People often ask how I save money on vacation and I give them a lengthy reply. So, I decided to write it all down and put it on the blog. I know, from experience, that it’s easy to blow your budget in areas you hadn’t even thought of.  So, here are my tried-and-true tips for saving money on vacation!

1. CREATE (AND STICK TO) A DAILY BUDGET

I cannot stress this point enough! It’s easy to blow your budget when you have no idea how much you can spend each day. For instance, if you have $2000 for a 4-day trip then you should determine how much you want to spend daily.

For example, with $500 per day for a family of 4 you have to think about 3 meals a day, transportation, shopping, and sightseeing. If you have a small budget then you’ll need to be creative to make it work but it can be done. *If you’re staying in a vacation rental be sure to budget for groceries. Just having a budget won’t do you any good if you don’t look at it, update it, and stick to it.

2. PICK A GOOD LOCATION

Saving $50/night on a hotel or vacation rental outside the city sounds great, right? Not when you factor in the cost of transportation to the city. You’ll probably go back to your apartment twice a day and if it’s far it could end up costing more than you saved on the location.

3. BOOK A VACATION RENTAL

I’ve written about this before and you can read it HERE. If you’re on a budget, the best thing you can do is rent an apartment through VRBO, Airbnb, Flipkey,  or Tripadvisor.  There are plenty of reputable companies to choose from.

4. PAY IN ADVANCE

It’s possible to save money on transportation and sightseeing when you buy your tickets in advance. We purchased train tickets from Venice to Rome 2 months before our trip and saved 25%! You can also buy tickets for museums and monuments early. Don’t forget to check with the local tourism board because they usually have tourist cards with big discounts. The biggest benefit for paying in advance is not having to factor those costs into your daily budget!!

5. PLAN AHEAD

You don’t have to make an itinerary that goes hour-by-hour but you should have one that goes neighborhood by neighborhood. What I mean is, make a list of all the things you want to do then categorize it by neighborhood so you don’t spend time/money going back and forth. Even if plan your activities over multiple days, it can still work by neighborhood.

6. USE THE ATM

I like using the ATM when I arrive instead of exchanging loads of cash – plus, you skip the hefty fees. If your bank does have fees, it’s still better than exchanging at a kiosk. However, most places (depending on the country) take credit cards with a chip. If you don’t have a credit card without international fees, consider getting one if you travel frequently.

7. GET INTERNATIONAL DATA SERVICE OR A LOCAL SIM CARD

Trust me, this will be worth every penny! The last thing you want to do on vacation is hunt for wifi. We have the T-mobile international plan and it gives us unlimited data and texts in over 140 countries. It’s the best thing ever!!! If you can’t get an international data plan, purchase a sim card in the airport when you land. They’re pretty cheap but your phone needs to be unlocked for it to work.

8. USE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Don’t waste your money on taxi cabs and uber rides! Get familiar with the train, the bus, or use your feet to get around. Of course, if you’re going across town and you’re in a hurry then cab it. But, don’t spend extra money just because you’re afraid of public transportation. In most European and Asian countries, public transportation is clean and easy to navigate.  Also, not all but some cities in the U.S. have great public transportation.

san francisco street car

9. SPLURGE ON ONE MEAL A DAY

Don’t spend a ton on food! Don’t get me wrong, saving money is not more important than eating local fare. One of the main reasons my husband and I travel is to eat!! However, we usually stick to pastries, local bread with jam and coffee for breakfast. This can run you $5-7/pp depending on your location. For lunch, we try to spend less than $10/pp and eat portable, street food. Dinner is where we like to go all out. We order a bottle of wine, whatever main course we want and we even have dessert! We don’t have a budget for dinner.

This is where your vacation rental can save you money. We like to stock our place with wine, cheese, bread, various deli meats (which can work for any meal), snacks and coffee.

10. HAVE A POST-VACATION FUND

If you’re like me and spend every free penny on vacation only to get home to surprise/forgotten expenses, this is for you. If you have a budget, I’m guessing you’re not independently wealthy so be conscious of how much you need when we get home. You can easily work that into your overall vacation budget.


I hope my tips will save you money on your next vacation! I’m in the planning stages for my next trip and I’m taking my own advice. 🙂 Do you have any tips, tricks, or advice to save money? I’d love to hear about in the comments.

OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT LIKE:

5 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your Vacation

Funjet Vacations – Pay For Your Vacation Over Time

(Be sure to pin for later!)

On the island tour, we hit all the major tourist spots like Hin Yai & Hin Ta (Grandmother and Grandfather Rock), Wat Khunaram (Mummified Monk), Pagoda Khao Hua Jook, Wat Plai Laem, and Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai).

We also stopped for street ice cream sundaes served in hot dog buns.  Yep, I said hot dog buns!  During the tour, our guide doubled as our own personal (awesome) photographer taking stunning shot after shot – mostly with one hand as the other was busy holding his cigarette.  If you’re ever in Koh Samui, take this tour, it’s worth every penny!

Our next excursion was the much anticipated elephant ride.  I know people have mixed feelings about doing this but we did it and it was pretty awesome!  We booked the Safari Park tour so we could ride the elephants, visit a popular waterfall and see a few other sights/animals.  I have to admit, I was pretty nervous about getting on an elephant and even more nervous after the driver got off and started taking pictures for us with our camera.  It seems like everyone in Thailand is a professional photographer!

I wasn’t really impressed with the rest of the park including the waterfall and the route you had to take to get there.  Can you say, dangerous?

On New Year’s Eve, we spent the morning hanging out in our cabana, playing Connect Four and chatting with our favorite waitress, May.

She was the absolute best during our stay and I hope to see her again when we return.  May heard us talking about lanterns and she mentioned that she would try to find some for us.  If you’ve never seen the Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai (Festival of Light) I urge you to visit this site or search google images for “yi peng lantern festival.”  This has been a dream of mine since I first heard of it many years ago.  Even though we weren’t participating in the real Yi Peng Festival, I knew that many people would light lanterns at midnight on New Year’s Eve and I wanted in.

Later that evening, after getting ready for the big NYE party, we arrived back at our cabana to find our lanterns!  I was ready to light that sucker immediately but it wasn’t time.  So, we ate the delicious hors d’oeuvres passed around by cute Thai waiters and waitresses, we drank glass after glass of free champagne then we enjoyed a beautiful, formal sit-down dinner by the pool.  After dinner the band started to play and everyone hit the dance floor.  Some time later the fire dancers entered the picture and dazzled us with their skillz!  https://instagram.com/p/ilxe3hKxz4/?taken-by=meemsworld

At midnight, the fireworks show began and we were also able to see many other fireworks displays farther down along the beach.  After the fireworks, most of the guests ran to get their lanterns as we were told it was time.  Anthony and I and this other couple we made friends with went down to light our and they got a hilarious video of us trying to light ours.  I mean, those things are not easy to light.  You have to practically set yourself on fire before you can even let it go.  I’m debating whether or not I should post it, I don’t come across so cute and cuddly on this one, lol!

Watching the lanterns take off into the sky filled with other lanterns was so incredibly awesome.  It wasn’t to the extent of the lantern festival but you could see thousands of lanterns in the sky and it was magical!  I’m still planning to attend the real festival in Chiang Mai one day.

Thailand was just as incredible as I thought it would be.  The people are so genuinely nice, the islands are stunning and the exchange rate ain’t bad either!  If I could go back to Thailand every year I would in a heartbeat.

Soon, I’ll share my story on Bangkok and I hope you’ll come back to read it!

I’ve been to Mexico plenty of times but this was my first time visiting Cabo San Lucas.  The hubby and I had been working hard for months without a break so we decided to take a short trip.  We flew from LAX to SJD on a Tuesday and returned on Friday.  I’m a flight attendant but for this trip we purchased a direct flight on Alaska Airlines and were able to upgrade to first class, for a small fee.

Once we arrived in Cabo, we walked out to meet our shuttle driver (we booked a one way trip online with the hotel’s recommendation for transportation).  I read a few reviews of Cabo and knew to keep walking past the people at the airport who try to sell you timeshares and excursion but one guy looked very official and said he was with airport tourism board. Looking back, that sounds pretty suspect and it was.  He said to talk the man at the desk to coordinate the shuttle pick up.  Unfortunately, they were trying to sell us an excursion and as soon as we realized it we took off. Moral of the story: DON’T stop on your way out of the airport in Cabo.

All the shuttle drivers are outside and have nothing to do with anyone inside.  Finally, we stepped outside, had a drink at the bar and boarded our shuttle to the RIU Palace (about 45 minutes from the airport). After the long drive, we arrived at our hotel, checked in and unpacked.

Our first order of business was to take a look around the resort and plan our attack for the next morning.  So, we hit the bar (I mean, it is all-inclusive) and took a short walk along the beach. Later that evening, we had dinner and watched the Michael Jackson tribute show.  This show, unlike the one on the Carnival cruise, was great!  The dancers looked like they were having a great time, the music was upbeat and the impersonator was pretty spot on. After the show, we went to bed so we could wake up early for breakfast and stake our claim on a chair at the pool!

Day 2: Most of our day was spent drinking at the swim-up pool bar, eating at the seaside grill and napping in between! At first we were worried about not knowing anyone at the resort but it didn’t take us long to make friends. We met 3 great couples who we laughed, lounged and took shots with.

After spending the day soaking in the sun and the stunning view of the Sea of Cortez, we all decided to escape the compound and check out Cabo Wabo! What a fantastic night!  Cabo Wabo is one of the most popular spots in Cabo San Lucas for live music and a good time and it didn’t disappoint. The band was amazing, the energy was great and the company was even better. Normally, it could be awkward when going out with a group of people you don’t know but this was not one of those times. We knocked back tons of cervezas and a few shots and danced to a mix of live music and a Dj playing old and new music! I highly recommend a trip to Cabo Wabo if you haven’t been.  Back at the hotel, we had a few more drinks and finally went to bed around 3 am!

Day 3: This one was a bit of a blur!  All the drinking and dancing at Cabo Wabo definitely left us a little worse for wear but not too much because we all went back again!  Even though our hotel was all-inclusive, it was nice to get out and see what the city had to offer.  However, I spent many, many hours looking at this view!

Day 4: Our last day – We woke up around 8am, had breakfast, and booked a water taxi to take us to the Arch, Lover’s Beach and Lands End.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t get on the boat from our hotel and we had to take a 20 minute trek along the beach to get to the the water taxi.  Let me be honest, about 20 pounds ago this would have been a cake walk but I was huffing and puffing like crazy.  Plus, I’m sure all the food and booze I had in the previous days didn’t help my physical state. However, I’m glad we decided to do it and I’m glad we did it on the last day because it gave us something to focus on besides going home.  Seeing the Arch, Lover’s Beach and Lands End up close were definitely highlights of this trip.

After the tour, we had lunch overlooking the beach and hung out with our friends one last time. We had the most amazing time with this group and I’m convinced we made lifelong friends. We’re already planning our next group vacation! Next time you’re on vacation, be sure to meet new people and have new experiences because they last a lifetime!


Do you have any vacation friends that have become like family?  Tell me about it in the comments below

 

Happy 6 month Blogiversary to me!  Yeah, I know, in the grand scheme of blogs six months isn’t much but it’s a big milestone for me.  I tend to get these amazing ideas but after a week of “full steam ahead” I lose motivation and interest.  So, successfully blogging for 6 months is a HUGE deal!

Of course, I haven’t done all that I want to do but it’s coming and I just want to say thanks to all of you who have read, commented on or even skimmed my posts!  I have so much to learn and such a long journey ahead of me but I’m getting there little-by-little.  This year, I’m trying new things and stepping out of my comfort zone.  I’m planning to attend a few blogger conferences so I can learn the ropes, network and get a glimpse of where this incredible journey might take me! Please keep coming back because my little baby blog can only get better!

Thanks again for the love and support!

Sincerely,

Mia

 

As you can see, I’ve been away from my blog for a little while and that’s mostly because I’ve made some major changes in my life and career.  Most of you know that I’m a flight attendant but I recently changed companies and I’m now working for mainline instead of a regional airline.  This change took me away from home, my husband and my dog for weeks on end but I could not be happier with the change.   However, if I’m being completely honest, I have to admit that it’s taking a little while to get used to because I’m commuting between Los Angeles and my new work base.  So, I feel like I’m always on the go and that led to me getting sick with the flu and not being able to shake it for a few weeks. I’m still feeling a bit sick but I’m trying to make the most of it and get some writing done in my down time.  Luckily, I have a wonderful husband who is super supportive and he’s all for me following my dream and looking at the bigger picture.

I’m still getting used to the new job and living the life of a commuter but things are starting to calm down and I can finally start thinking about my next big adventure.  My poor hubby has been working like crazy on his latest project and he’s itching for a holiday as well.

Some of the places we’ve thrown around are Costa Rica, Cabo San Lucas, Aruba, and Thailand (top of our list but there’s no way I’ll have that much time off as it takes a full day to get there and back – not to mention the two weeks we’d like to stay!).  We’ve also talked about taking a 5-7 day Mexican Riviera cruise out of Los Angeles.  It’s hard to choose just one because we’d like to just run away for a month and do nothing but rest and relax and any of these destinations would fit that bill.

As we plan, I have a feeling we’ll be more budget minded on this trip so we can take multiple trips this year.  I love traveling the world but I also like being debt free and you really can’t do both if you don’t plan, save and keep an eye on your budget… and stick to it.  We could  spend thousands on this week-long vacation or we could find an affordable option that allows us to pay it off not long after we return thus freeing up money for our next trip later this summer (and if I have my way, another trip late fall).

Once we decide where we’re going I promise to tell you all about it!  In the meantime, I still have tons of stories to tell you about the trips we took last year including Italy Part III: Rome, Thailand (Bangkok & Koh Samui) and China. Please stay tuned for more Travel with Mia.

Where do you think we should go for our next adventure?  Are you planning any big trips this year?  I’d love to hear your travel plans, suggestions for my travel plans and/or details on your favorite destinations.  Leave your comments below!

After spending two days in Venice, we planned to take the train to Rome and stop in Florence for the afternoon.  I bought the train tickets online in advance so they were dirt cheap.  Also I purchased advanced tickets to see the statue of David at the Accademia Gallery.  I didn’t buy tickets to any other galleries because I thought we could walk around the city for a bit and then stumble upon some things to do.  Plus, we’re not big museum fans.

Anyway, we arrive in Florence without a hitch and walk over to the Accademia Gallery for our entry time at 9:00 a.m.  Walking into the gallery it seemed small and well thought out but nothing prepared me for rounding that corner and seeing David for the first time in person.  Whoa! He is massive and stunning!  The hubs and I spent about an hour just staring at him.  We talked about his hands, his feet, his veins, his hair, his butt, his arms, I mean, we really had a good, long look at David.  By far, this was one of the best stops on our tour of Italy.

After leaving the gallery, we walked around and found ourselves back in front of the Duomo.  Now, that is another sight we weren’t prepared for. On our way to the gallery, we walked past the Duomo trying to take in as much of its beauty as possible but we knew we had time to return and return we did.  We walked around the Duomo a few times looking in wonderment at the color, the detail and the presence of this magnificent cathedral.  We contemplated going to the top but I didn’t think we had enough time.

We walked around a little more, stopped for coffee and used the wifi to see what other things we could do in Florence.  It turns out, both of us were extremely exhausted and more interested in sitting than exploring.  Once we determined that the wifi at the coffee shop didn’t work, we remembered there was a McDonald’s across the street from the train station and it had wifi. So, we ended up at McDonald’s in Florence and since we were already there… we decided to eat. Yes, I know.  Who goes to Florence, Italy to eat McDonald’s?  Normally, I would laugh at anyone who did such a thing but I wanted to sit, use wifi and I was starving.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, I booked our train tickets in advance and thought our 5 hour stopover in Florence would be jam-packed with things to do.  As it turns out, we spent a good 3 hours sitting in McDonald’s trying not to fall asleep.  Now, that has nothing to do with Florence and everything to do with jetlag and exhaustion.

Not long after eating, the smell of food, or the guilt of eating McDonald’s, got to me so we went back to retrieve our luggage and wait for our train. As we approached the doors to the station, I all but lost my mind.  I was so tired and overwhelmed by planning my first two week vacation that I just started bawling.  Yes, right there in front of the main entrance to the Firenze Santa Maria Novella Station.  All my husband could do was hold me and tell me that soon the train would come and I could sleep on the way to Rome.  I guess that was all I needed to hear.  Finally, we hopped on the train and took a ride through the Tuscan country side and all I kept thinking was “why don’t we have a villa in Tuscany?”

So, we didn’t make it to any other famous museums, we didn’t eat any fancy food, we ate McDonald’s, and we don’t own a villa in Tuscany.  And that, my friends, is how I failed in Florence.