Planning to hit the open highway with friends or family this spring or summer? Dreaming of two weeks in Europe this fall?
When you finally return home, your head and heart will be full of memories — but your wallet will likely be running on empty.
Vacation costs can add up quickly. Any way to trim that damage is likely welcome. So, we’ve rounded up some of the best ways to save on travel costs in 2024.
1. Free cash back
Yes, you can often earn cash back when booking travel arrangements online just as you can earn cash back when buying stuff from online retailers.
Websites known as cash-back portals make this possible. Examples include:
By going to other websites through portals, you can earn cash back on purchases made on the sites of certain hotels, car rental companies and online travel agencies like Expedia and Priceline.
Of course, paying for travel expenses with the right credit card can help you earn cash back or various travel freebies. So, shop around for the best credit card.
2. Free checked bags on airlines
Free checked baggage used to be the norm on most airlines. While those days are long gone, one carrier is keeping the tradition alive.
Fly on Southwest Airlines, and your first two checked bags are free. Skis, golf bags and surfboards also travel gratis.
You will generally pay for checked bags on other airlines, but many offer exceptions. For example, American Airlines allows free checked bags for travelers who hold certain of the airline’s AA-branded credit cards.
Many airlines also offer complimentary checked baggage to people who fly in business class or meet other criteria, as we detail in “7 Ways to Avoid Paying to Check Bags When Flying.”
3. Free Wi-Fi on airlines and at airports
It used to be that many people wondered how they’d get through a two-hour flight without a cigarette. The modern version of that malady is trying to endure a couple of hours without internet access.
Fly JetBlue, however, and you won’t have to worry. The airline offers free Wi-Fi — dubbed “Fly-Fi” — on all of its aircraft.
Many airports also offer complimentary Wi-Fi service.
4. Free line skips at airports
The biggest hassle and time-suck at the airport is the security checkpoint line. By now, many people are familiar with quick screening programs like TSA PreCheck — as well as their price tag.
Normally, TSA PreCheck costs $78 to apply and $70 to renew. But as we explain in “How to Get TSA PreCheck Free: 36 Proven Ways,” quite a few credit cards these days cover the full cost of this membership.
5. Free museums
If your idea of great travel includes arts and culture, and you have a Bank of America or Merrill credit or debit card, you can get a great freebie on the first full weekend of every month.
That’s when more than 225 museums and cultural institutions that participate in BOA’s “Museums on Us” program offer you free admission.
We give you the lowdown on the BOA program — and offer suggestions for other free museum outings — in “6 Ways to Visit Top Museums Across America for Free.”
6. Free U.S. national parks
The network of U.S. national parks is an American treasure. And if you choose the right days throughout the year, you can visit some of the crown jewels of the National Park Service for free in 2024.
Admission is free to 400-plus national parks — and other sites, such as national monuments, battlefields and seashores — on several days. For more, check out “National Parks To Offer 6 Days of Free Admission in 2024.”
Helpful hint: Use these days to visit one of the more than 100 parks that normally charge an entrance fee. The other national parks are free year-round.
7. Free lodging
From redeeming loyalty program rewards to house-sitting, there are more ways to land a free room or sofa on your vacation than you might think. Try checking out “10 Ways to Score Free Lodging for Your Next Vacation.”
8. Free hotel services
So, be sure to ask about freebies the next time you’re looking to book a room.
9. Free travel apps
The right smartphone app can save you money when you travel. A few of our free favorites include:
- GasBuddy: This app lets you type in a city or ZIP code and find a list of local gas stations offering the lowest prices. It can also help you save on gas.
- Google Translate: This app allows you to type in a phrase and instantly translate it into more than 100 languages.
- Hipcamp: This app helps you find (and if needed, book) a camping spot for the night, whether it’s in a tent, RV, cabin or treehouse.
10. Free tour guides
You know that nagging feeling: You’re in a new city, and probably missing out on all the fun things to do or interesting facts about the area’s history. Thanks to several options, you can get the skinny on your vacation destination — for free.
The International Greeter Association helps you find local volunteers in more than 140 locations who will show you around their home city.
If you prefer to tour on your own, check out free audio guides from services like iAudioguide.com.