Saving Money When Traveling

Michele graciously agreed to write a post about saving money when going on vacation. I think she offers tips we can all use.  It’s a bit long which is great! She walks you though everything we did and how she saved money on each part of the trip. Please be sure to leave her a comment here. Also, why not stop by her blog and add her as a friend? Thanks, Michele!

Hi everyone! Some of you may know me as Bernie’s friend Michele, aka Coupon Queen from Living on Less. Bernie asked me to write a guest blog to let you know a little about how we kept our trip on a budget. I can be long-winded when it comes to saving so I am going to follow along on our vacation only, there are tons of other things I may mention along the way, but I will include a link where you can find out more. OK keep your hands inside the car at all times……… we go.

First thing I did was find a hotel that was in our budget, which at first glance was actually more expensive than staying on the outskirts of town, but you need to do a little math when figuring this out. If we stayed at a hotel that was ½ the price but near the airport we would have been spending about $100 a day in cab fare just to get to and from the city once, if we went twice, once to shop during the day and once for dinner that was $200. So to find the best deal I went to Yahoo Travel to follow Chicago hotel deals and I joined Snique Away, which is ultimately where I found our hotel deal.

Next was deciding on driving vs. flying. Parking in Chicago is $45 per day for 6 days and using the AAA Gas cost calculator I was able to figure out that gas would have cost us about $205 round trip, adding that up it’s a total cost of $475.00. By signing up for our local airports newsletter I was able to find out about a ticket deal, $99 each way. So needing 2 tickets, plus the $25 bag fee on each the total cost to fly was $396 for the tickets and $100 for the bags, total cost of $496, yup, that’s a little more than driving, BUT it’s a 10 hour drive and our time was worth something, plus when you stop along the way you tend to spend money, not to mention the wear and tear on the car. You can also find gift cards and vouchers for airlines when you use Gift Card Granny, it’s a great site to find out where they are at the best price.

Well now that we were in town how do we get to the hotel? A chauffeured car sounds nice, but expensive right? This is where signing up for Half Off Deals and Groupon and some of the other on-line coupon sites pays off, I found us certificates with a great transportation company, normally $85 for only $35, according to Taxi Fare finder, a cab ride from the airport to our hotel is $44.63, for either service the tip would be the same so it was actually a savings to be a little bit of a diva for a day. I also got us vouchers for the return trip which worked out great.

Our first night we all wanted to relax, and what better way to relax and see the city then from a dinner cruise? I was able to get a nice certificate for Odyssey Cruises from, they were having a sale, a $50 certificate for only $4.00 so in essence I was able to save us $46 off the price of the cruise.

Day one down, whats next? We took a Chicago Film Tour ride through the city that I purchased through Groupon for only $15 each, regular price was $30 and we had a blast and got to see the sights. After our tour we grabbed a quick bite then it was off to shop. I had found a gift card to Coach on eBay at a nicely discounted rate, then because I have signed up for their mailings I received a coupon in the mail for $100 off your next $300 purchase, this made my surprise gift to our friend Jen all that much better, she was able to finally get the purse of her dreams. I also found other gift cards for shopping through Gift Card Granny, but I also signed up for the local emails from the shopping centers there, that let me know when there would be sales at certain stores. Also, be sure to check with guest services when you go to a shopping center out-of-town, many of them have coupons for out-of-town visitors and all you usually need to do is show an out-of-town drivers license or a room key to a local hotel.

The third day we visited a local spa to get Mani-Pe, it was wonderful and I was able to get a Spa-Finder gift certificate from my Discover cards points rewards program. After our spa treatment we went to have tea, something new for Bernie and Jen. I used a Hotel Dining certificate from American Express to cover the cost on this one. I use my Discover and American Express for almost every purchase I can, I have to spend the money anyway for doctors, food and the like so why not get the points or cash back. It adds up fast and if you are able to pay off the balance each month, which shouldn’t’t be a problem if you only us it for things you have budgeted for in the first place, then the payoff is getting something fun every now and then.

Our fourth and fifth days we decided to see some of the sights on foot, there was a local farmers market in town and we stopped there for some yummy free samples, a few goodies to bring to our room and great pictures, we also visited the local cultural center and Millennium Park, both of which were free. So we spent most of the day walking and enjoying the sites without spending much at all. We also visited the Chicago Institute of Art, I am a member of the museum because I can use that membership to get into museums all around the country, I also get to bring a guest. That meant one of us would have to pay, UNLESS one of us had a City Pass, these are great and when you are visiting major cities its worth looking into. Paying one small fee got Bernie into the Museum and the Hancock Building, both with guided audio tours. The Pass is also good for a variety of other places we didn’t get a chance to visit. Also, if you are planning a museum visit go to their website and check for free community days, it may be a little crowded but the price is certainly right. We also spent some time looking at architecture in the city and then we found some great deals along with some friendly folks strolling through China Town.

Our last night was so much fun, I was able to find baseball tickets on MLB that were a reasonable price. Not all ball parks are created equal and when it comes to the price of a seat its noticeable. A seat in Wrigley is about ½ of what it is in the Minneapolis Metro Dome.
Finally, you can find great general coupons for where you are going just by using Google. Use the name of where you are going combined with phrases like half off deals, coupons, printable coupons, on a budget, for less, etc. Also look at the local coupon books like the Entertainment books for some great deals, as the season goes on the books come down in price, plus if you buy them through a site like MyPoints or QuickRewards with a credit card that earns points you get rewarded twice for your purchase.

I hope this wasn’t too long, and thanks Bernie for the chance to spread the thrifty spending gospel to all your readers!


  1. Robert Wilson says:

    Awesome travel saving post. Granny is already in my list but one more I have added in my list that is

  2. Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely think this web site needs far more
    attention. I’ll probably be back again to read more, thanks for the advice!

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  5. Thanks Michele for the infro. Pete and I are going to FL in mid Dec. we will be in Orlando for 3 days after a cruise we are taking I will have to check some of those sites to see about discounts there. I don't think you rambled just covered to major points.

  6. Auntie Jack says:

    loved this post michele especially gift card granny already added to my favorite sites
    how fun that site is

  7. I think i just found my new travel consultant! Great post, Michele.

  8. Awww shucks, thanks Bernie! I am sorry I made it so long, but I ramble when it comes to spending wisly, but then you knew that didn't you? ;)

    • You do like to share how to spending wisely. I know I have learned a lot from you over these years. I\’m so glad that you took the time to write this down for everyone!

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