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

 

Hey everyone!  I just wanted to say THANK YOU for keeping up with me over the past few months.  I can’t believe I actually started a blog AND kept up with it for more than a few weeks.

I’m looking forward to the new year and some big changes.  Some of you already know but I’ve tried to keep it a secret for as long as possible.  I guess I can tell you now… Nah, I’ll make you wait until the new year.  I’m taking a much needed winter break over the next two weeks but I hope you return to see what’s going on with Travel with Mia.

Best wishes in the new year and happy travels!

Sincerely,

Mia

October of 2014, I was in Greece, one of the most stunning, sun-kissed countries on the planet!  My husband and I had the pleasure of spending 2 days in Athens and 5 relaxing days on the island of Santorini.  Now, I’m sitting at my desk writing this post and wishing I was still there.  It’s times like these, I’m glad I keep a travel diary so I can reminisce.

Santorini:

After one night in Athens, we took the Blue Star Ferry to Santorini. The trip took about 8 hours but we were excited to slow down after a week of hustle and bustle in Italy.  We even booked a cabin so we could grab a few hours of sleep.  Once we arrived, we took a taxi from the port into Fira where we met, Yiannis, the owner of the house we rented from VRBO.  (Side note: This one was amazing!)  He drove us from Fira to Oia where we stayed in a pretty awesome two bedroom Cave House.  http://villasonsantorini.com/Earth-House.html  As we checked in and got the scoop on our rental, I couldn’t help but look at the ridiculous view just outside our door. I was sure this was the most beautiful place I had ever been.

Our plan for the 5 day trip was to relax as much as possible and disconnect from work, social media and America.  I admit, at first it was difficult but by the end of the 2nd day I had it down. Most of our mornings were spent lying on one of our 3 patios reading and soaking up the Mediterranean sun.

In the afternoons, we ventured out into the main area of Oia to shop and drink with the locals. Some of the most charming parts of Oia were the marble streets, the white-washed buildings and the colorful rooftops.

The rest of our days were spent eating fresh fish, crisp Greek salads (I assume they’re just called salads in Greece) and delectable desserts, most involving Greek honey! One of my favorite meals was in Amoudi Bay where we stopped for a lovely seaside lunch.  I even got my hubby, who loves sashimi but is super picky when it comes to shell fish, to try a few new things.

Each night, we witnessed phenomenal sunsets where the sun seemed to melt into the Aegean Sea. It was during our very first sunset that my husband and I deemed Santorini our spot and decided to come back whenever we needed to recharge our batteries. (Side note: in the first photo,  in the upper left-hand corner you can see the famous spot, the Fortress Ruins, where people gather in Oia to watch the sunsets. We’re relaxing on our patio with lots of wine and cheese!)

On our last night in Santorini, Yiannis, made dinner reservations for us in Fira. The atmosphere on the patio dining area was sweet and serene and the food was to die for. This was definitely the best meal we had during our two weeks in Europe and a great way to end our trip to this charming island.

This time next year, we plan to go back to Greece to relax, disconnect and eat! I’d love to hear about your favorite places to getaway from it all.  Leave your comments below.

Click to see the full gallery! Santorini 2013

Happy travels!

Mia