A day in the life of frugal (part 4): travel

AJ & KJ: A day in the life of frugal is a four part series. If you missed our first, second, and third posts in our series “A day in the life of frugal” check out: Part One: Food, Part Two: Home Goods & Tasks, and Part Three: Shopping.

This marks our last frugal installment, and this week we focus on travel tips.

Time SquareAJ dinner NY Pizza Pizza

Plan a food list
KJ: You guessed it. There’s a spreadsheet for that. While our trips are usually centered around where we are going to eat and what item we’re going to order. Before we step on the plane, we outline an expectation for what meals may cost for each day by looking at where we will be for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Our trips usually involve a lot of down time, so we plan accordingly for lots of snacks, beers, and coffee. Our spreadsheet approach (that I use through a handy program called QuickOffice on my phone and iPad) helps us stay on top of items as we spend. It’s not about cutting costs so much as it is about how to afford the fancy meals we really want.

Shop vacation sites
KJ: Do your research, do your research, and oh, by the way, do your research! Use Kayak.com, Expedia.com, and Priceline.com. With all the great travel sites available to compare shopping and travel rates, you shouldn’t be paying too much for those travel arrangements you have been wanting (or needing) to make. We use Kayak.com and several other sites to book travel arrangements, so it keeps costs lower. Fortunately for us, we do not have children (other than our pets), so we’re free to scour the last minute packages that come up, and it’s how we’ve scored $200 round-trip flights to Chicago, New York, and many more.

REWARD yourself
KJ: Take advantage of those rewards and travel miles you have built up over the years. We planned our trip to Italy with miles earned on a new credit card (mind you, paid in full each month), so our airfare was slashed from $950 per person to simply $50 in fees and taxes. You can also redeem miles for hotel stays, entire vacation packages, and household items, so do your research and shop for the deal of the day. Don’t just assume it’s a good deal; do the math and see if you are saving more than what you would have paid or redeemed the rewards for. If you can spend 40,000 miles to get $900 off of airfare, should you use those same 40,000 to get a two night stay at a $300 per night hotel? I’d say find a better option!

Stay with friends and family
KJ: While it sure would be nice to have our own hotel room, it’s just not practical if you can save a little extra money, so you can spend the cash more wisely when dining out. Any chance we get we try to stay with family or friends, and the company isn’t too bad either!

Free is fun
KJ: Use that thing called “Google” and search for top things to do in a city for free. Often, you’ll get such a great perspective of the city and its culture. We go to museums – but we try to not overindulge on this one since we’re not too keen on museum after museum after museum…you get my point – and we make use of local parks. Whether it’s grabbing food on the cheap (dirty water hot dog anyone?) or meandering through the park enjoying the sights, there’s a lot to do. If all else fails and it’s a spectacular day out, then run to the grocery store, pick up some fancy cheeses, fruits, and meats, and enjoy a relaxing time in the park.

Carry-on, please!
KJ: Plan your suitcase with your S.O. and find ways to keep your travel gear down to a minimum. Whether that’s taking two carry-on suitcases combined with a backpack or other personal item, you can travel with a lot by divvying up the items. Not only do you avoid the checked bag fees – if you’re not fancy enough to get them for free – but you don’t have to worry about lost luggage either.

Split meals
KJ: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The best way to help keep your food costs while dining out are to share meals. This can allow you to try out many a places while keeping the costs minimal.

Pizza, pizza, pizza
KJ: My personal favorite food. Especially when you are traveling to Chicago or New York, find a way to have some pizza. You can order a pizza for a table and get a great cost per person, plus it’s incredibly delicious! Lou Malnati’s is the best in Chicago, so don’t waste your time on those other guys… $30 pizza dinner will usually end up with leftovers, so especially if you’re saving money by staying with relatives, you can indulge on that pizza for another meal later in the trip.

Public Transit
KJ: Travel on the cheap with public transit. Use Google’s map program to help guide you: they have public transportation stops and routes often embedded in their main maps program. Most cities allow you to pick up a multi-day pass and get everywhere you need in a city (that is, unless you live in a sprawled out metroplex like in Texas) on the cheap. Rental cars can often be pricey and taxis are expensive, so with a little extra planning, you not only get to know the city a little better, but you get to keep that cash for something you really care about like food!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our frugal series, and if you missed any of our prior posts for “a day in the life of frugal” then check out parts one, two, and three at:
Part One: Food, Part Two: Home Goods & Tasks, and Part Three: Shopping.

    What methods do you use to pinch pennies when you travel?
    Do any of these seem absurd to you?
    Do you have anything unique of your own to add?

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3 thoughts on “A day in the life of frugal (part 4): travel

  1. This was simply great and great timing! I especially liked the suggestion for keeping a spreadsheet for planning your meals. I know we plan for this at home but never thought about it for our travels. Great idea! We are leaving for Chicago this Friday and we give this a try. Thank you for posting your fav pizza place in Chicago! We will surly give it a try. Great post!

  2. Have to respond to this one. We love to travel, too, and it’s fun to know that you two are a couple of foodies! Lots of people save their spare change now, but Ray and I save ours up all year for our annual trip to Maui. By the time we are ready to go, we have enough saved for two or three really nice meals out. This is just from pocket change! So it feels like a freebie. We aren’t morning people, so a late brunch/lunch and dinner out are all we need. We have a kitchenette in Maui, and we stock up on light snacks, coffee and sodas so that we don’t have to rush out for breakfast, and can fill in the gaps at other times between activities. It’s also great to be able to use the leftovers from dinner. Mahi mahi is a really nice treat for breakfast! We also take advantage of the local coupon books we pick up at the airport. Lots of coupons for free appetizers, bogos, desserts, etc. Be sure to take advantage of discounts available through your AAA membership. Even on Maui, where there is no AAA, the Maui Ocean Center, and a few eateries, like the Hard Rock Cafe, offer a AAA discount. You just have to remember to ask!

    • A lot of people forget about AAA membership discounts, and it can be a great way to save on a vacation, potentially insurance, or some every day purchases! Thanks for sharing.

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