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It’s almost vacation season. Well, really, any season is vacation season. People travel year-round, but it amps up in the summer months and over the holidays. Travel has really increased since the end of the pandemic. People are itching to get out and explore the world after being couped up for so long. So, if you want to travel a bunch but don’t want to waste money, I have some smart and secret tips for you to save money on your next vacation.

Travel by the Numbers

For the 2023 holiday season, the AAA projected a whopping 115.2 million travelers to travel 50 miles or more from home during the travel period from Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023, to Monday, Jan. 1, 2024. The number of travelers was projected to increase 2.2% over last year. It also marked the highest projection since 2000, when the AAA first started tracking holiday travel. The busiest travel season, according to the AAA, was in 2019. So, it’s obvious that people are traveling pretty much more than ever.

So, where are people traveling? According to the AAA, some of the most popular vacation spots for travelers are the usual suspects. Those include Orlando, Florida, the home of Walk Disney World; New York City, New York; Las Vegas, Nevada; Chicago, Illinois; Alaska and beyond. Other spots around the world include Mexico, Europe, the Caribbean, Africa and Iceland. According to the latest numbers, the AAA says that Orlando is the No. 1 travel spot for Americas. “Home to world-famous theme parks that attract millions of visitors a year, like Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld, it comes as no surprise that Orlando is the number one top travel destination in the U.S.,” they state.

If you’re traveling to some fun hotspots, you’ll want to save some cash. Read on for some helpful tips to save money on your vacation this year.

Under-the-Radar Ways to Save Cash on Your Next Vacation:

  • 1. Try to Negotiate Your Lodging

    Did you know that hotel fees can be negotiable? points out that, “You may be able to negotiate the online price by calling a hotel directly, or asking if they have any discounts for students, government employees, or members of certain groups, such as AAA.” So, don’t settle for that price you see on your laptop. Try to do better. It’s a secret tip that can pay off bigtime.

    Woman on her phone

    Getty Images / macniak

  • 2. Get Smart with Your Lodging

    Did you know some hotels that are virtually the same, including the same brand, can be cheaper just a few miles apart? As a general rule, hotels that are near the airport are more expensive. So, you can look at the hotels you want to stay at and their multiple locations in the area for the best rate. “Some hotels that are under construction may rent rooms at a discount, which is a great option if you can deal with the noise,” points out.

    Woman at the airport

    Getty Images / macniak

  • 3. Snack Your Way to a Cheaper Trip

    Going out to eat on vacation can be one of the most exciting things about the trip. But, if you want to save on cash, skip a few meals out and opt for healthy, hearty snacks. Pack (or buy at a local store) some protein-rich snacks, like protein bars and meal bars, and limit your dining out. You can still enjoy some of the best food the area has to offer, just not as much of it. This is a way to stay fit on your trip, too. A lot of people don’t think of this tip, so it’s a bit of a secret.

    Woman snacking on cereal

    Getty Images / djiledesign

  • 4. Timing is Everything

    You’ve heard it so many times in life: Timing is everything. That’s true for travel, too. Research to find the least-busy times to visit your destination. If you travel during those downtimes, you’ll save big. While this is a common tip, something people forget is that every vacation destination has its own peak time. So, be specific for your travel spot.

    Woman smiling on her laptop

    Getty Images / BartekSzewczyk

  • 5. Travel with a Friend

    If you’re thinking of traveling solo to a place you’ve always wanted to visit, go cheaper by traveling with a friend. You two can share lodging fees. Also, sometimes there are more deals and discounts for those traveling with multiple people. I always do this when going to a big music festival, if it’s far away. I’ll usually meet my friend there, and we share lodging costs. It also makes the trip more fun.

    Two friends traveling

    Getty Images / PeopleImages

  • 6. Find Free Spots to Travel

    Look for some free attractions in your travel area. Chances are, they won’t be as packed as the big-named places, too. You can still visit some of the popular landmarks. But, if you add a trip to a national park or free museum to your itinerary, it will save you some cash.

    People hiking

    Getty Images / MargaretW

  • 7. Max Out Your Memberships

    Are you a member of any random groups? You might have travel deals just waiting for you. Check everything, from your college alumni membership to your credit cards, for travel discounts. You may be surprised what you find.

    Woman with a credit card

    Getty Images / Andrii-Borodai

  • 8. Don't Get Picky

    Say you just want to get out on a fantastic trip, but you don’t really have a place in mind. That’s actually a good thing. Take an hour to look at flight specials happening right now. If you aren’t picky on where to travel, chances are you’ll find a great rate on airfare and lodging somewhere. Once you find the most reasonable place to travel, then you can start looking at what to do when you’re there.

    Airport terminal

    Getty Images / 06photo

  • 9. Go Popular

    This is a bit ironic, but often times, the most popular tourist destinations are also the cheapest. That’s because there is a lot of competition for all those travelers. So, big-named destinations like Orlando, Florida, or Las Vegas, Nevada, tend to have really good travel deals. Go popular, or go home.

    The ocean with palm trees

    Getty Images / Gabriele-Maltinti

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