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Budget travel hacks for an affordable vacation

Want to save some dollars when you go on a holiday? Here are a ton of budget-friendly travel hacks to keep the vacation costs low and the fun levels high.

Before you book

If you’re planning a trip but it’s not booked yet, here are a few things to consider to keep your travel costs low and save a few extra dollars to spend at your destination.

  • Make a budget. If you’re feeling really organized, make a travel budget to find out how much you need (or don’t want) to spend on your vacation. Use online tools like our BCAA TripTik®, Trip Planner and Budget Your Trip to plan your getaway and find daily cost estimates for your destination.
  • Fly into regional airports. By searching for flights at smaller airports, you may find cheaper airfare and parking – and spend less time in check-in and security lines.
  • Fly midweek. Flights tend to be cheaper and less busy between Monday and Thursday. Book departure dates midweek and avoid weekend prices and long lineups.

Woman packing suitcase on bed, looking at cell phone


Packing hacks

Do you really need to pay more to check in that extra suitcase? Pack smart and save on the high costs of check-in luggage.

  • Use packing cubes. These handy organizers maximize your suitcase space, making it easier to stuff more into your luggage. Bonus: you can use packing cubes to separate clean and dry clothes from wet and dirty ones.
  • Roll your clothes. Don’t fold your clothes, roll them. This saves space and reduces wrinkles. Be a next-level space saver by rolling up your socks and undergarments and tucking them inside your shoes!

  • Wear bulky clothes. Bringing a thick sweater, hoodie or heavy jacket? Don’t pack it, wear it, so you can save space in your luggage. The ultimate travel garment may well be the cleverly-designed multi-pocket jacket, vest or pants, if you don’t mind wearing all your possessions. Their slogan: “It’s not rocket science, it’s pocket science.”
  • Make the most of carry-on rules. Research your airline’s carry-on baggage rules to see how much you can carry aboard the plane. Often a second, smaller piece of hand luggage is allowed. Not only does this save on fees, but you’re saving time waiting at a luggage carousel.
  • Don’t pack things you can get for good value on holiday. Your hotel usually has towels and toiletries, or you could buy items (like shampoo and conditioner) when you get there.
  • Protect your valuables. Can you imagine the cost of replacing everything in your luggage if your suitcase went missing? Cover yourself for lost baggage up to $1,500 (or $3,000 for the family) and more with BCAA Trip Protection Coverage.

Person at airport terminal looking at departures board

Travel cheaply

We all love retail therapy to use up time at airports but travel days can get expensive. Keep your travel day costs down by:

  • Bring a reusable water bottle. Save money (and plastic) by buying a bottle that you’ll use again and again – here are the 15 best travel water bottles for any trip. Remember, you can’t take water through security so drink up and fill your bottle again at the gate.
  • Pack your own snacks and meals. Before you go, pack enough snacks to get you through each airport and flight. A snack plan is an affordable way to satisfy your hunger on busy travel days. Plan well, and you won’t be tempted to blow your budget on pricey airport meals. Here are 10 airport friendly snacks to make before you fly and that won’t use up too much bag space.
  • Take a trip to the dollar store. Before you fly, do a dollar store run to load up on budget-friendly travel essentials. Dollar stores sell travel-size items like sunscreen, aloe vera and first aid kits at cheaper prices than you’ll pay in convenience stores or airport shops. Here are 40+ must-have travel essentials you can find in your local dollar store.
  • Download books and podcasts. Instead of buying books or magazines at the airport, download e-books or podcasts onto your electronic device. You’ll save money and keep yourself entertained, without carrying a bulky stack of novels to the resort (especially those heavy hardcovers and 1,000-page paperbacks). Here are the best-reviewed e-readers for your next holiday.
  • Save on roaming data charges with a prepaid SIM card. To avoid paying budget-killing roaming charges, buy a prepaid SIM card at your destination. You’ll get local data and call services at more affordable rates, so you can stay connected without breaking the bank.
  • Research how to cheaply get to your hotel. You don’t just want to know where you’re going, you want to know how you’re going to get there. Look up the transit options to find affordable and convenient ways to reach your hotel. Often, you can save money on transportation by taking the metro/subway, a local beach bus, or a hotel shuttle. These can be just as easy, and often cheaper than taking a taxi or ride-share.

Person at airport terminal looking at departures board

Save money at your destination

When you’re in vacay mode, it’s easy to get carried away. But a little prep before you head to your destination can be very friendly on the wallet.

  • Research free and cheap activities at your destination. Look for free or low-cost attractions. These include beaches, museums, art galleries, libraries, national or state parks, lookout points with scenic views, hikes, free street parties/events, art or architecture tours, or free walking tours. You can even create your own tours based on movie locations that were filmed at your destination.
  • Get some local currency before you go. Avoid steep exchange rates and fees by buying some local currency before your trip (you can get local currency at most major banks). It’s always smart to have cash on hand for immediate expenses (taxis, transit, tips) when you arrive.
  • Visit car rental websites that let you compare pricing. Don’t just rent a car from the first rental company you find. Visit a car rental search engine to compare deals on rental cars. You’ll quickly find the most affordable options. Once you’ve found the cheapest options, compare those results with the rental car company itself. You may get a discount if you have a loyalty program membership.
  • Excursion shop. Already decided on the perfect day trip? Instead of booking with the first tour company you find, price shop with different providers. A little research doesn’t take long and you’ll get the best bang for your buck.
  • Cook like a local. Book accommodations that come with a kitchen, so you can eat some meals in. Preparing simple meals, snacks and drinks with ingredients from local grocery stores and markets can be a great way to experience the culture by eating just like the locals.

Protect your trip with travel insurance

Your biggest saving of all may be having peace of mind by protecting you and your vacation with BCAA Travel Insurance. Remember to pack BC’s Top Choice for Travel Insurance*, and you can get optional trip protection coverage, comprehensive emergency medical coverage including 24/7 Virtual Care and FREE coverage for kids – and potentially save big on unexpected hospital bills or flight cancellations.

BCAA Travel Insurance offers affordable and flexible coverage for individuals and families – whether it’s in BC, a quick getaway across the border or your dream vacation abroad. Get a quote today.


*BCAA was chosen as the #1 Most Trusted Insurance Brand by British Columbia participants in the 2023 Gustavson Brand Trust Index.