How to Travel on a Budget

Travelling and seeing the world is one of life’s greatest pleasures.  Here are ways for Canadians to stretch their travel budget to help them save for the best vacation ever!

travel money saving hacks

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Ah the sweet warmth of summer has led to me getting bit by the travel bug!

I love to travel.  But as a single income family in a high cost of living area with three kids, our travel budget is limited.  Nevertheless, our kids have become really great travelers and are just as excited to explore new places (or maybe just sleep in hotels) as we are!

Since our kids seem to have embraced travelling and don’t even complain (that much) about long rides in the car, we have started making travel a bigger priority in our lives.

Here’s – ways that we save on travel:

Put Your Credit Card to Work

best rewards credit card canada

Running up credit debt is never a good idea, but if you’ve got discipline to stay within your budget, taking advantage of credit card offers is a great way to save on travel.  In fact, there’s a whole community of people who do just this to get free and discount travel deals.  A quick search of credit card churning in Canada, will lead to lots of pro tips and tricks to take advantage of credit card programs.

Now, if you’re a bit more like me in that you don’t want to have your credit pinged routinely (simply because we’re refinancing our mortgage soon), then you may want to just pick one card and stick with it.  I use the Scotia Bank Infinite Momentum card and love it!  I get 4% cash back on all gas and grocery purchases, 2% back on recurring payments and pharmacy and 1% back on everything else.  Scotiabank pays out the cashback once a year, so it’s a great way to save up for a trip!

Right now, Scotiabank is offering 10% cashback on all purchases in the first 3 months (up to $200) AND offering no annual fee for the first year!  Learn more about this great offer here!

Use Gift Cards

Discount Gift Cards Canada

There are few ways to get discount gift cards to save money on your travel (and lots of other things you spend money on)!  Here are my favourites:

Use Cashback Credit Cards

Did you read the last point about taking advantage of your credit card rewards program?  This is perhaps the best way!

The Scotiabank Infinite Momentum Visa offers 4% cashback at grocery stores and gas stations – this means that everything you purchase there puts 4% into your savings account – even gift cards!  This is a great way to get an automatic discount on everything that you’re going to buy!

Don’t forget you can get 10% off all purchases for the first 3 months up to $200!  Learn more about this limited time offer here!

Buy Discount Gift Cards

The next option is to simply buy discount gift cards.  Fortunately, there are a few places to buy discount gift cards in Canada.

Swagbucks – If you’ve been following this blog or checked out other articles, you’ve probably noticed my affinity for Swagbucks!  One of the newest great features on the site is the option to buy gift cards and get a percentage back in Swagbucks!  Many of the cards give you the option to have them delivered through the mail or email, so if you’re in a hurry, be sure to click the appropriate option.

Ebates – If you do any online shopping, you should be a member of Ebates!  It’s so easy to use and gives you cash back for every online purchase that you make!  Recently, Ebates has also gotten into the gift card selling game, and also offers cashback for gift cards bought through their site.  This is a great way to not only get cheap gift cards, but also top up your balance to make sure you have the minimum $5 quarterly payment!

CardSwap – This is the first site I ever used for buying gift cards.  It’s super easy to use and only does gift card sales, which makes navigation a bit easier.  Like Swagbucks and Ebates, you pay full price for the gift card and then receive points back.  Once $10 in points has been accumulated, they can be redeemed for a variety of other gift cards.

Store Sales – Do you check your weekly flyers for in-store sales?  As you read along, also watch out for discount gift cards!  Every once and a while stores will offer gift cards to other stores at a discount.  This is a great time to pick up gift cards and pay less out of pocket.

Just the same, sometimes stores offer savings or gift cards to their stores when a certain spending threshold is reached.  Watch for these offers at your favourite stores to save more!

Costco – Discount gift cards are a great Costco bonus!  Typically found in the toy/book aisle, there are usually a great number of gift cards to choose from!  This is a great way to save on gift cards right up front.

Facebook Groups/Kijiji – Buying gift cards from other people is definitely an option, albeit a slightly more risky one.  Every once and a while (especially shortly after Christmas) people offer gift cards they will not use in these groups at a discount.  While this is a great way to get an immediate discount, be sure to proceed with caution, as sadly, there are many who will do anything for a bit of money.

Get Cashback When You Book Online

best cash back programs canada

There are lots of great cashback sites out there right now, most of which offer travel savings as well!  Personally, I stick to Swagbucks and Ebates and choose whichever site is offering the better deal at the time.

From hotels to flights; to luggage to car rentals and things to do, Ebates and Swagbucks offer a huge number of places to get cash back.

Be sure to check out both Ebates.ca and Ebates.com for your cashback needs regardless of where you live!  So if you’re a Canadian heading to the US, check out offers at Ebates.com as you will get paid out in USD!

Watch the video below to see how easy it is to shop through Ebates:

Name Your Price through Priceline

how does priceline work

Before kids, when we traveled a lot, we would always book hotels through Priceline.  Using this amazing site, we always saved at least 50% of the posted price on the site – including getting 5 star hotels for $40USD a night in Toronto and Dallas!

Now that we have kids, we have to be a bit more picky about where we’re staying since we need certain amenities and room sizes.  However, pre-kids when a single King bed would do, this was our go to saving site.

The Name Your Price function is super easy to use and offers great prices.  When we would use this feature, we would make our first offer at 90% discount and then increase the bids until they were accepted.  There is a cool off time in between bids, so if you do take this route, be sure to give yourself a few days to make your bids.

Don’t forget that you can get cashback for Priceline through both Ebates and Swagbucks!

Book Hotels with Amenities

what to look for in a hotel

When booking your hotel, be sure to pay attention not only to the reviews, but also the amenities it offers.  Most importantly, free breakfast and a fridge and microwave.

Starting your day off with a big FREE breakfast is a great way to save.  Not only will your tummy be full to keep you from splurging on extra snacks while you explore, but a big breakfast can also lead to a smaller lunch, meaning you save even more.

Having a fridge and microwave in your room is a great way to save.  Stop by a local grocery store and pick up a bunch of yummy snacks and drinks to fill the fridge with.  Snacking on these can replace meals and if nothing else, keep you from ordering late night room service or paying vending machine mark ups for snacks.

Use Groupon/Wagjag

Groupon and Wagjag are both group buying discount sites that have gained popularity in the last few years.  Both sites offer discount deals on many products and services, including travel!

When you’re planning a trip, be sure to search the city you’re visiting and see what deals are offered!  I’ve taken advantage of hotel package deals, restaurant deals and experiences through both Wagjag and Groupon.  Not only did I save money, but I also found great little places that I would have otherwise missed.

Don’t forget you can get cash back when shopping through Ebates and Swagbucks to get even more savings!

Here’s how to get Cashback through Swagbucks:

Look for Pass Savings

how to save on attraction tickets

Depending on the length of your stay and the amount of time you spend at certain venues, finding discount entrance passes is a great way to save more.

Season Passes

Depending where you’re going and how many days you’re going to spend at certain attraction, looking for multi day or even season pass deals can save even more.

Many places offer season passes that work out to the same or less than 3 visits.  So, if you plan on spending three or more days at a certain venue, or will return within their operating season, checking out their season pass deals could be a great way to save.

Discount Entrance Passes

Just as you can buy discount gift cards at Costco, you can also buy discount tickets for various venues!  Visiting the Costco online site is a great way to see the selection of discount passes they offer, but also going into the actual store, will give you immediate access to discount passes for local attractions.

City Pass

If you’re planning to visit multiple venues in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California, Tampa Bay or Toronto, then be sure to check out City Pass.

City Pass bundles tickets to the top attractions in each of those cities and offers them at big discounts!  Not only do you get the tickets at a cheaper price, but many locations offer expedited entrance and skip the line bonuses for City Pass users.

Learn more about City Pass here!

Sign up For Cheap Deal Newsletters

best travel deal newsletters for Canadians

There are many sites out there that specialize in cheap travel for Canadians.  Be sure to sign up for the emails or like their Facebook page to get frequent notification of great deals.

Though we have yet to go on a cruise, I personally love the Facebook page Cruise Deals for Canadians.  I also frequently check out YYZ deals for amazing travel discounts for Canadians and get discount deals sent to my email by Travelzoo.

Don’t Skip Travel Insurance

why you need travel medical insurance

If you’re in a foreign country and heaven forbid something happens to you that requires medical treatment, having travel insurance can save you thousands of dollars.

I backpacked Europe back in my mid twenties and got stung by a jellyfish, on the butt, while swimming in Cannes.  It hurt.  A lot.  I ended up with third degree burns on my butt and had an allergic reaction to the sting.  Fun.

I had also just completed my second degree, had no job and was totally broke.  I was getting by on 10 Euros a day for all food, transportation and attractions.  I needed medical attention for the sting and had I not had insurance, I would have paid several hundred in Euros for the doctor visit and medication.

Accidents can happen at anytime, so be prepared and pay the extra for travel insurance.  If something happens, it’s worth every cent.

Be Prepared

Packing hacks to save money

This is especially important if you’re traveling with kids.  Being prepared and packing appropriately can save a lot of money on your next trip.

Fortunately, most hotels know life happens and things get forgotten, so they often have plenty of courtesy toiletries for their guests.  But, if you forget a pair of shoes, or shorts or a hat, having to pick up last minute replacements can add extra strain to your travel budget.

A handy tip if you’re traveling by air, is to pack an extra outfit in your carry on luggage.  We’ve all heard horror stories of luggage getting lost by airlines and people not getting it back for months, if at all.  Having an outfit for each person in their carry on can alleviate some of the stress that comes along with lost luggage.

Sure, you’ve only got one outfit, but knowing that you’re covered for the next day in case the luggage shows up is relieving.  If it doesn’t show up, having the spare for the next day reduces the panic to replace items for the trip and gives a bit more time to shop around for the best deals.

How do you save money on your travels?

10 Replies to “How to Travel on a Budget”

  1. Great tips! I always try to find ways to save money while on vacation without compromising my experience so these are very helpful. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you so much! I’m so glad you found the information helpful and appreciate you taking the time to comment 🙂

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