing. You stay in the private homes of other members who act as hosts, or welcome travellers to your own home and share your community with them. It’s a great way for the solo traveller to meet locals and keep accommodation costs down.
“I just learned about these on a home swap this year. Since I sold my house, I don’t qualify to be a member of Affordable Travel Club but I just joined W5 – It’s similar to couch surfing but it’s all women and everyone has paid to belong to this club. It was only about $50 for the year and members welcome other members for up to three nights in their homes.” – Peggy Farren
5. Rent a homestay for at least a month
Homestay hosts tend to give you a break on fees when booking stays longer than three weeks. It means they have less frequent changeovers and cleaning, and guarantees they are fully booked for a month or more in a single booking.
Marlene Petrella’s saving strategy is to use VRBO and Airbnb to rent a two or three-bedroom apartment for a month and invites friends to come and stay for $50 a night. It works as a short-term B&B situation. So far, she and her travel companions have rented homes in Florence, Rome, Munich, Dublin, London, and this year, Athens.
Marlene’s first time trying out VRBO for a long-term rental in London – it’s now the only way she travels
Marlene and her sister, brother, and sister-in law on a 2009 trip to England – it was her first time using Viator for a private tour of Stonehenge
“I really love it since I can travel for less and always have a comfortable home base. Here’s how it works: One of us, usually me since I’m the planner, will rent an apartment/condo/house in a great vacation spot. The condo usually has a kitchen, living room, two bathrooms, and often a washer. I set up a calendar of dates and bedroom names so people can fill in when they want to stay at the condo (minimum of three to four days at a time) and when they will be on side trips, so the room is available for someone else,” says Petrella. “For food, we start out with 20 Euros each for “group” groceries like coffee, milk, eggs, butter, cereal, bread, fruit, and cheese. We find that breakfast is the one meal we eat at home, and then lunch and dinner are for exploring local restaurants. When the group grocery fund gets low, we toss in another 10 or 20 each and replenish.”
Airfare & Packages
6. Buy in bulk using deal aggregators
Deal aggregators for flights, hotels and rental cars typically buy in bulk from suppliers, which offers them cost savings, a portion of which they can pass on to consumers. Always check the airline, hotel, or rental car service website before booking, as you can sometimes get a better deal by buying direct.
“Scott’s Cheap Flights changed the way I travel. I am flying to Morocco from Miami roundtrip for $374. I went to Panama in May roundtrip for $112. Now Scott’s Cheap Flights is on the lookout for business class deals, which makes me love them even more!” – Peggy Farren
“I love Hotels.com. I have never stepped a foot wrong with them. The reason I like going through them is that they represent legitimate hotels or inns. Most of their agents are based out of the States, so if there’s ever a problem, somebody picks up the phone straight away and you’re sorted. Plus, for every 10 nights, you get one free. They’ve also got the cancel at any time option, or you can lock yourself in, which means the rate goes down. I love using them.” – Nicole Nassri
“I use Google Flights to look for inexpensive flights. I love that you can put in your airports and then click on the calendar to see the current prices for each day of the month. As you look further out, you can instantly see the best time to fly. If I don’t book at that time, I pick what looks like the least expensive days for my trip and set an alert so Google Flights will notify me when the price goes up or down. Some of the really cheap flights are very risky, so you have to be careful with the times, layovers, and airport locations before you book but I like this scheduling tool the best.” – Marlene Petrella
“For accommodations, if I need to pay, I search Booking.com and Airbnb to find the best option. I found a little one-bedroom casita on Airbnb for less than $300 for the entire month I was in Panama. Booking.com tends to find better prices for the one or two-night stays.” – Peggy Farren
Publisher’s Note: Take special care with the bonus offers that rewards programs and travel clubs promote. Read all the rules before signing up. Be careful with your credit card information. Be sure you understand how long the promotional period is, what the regular membership price is, and if your membership will auto-renew to your credit card. Note the end date of promotional periods in your calendar to cancel on time (and be sure you can cancel).
Travel will resume in time, and with a few tweaks to our modes and mindset, authentic experiences can be accessible on a budget.
7. Be an active member of a reward or credit card travel program – and use your points
Savvy savers tend to be members of one or more travel rewards programs. They know the ins and outs of each program, the value of a point, and they make their rewards do a lot of the heavy lifting on travel costs, using them for flights, hotels, upgrades, lounge passes, car rentals, and more.
Street Art in Montmartre in Paris, where Julie Iuvancigh was able to fly to from Vancouver using the bonus offer she receive when signing up for her TD First Class VISA Infinite Card.
- Marriott points
- Southwest Rapid Rewards points
- United credit cards
- Amex Platinum
- TD First Class Travel VISA Infinite
- Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card
- Amex Delta Skymiles card
“I travelled a lot for work, so I have accumulated a lot of Marriott points, Southwest Rapid Rewards points, and Uber deals. I use these as supplements whenever needed. I used to have a United credit card that gave me a huge amount of points but those ran out. I find that I can ‘shuffle’ credit cards and take advantage of their latest deals. For example, I had a Southwest card that I cancelled four years ago when I got my United card with bonus points. Recently, I cancelled the United card and I plan to get a new Southwest card since I now qualify for bonus points again. The process is to have about two airline cards and two hotel cards that you shuffle over a four to five-year period to take advantage of bonus point offers.” – Marlene Petrella
“We’ve got an Amex Platinum, which offsets the cost of airline tickets. What’s great about it is that it covers you on travel and travel medical insurance when make your travel purchases on your card. It also includes access to the lounges, so you can enjoy free food and take snacks with you. So, although there is a cost to having the card, it makes travel easier and more pleasurable.”– Nicole Nassri
“I belong to many travel rewards programs and use them all whenever it works to my benefit. I have a TD First Class Travel VISA Infinite card, and put almost everything I buy on the card. My points usually go towards my flights. I belong to several hotel programs, and depending on where I am going, I use whatever one works best. Every trip is different.” – Julie Iuvancigh
“I sign up for every awards program offered as I am traveling along – airlines, hotels, booking engines. I even signed up for the reward program at the movie theatre in Denver and after two movies, received a $10 coupon for food! I have a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, but I am still learning how to really take advantage of points.” – Peggy Farren
“I use my Amex Delta Skymiles card that I earn airline points on to pay EVERYTHING! My utilities, internet, food, subscriptions – you name it. I now have enough points to fly roundtrip to Europe four times (or anywhere else I choose).” – Karen Barrett Griffin
Do you have a hot tip or hack for saving on any part of the travel experience? Share it with us!
Stay tuned for the next tips article in our Budget Travel series.