Guide to Stretching Your Travel Budget

guide to stretching your travel budget

If you’re trying to figure out how to travel cheap, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is your tax bill. While you may be dreaming about spending time on a beach, climbing a mountain or visiting a historic town in a foreign land, there is a very real connection between your taxes and the travel and tourism industry in the United States. In fact, the amount that the travel and tourism industry contributes to the nation’s economy, and thereby saves you in taxes, might very well be the reason you’re able to go on a trip in the first place.

tourism taxes

According the U.S. Travel Association, the travel and tourism industry generated $147.9 billion in tax revenue for federal, state, and local governments in 2015. Without the industry’s tax contributions, the U.S. Travel Association estimates that every household in America would have to pay an additional $1,192 in taxes annually.

The travel and tourism industry does more than pay hefty tax bills every year — it also employs a significant number of people. In 49 states and Washington, D.C., the travel industry is one of the top 10 employers. One out of every nine jobs across the country depends on the travel and tourism industry. More than 15 million individuals rely on travel expenditures to make their living, with 8.1 million people being directly employed in the travel industry and seven million working in other industries. American laborers who worked directly for the travel industry were paid a combined total of approximately $231.6 billion in 2015.

travel stats

Out of the 459 million person-trips that were taken for business reasons in 2015, 37 percent of them were for meetings and events. While many businessmen and women attend meetings and events when they reach their destinations, leisure travelers typically engage in other types of activities when they arrive in a new place. The top five most popular activities that leisure travelers enjoy include the following:

  • Visiting relatives
  • Shopping
  • Visiting friends
  • Fine dining
  • Beaches

Although business and leisure travelers often do different things while they’re away from home, many of them share an interest in saving as much money as possible during their trips, while still being able to do the things they enjoy. Whether you’re planning a cheap vacation or trying to figure out how to make the most of a travel budget your boss gave you, you can start saving money before you even leave home by making a travel budget.

How to Create a Travel Budget

Creating a travel budget starts with research. You can begin by figuring out how much it’s going to cost you to reach your destination. While you may be tempted to fly to your destination, you might be able to save some money by considering other forms of transportation, such as a bus or train. According to a report entitled “The Traveler’s Tradeoff: Comparing Intercity Bus, Plane & Train Fares Across the United States,” Amtrak’s fees are 55-73 percent lower than the cost of flying. With fees that are 50-55 percent less than Amtrak’s rates, riding the bus is even more affordable than taking the train.

Once you know how you’re going to reach your destination, you have to determine how much your lodging will be. Give some thought to the type of lodging that will work best for you and, if you’re traveling with others, your companions. If you’re traveling in a group, you may want to consider renting a condo instead of multiple hotel rooms in order to save some cash. The added benefit of staying in a condo or townhome is that you’ll have access to a kitchen and refrigerator, which can help you cut back on your food costs.

If you’re traveling alone and want to stay in a hotel, you can also keep your food costs low by looking for a property that offers a continental breakfast every morning. While you can’t budget for every contingency that might occur, you can book your bigger-ticket activities in advance to save some money. Orbitz reported that 30 percent of its users added activities at the time they booked their vacation packages, because the costs of those activities were lower than they would have been on the day the events took place.

While your mode of transportation, lodging and planned activities may be the biggest line items in your budget, you have to plan for other expenses, too. You may have to pay extra to stay connected if you’re traveling abroad, for instance. You can avoid an alarmingly large cell phone bill when you get home by checking with your carrier to see if the company offers an affordable package for international data usage. If your carrier doesn’t have such a package, you may want to use an app such as WhatsApp to keep your connection costs as low as possible while you’re away from home.

In addition to budgeting for the things you know you’ll have to pay for, you should also set some money aside for emergencies. If you get sick or injured during your trip, you can use your emergency funds to cover your medical expenses. If you’re going overseas and your health insurance won’t cover illnesses or injuries that may occur while you’re out of the country, consider purchasing a travel insurance policy before you leave home.

Cheapest Times to Travel

If you’re making decisions about how to travel on a budget, one choice you should think about carefully is when you’re going to actually be away from home. The time of year that you travel to certain destinations can influence the overall cost of your trip significantly.

If you want to visit Europe, for instance, you may want to go there in the fall or during the winter, when things are cheaper than they are during the spring or summer months. If you want to take your kids to a Disney theme park, the best time to do so is when school is in session. Your trip will be less expensive, and the lines for the rides may not be as long as they normally are.

If you like to ski, the beginning and end of the ski season are great times to find amazing deals close to the slopes, both in and outside of the United States. If you’ve always wanted to visit Las Vegas, Miami or New Orleans, consider visiting them during the summer months, when other tourists will be put off by their climbing temperatures and things will be less expensive.

If taking an affordable cruise is more your style, you can normally find a last-minute bargain for a cruise through the Caribbean from October through pre-Thanksgiving November as hurricane season comes to an end. While you may be nervous about taking a cruise during hurricane season, you can calm your nerves by remembering that a cruise ship can always change course to avoid a storm.

When to Buy Airline Tickets

If you’re going to fly to your destination, when you travel and when you shop for your ticket can have a big impact on how much you’ll pay. The most affordable days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. It costs the most to fly on Fridays and Saturdays. The cheapest times of day to fly are dawn, overnight and lunch and dinner times.

when to book flights

To save money, you have to buy your airline ticket at the right time. According to, the most advantageous time to book a flight in the United States is 3pm ET on Tuesdays. To avoid paying a premium for an airline ticket at the last minute and missing out on deals by buying a ticket too soon, there are certain windows of time in which you should buy a ticket, depending on where you’re going and what time of year it is.

If you’re traveling domestically, you should shop for your ticket between three months and 30 days before your trip. If you’re going to travel internationally, you should book your flight between five-and-a-half months and one-and-a-half months prior to your departure. If you’re going to travel around the December holidays or during peak months such as June, July or August, you should buy your ticket at least two months before your planned departure date.

How to Find Affordable Accommodations

If you’re worried that paying for your accommodations might make the trip you’re planning too expensive, you don’t have to be. There are many lodging options that are even more affordable than some budget hotels and motels. Some options that may be available in the destination you’re planning to visit include the following:

  • Hostels: While many people often refer to hostels as “youth hostels,” this kind of lodging is generally available to travelers regardless of how old or young they are. Depending on the hostel you choose to stay at, you may have your choice between a shared dorm room or a basic private room.
  • Private Room Rentals: You can use a website such as to book a room in someone’s home for less than what it normally costs to rent a hotel room in the same area.
  • Religious Housing: Depending on your destination, you may have the option of staying in lodging provided by a religious organization. Certain convents and monasteries in Italy take in guests, for instance, just like some religious organizations in Jerusalem do.
  • Academic Housing: If you’re traveling during the summer, you may be able to find lodging at a college or university located in or near your destination. Although some websites such as provide lists of this type of accommodation, your best bet for making arrangements to stay at a given college or university is to contact the institution directly.

How to Save Money on the Road

If you’re planning a cheap vacation, you should learn how to save money on the road before you leave home. The first tip you should follow to save money on the road is to check some coupon websites to look for deals in your destination. Some popular websites, such as Groupon, LivingSocial and LocalFlavor have apps you can use to find deals and cut your expenses during your trip.

affordable eateries

Enjoying the local cuisine is another way you can save money while you’re on the road. Ask some locals what their favorite affordable eateries are, and give them a try instead of going to an expensive restaurant that serves the same kind of food you normally eat.

You can also save some money on gas while you’re on the road by using a free app such as GasBuddy. To find the cheapest gas in a given area using GasBuddy, just type in the name of the city and state you’re in, or enter the area’s zip code. When you’re done, GasBuddy will provide a list of gas stations near you and tell you how much people recently paid for gas at each location. Additional apps that can help you find the most affordable gas include Gas Guru, Waze and Dash.

Affordable Travel Destinations

You can reach a lot of affordable travel destinations if you fly out of Newark Liberty International Airport. That’s great news, because flying out of that airport gives you the chance to save money on long-term parking with SNAP, Secure Newark Airport Parking. Our indoor parking facility gives you an affordable option to park your car in a safe, protected environment for however long you’re out of town.

From our customer-centric valet service to our free airport shuttle and our affordable parking options, you’ll know you’ve made the right choice when you park your vehicle with us. For your convenience, we offer car services that are just as affordable as our parking. Our available auto services include the following:

  • Standard Car Wash
  • Standard Car Wash and Hand Wax
  • Standard Full Auto Detail
  • Oil Change
  • Gas Fill-Up
  • Dent Removal

If you’re researching affordable travel destinations, you should contact SNAP to learn how we can help you keep your travel expenses as low as possible. If you’re going to fly out of Newark Liberty International Airport for an upcoming trip, give us a call to learn more about our convenient, affordable parking and auto services today.

If you’re looking for affordable travel destinations, you may want to consider one of the locations that made’s list of “The Ten Best Budget Travel Destinations for 2016.” The published list includes the following locations:

  • George Town, Malaysia
  • Xi’an, China
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Metro Manila, Philippines
  • Thrace Region, Turkey
  • Morocco
  • Hungary
  • Malaysia
  • Croatia
  • Puerto Rico

Common Budget-Breaking Travel Mistakes

One of the biggest mistakes you can make that has the potential to break your budget is to fail to leave yourself enough time to make a connecting flight. To avoid this mistake, make sure you leave several hours between flights when you’re making your travel arrangements. Leaving a few hours between flights should give you enough time to make your next flight if your original flight is late, you encounter a long line at customs or you have to cover a lot of ground between terminals.

Failing to check your bookings and flight reservations for errors is another common mistake people make. You should double-check all of the arrangements you made before you leave home to ensure everything is in order. Check the dates for your lodging reservations and the days and times you’re going to fly. To avoid problems when you try to board a flight, make sure your name is spelled correctly on your airline tickets.

A third common mistake travelers make is to keep all of their money, credit and debit cards and checks in one place. When you’re traveling, you should avoid carrying too much cash and leave at least one credit or debit card and your excess money in your hotel’s safe when you’re out on the town. If you walk around with all of your financial resources with you, you may end up in trouble if you lose your purse or wallet.

Another mistake people make too often is to pay too much for long-term parking. If you’re flying out of Newark Liberty International Airport, there’s no reason for you to make this mistake, too. Park your vehicle at SNAP, located on Frelinghuysen Avenue in Newark, NJ, to save on parking whenever you travel. Give us a call to learn more today!