How to holiday on a budget

person saving for travelling


Posted July 13, 2023

From booking flights off peak to using great RACV Member offers and discounts, here’s how to save on your next domestic or international holiday.

Travelling is one of those great joys that not only brings the chance to experience new places, people and things, but treasured memories to last a lifetime. And while going on vacation can take some organisation and planning, there are ways to maximise your holiday experience without burning a hole in your wallet. 

Whether it's finding a discount on a resort to escape the winter or taking a camping trip closer to home, these budget travel tips can help you save big so you can put money towards enjoying the things that matter most. 

Tips for saving money on holiday


Set a holiday budget – and stick to it

Everyone has different interests - perhaps you're thinking of a luxury Australian trip like a premium rail journey, or maybe you want the party and adventure of a city like Las Vegas. Either way, chances are you have a holiday budget in mind.

The important thing is to be clear about what you can afford to spend, and to ensure the holiday you’re looking to book is financially responsible. Booking four first class tickets to Rome in peak season when your holiday budget is better suited to a local or interstate off-season trip, won’t only impact the quality of your overseas trip, but also increase financial stress on your return.

It's wise to set aside a budget amount for the entire trip, or allocate a nominal amount for portions of the holiday, such as accommodation, transport, food, and spending money. 

Take into account the type of holiday experience you are looking into. If it’s sunshine you’re after, maybe a family trip to Hawaii doesn’t fall into your budget this time, but a discount stay for RACV Members at the RACV Noosa Resort does – and those extra funds can be spent on enjoying all the Sunshine Coast has to offer. 

Pack what you will need before you leave

While you want to watch your luggage limit when hopping on a plane, take care to ensure you have packed items you will be needing so you don’t waste money buying new things at your holiday destination.

For example, items like sunscreen, shampoo, non-perishable snacks, baby wipes, and medications can quickly add up if you need to buy them new at your holiday destination – only to end up with doubles at home.

To avoid wasting money on unnecessary expenses, write yourself a packing checklist so you don’t forget items like toiletries, chargers, repellents or adapters.

If you are heading on a road trip, make sure to include all the items in our handy car safety kit checklist.

Book flights off peak, and be flexible with travel dates 

Popular travel times such as school holidays, Christmas, and other key holiday periods in the year are a lot more expensive to travel, due to the increase in demand for flights for people looking to get away.

Travelling off-peak can come with its own unique benefits such as letting you enjoy the destination without the crowds and hefty price tag, while try searching for flights and accommodation a few days either side of your ideal arrival or departure date for further savings.

Going against the travel grain and heading to underrated destinations can also help you save. For example, exploring domestic spots like Tasmania or South Australia can be fabulous in the winter while everyone else is chasing the sun in Queensland.

Some travel destinations are relatively warm all year round. If better weather is what you’re after, head up to the RACV Royal Pines Resort during the off-peak season to explore all the fun indoor attractions on the Gold Coast.

Add extra luggage to your flight in advance

There is nothing worse than getting to the airport and discovering you're over the luggage weight limit and have to fork out extra money on the spot. 

Avoid these costs by increasing the luggage weight limit at the time of booking (if your chosen airline doesn't add it on as standard).

Better still, if you're just going for a weekend, or can make do with only a few items, pack lightly and take carry-on luggage only. 

Look for discounts and incentives at your destination

Many attractions and experiences offer discounted rates in off-peak seasons, for concession or senior card holders and larger groups, as well as multi-passes, like a 3 Day Theme Park Pass on the Gold Coast.

When booking your holiday with RACV Travel and Experiences, Members get great savings on attractions and experiences all over the world, from discount tickets on a Bali Safari to special offers to Disney theme parks around the world. 


Heading somewhere like the Gold Coast off-peak is often more affordable. Image: Supplied.
Look for discounts where you can save on popular holiday hotspots, like Disneyland. Image: Supplied.
Some local attractions, like the Victorian Silo Art Trail, are free to explore. Image: Visit Victoria.
Sometimes the train works out to be more economical - and definitely more scenic! Image: Shutterstock.
Members save at RACV Resorts in Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland. Image: RACV Cape Schanck Resort.

Enjoy free activities

Just because you’re in a new destination doesn’t mean you have to pay big dollars to have fun every day. There are so many ways to experience the best of a new city or regional area, without having to spend a small fortune.

Head on a great hike around a resort, have a beach day of sandcastle making and swimming, check online for free entry to local museums, libraries and galleries and walking tours, wander some markets, go on a self-guided street art tour, frolic through some botanic gardens, or simply read a book in the sunshine – relax and enjoy a day of life’s simple pleasures. 

Cook up a storm

A large chunk of your holiday budget can quickly be eaten away (literally!) by spending at cafes, restaurants and bars for multiple meals a day. While dining out can be fun and is a great way to experience a new culture, set yourself a limit for how much you will allocate to eating out. 

Instead, look to take advantage of the free buffet breakfast at your accommodation, pack a picnic, or prepare some sandwiches in your room for lunch before enjoying dinner in a nice restaurant. Your accommodation might even have a fridge where you can store drinks instead of buying them out.

For a fun holiday experience, you could even cook a feast with local produce back in your hotel or resort kitchen. There are plenty of budget-friendly recipes you can make on holiday that will taste just as good as that restaurant around the corner - without the hefty price tag! 

You don't have to upsize everything

While on holiday, there can be a tendency to through the caution to the wind when making impulse purchases that we otherwise wouldn’t make at home. Your holiday should be full of special moments, but it doesn’t mean you always have to buy the top-tier of everything.

Get tap water over sparkling at dinner, find a place that lets you bring your own wine, fly economy instead of premium economy, take the room without a view, have a second think if you really need those shoes you’re about to splurge on, or walk instead of spending on a taxi. You want your trip to be memorable, but not because you ran out of money. 

Look into all transport options

Flying to a holiday destination is usually the quickest way to get from A to B. However, there are sometimes other transport options that may help save on costs and let you enjoy your destination through a different perspective.

If getting five plane tickets to the Sunshine Coast isn’t doable, could you make it a family road trip instead by hiring a car or campervan and having fun spotting all the Big Things on the way?

Or if fares between European cities are going up in price, is there an option to take a train or bus? Not only can this help on costs, but it can often be more eco-friendly.

Take advantage of RACV Member offers

RACV Members can save on a range of holiday tours and packages, as well as ongoing offers and deals at RACV Resorts around Australia year-round.

Whether you’re looking for a family stay in Torquay, a solo traveller Asian cruise, or a romantic trip to Hawaii, there are a range of discounts available with RACV Travel and Experiences.

Looking for an unbeatable holiday? 
RACV Members save on travel and experiences→