June 17, 2024
5 Things Frugal People Never Buy on Vacation

Frugal people spend each dollar consciously, purchasing high-quality goods and services that add value to their lives while sticking to their budgets. Their spending habits spill into every area of their existence, including when they take vacations.

They find ways to save money on the biggest vacation expenses, such as airfare, lodging and car rentals. That way, they have more cash in their pockets to enjoy their adventures.

We spoke with three travel and financial experts about what frugal people never buy while on vacation. Here’s what they had to say.

(Too Many) Restaurant Meals

“Frugal travelers typically skip dining out too much on vacation, mostly because the cost of restaurant meals is much higher than dining at ‘home.’ Many frugal travelers opt to book a vacation rental or a hotel that offers a kitchenette for this reason. Having access to a refrigerator and microwave or stove makes it possible to eat some inexpensive meals and avoid expensive restaurant prices,” said Greg Johnson, travel expert and owner of the travel agency Travel Blue Book.


Andy Hill, accredited financial counselor (AFC®) and family finance coach from Marriage, Kids, and Money, said, “As a self-proclaimed frugal person, I am always on alert to avoid the timeshare salesperson. Although the free dinner or other amenities may be tempting, the hassle and costs of committing to a timeshare are not worth it.”

Recurring Expenses

Robert Persichitte, certified financial planner (CFP®) at Delagify Financial, agreed with Hill and said, “The worst thing to buy on a vacation, financially, is something that translates into a recurring expense. Timeshares, vacation clubs and buy-now-pay-later offers are all tricks to get you to spend more on your vacation. Recurring expenses are much more impactful than one-time expenses. Once you set your budget, stick to it, even if it’s just a small monthly expense.”

Cheap Souvenirs

Do you really need another T-shirt, coffee mug or knick-knack to commemorate your trip? Chances are, the souvenirs you buy will end up in the back of your closet or on a shelf collecting dust. You’ll probably get more fulfillment from spending that cash on local street food, using it to pay for a fun family activity or coming home with a higher bank balance.

Pricey Tourist Traps

It’s natural to be curious about the attractions that made the region you’re visiting famous. However, you may find they’re overhyped and not worth the money. Do your research and see what other travelers think about the location or activity before spending the cash.

Ways Frugal People Save Money on Vacation

It may be easier than you think to take an affordable vacation. You just need to adopt a few frugal travel habits, such as:

Skipping the Hotel Mini-Bar

“If you’re staying at a hotel, it can be tempting and convenient to eat from the mini-bar. Be sure to check the price list before snacking! It could make a lot more financial sense to stop by a local convenience store for beverages and snacks,” Hill said.

Cooking Your Own Meals

“Make sure you can enjoy at least two or three homemade meals per day on most days, and you’ll save big sums of money during your trip. We often eat breakfast and lunch at home and go out to eat for dinner,” Johnson said.

Being Flexible on Timing

If you’re not picky when you take a vacation, you can save a ton of money. For instance, consider traveling to a popular destination in the off-season. You can also reduce your airfare and lodging costs by booking a mid-week flight and hotel stay.

Choosing Free (or Inexpensive) Activities

Choose one or two pricey things to do while you’re away. Then, fill the rest of your time with low-cost activities, such as walking around the city or visiting local museums.

You can also make your entire vacation budget-friendly by exploring cheap vacation ideas. For example, consider limiting your excursion to a day or weekend trip. Or, really get to know your hometown while on a staycation.

Going All-Inclusive

“Consider vacations that are all-inclusive, especially if you want to avoid ‘surprise expenses’ that often pop up on non-inclusive trips. For example, cruises include your cruise cabin, lodging and transportation to different destinations for one price, so they’re often easier to plan for. All-inclusive resorts offer the same included amenities and value proposition,” Johnson said.

Staying Local

Hill said, “Think local! The faraway tropical vacation can become top of mind when we’re ready to get away. [However,] if you look at vacation spots within driving distance, your budget will thank you.” 

Shopping Around Before Booking

“A lot of people overpay because they get their heart set on staying in a specific place or at a specific property, regardless of price. Pick a destination and resort based on where you can find the best deal, not the other way around,” Johnson said.

Bonus tip: Don’t forget about your credit card rewards. Johnson said, “Use points and miles to help cover the cost of airfare, hotel stays, gas, and other costs related to your vacation.”

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