Frugal Friday: 6 ways we save money on trips

Frugal vacationing

I’ve skipped Frugal Friday way too many times in a row but I thought this would be a good day for a quick post about ways to be frugal even when you’re on vacation.  I’m hoping you’ll also chime in below and tell me ways that you save money when you’re traveling.

1.  We camped for a lot of years and of course that is a super affordable way to sleep your family on vacation, especially when you also do a lot of the cooking yourself.  Here are a few fun camp-food ideas.

2. For a mob as big as ours, a vacation rental is also a good way to sleep a lot of people on a budget.  A house that can sleep a dozen or more can run $250-$400 a night, but divide that among 4 or more households and all of a sudden it starts looking more affordable, especially when you compare it to the cost of sleeping that number of people in a hotel.

3.  Whether camping or staying in a vacation home, a fabulous way to save money on a trip is to cook for yourself. In 9 days of vacation this past week  our group of 16+ people ate out exactly twice, and one of those times was on the way home. Also remember to use those coolers, and pack lunches and snacks for driving days.  If you feel too disorganized to pack a whole meal remember that even apples, cookies and juice boxes in a cooler will help ward off the hungries and save you money.

4.   When you do eat out– we all need a break from cooking sometimes!– choose your restaurants wisely. We tend to gravitate toward Mexican restaurants or pizza when we are on the road, since those types of restaurants tend to be more affordable.  Another bonus of Mexican restaurants– free chips while you wait for your meal!  That’s a big help when you’re traveling with hungry kiddos:)

Swimming5. If you’re hoteling it, stay in hotels with free breakfast. We also try to find hotels with sleeper couches and extra cots, to limit the number of rooms we’ll need.  And remember to read the reviews so you won’t be surprised by what you’re getting for your money.

6. Splurge a little. On trips even when we’re cooking at the house, I lean a bit heavier on convenience food and often serve snacks that I don’t buy any other time.  That keeps the trip feeling special, and makes life easier and more fun for everyone.

What about you?  How do you save money on vacation?




  1. I prefer to travel where there is a kitchen and a washing machine available.
    I find that doing laundry every second day reduces the amount of luggage.

    We bring a portable convection oven which is awesome to cook with (if there is no kitchen).

    For the travel days, we eat cheese, cold smokies, veggies and hummus.

    We rent a condo at our destination and invite friends and family over for meals rather than going out.

  2. I often bring our slow cooker or (digital) rice cooker and a cooler of food. That way I can make meals with only an electrical outlet! Dinner is ready for us when we return from our adventures at the end of the day, and we don’t have to eat out as much (or at all).

    P.S. Congratulations on your dream house! I’m so encouraged to see you working through the baby steps and know that it’s possible!

  3. I use a site called Six Suitcase Travel to find hotels with larger rooms. Quite a few hotels have family suites that can fit our family of 7 for more than a standard room, but a lot less than renting 2. I recently drove out from Nebraska to California with our 5 children and was able to stay in a room with 3 queens each night. Love that website – it has saved us tons. I also have very strong feelings about travel food. We took 4 1/2 days to do the drive (about 24 hours of driving) because we had a bunch of places we wanted to stop, but only ate out twice. I do a ton of baking and freeze some items to thaw over the first couple of days – plus things like the 2 dozen muffins I packed that are fine at room temps for 4-5 days.

  4. When we travel, we always try to find a place with a kitchen. Seems like that is the theme from the other comments as well. We are Gluten- and Dairy-free as well as having some other food limitations and we try to eat locally and organically wherever we are. Depending on the distance we’ll be traveling and the length of time without refrigeration, I pack accordingly. I usually prep lots of food in advance…bags of paleo granola, our own mix of roasted nuts, jerky, baked goods and home-made dairy-free cheeses, marinated meats for the grill, etc.. I shop sales for g.f. and paleo snack bars and snacks and save them for when we travel. If we know we’ll have access to an oven we often prep and premix dry ingreds. for baking in ziplocs or canning jars with instructions for baking written on the side.

    I try to bring the things that are either hard to find or really critical to our comfort and ease of traveling. Then I can find the simple stuff when we get there. Pack the stuff that travels well, buy the perishables when you get there.

    I scout our travel locations online for local farmer’s markets, health food stores and organic and paleo restaurants. Sites like Local Harvest, Sustainable Table and Food Routes are all great sites to check out before going on a trip.

    We also all bring personal travel mugs and water bottles and I pack teas, coffees, and other drink options. They can really add up when you buy them on the road.