Summer is a great time to travel — but whether you are traveling this summer, or waiting till the fall or even winter, you are probably already thinking about transportation costs if your trip is on your calendar. Even if you don’t plan to travel any time soon, you might spend more than you like regularly on transportation. The average American family spends 19 percent of their household income on transportation, making it the second largest cost — second only to housing. You can save money on your daily transportation costs by making some lifestyle changes like driving your car less, and walking or biking when possible. You can also save money on bigger transportation costs (like traveling by plane or train) in other ways, such as searching for deals and joining loyalty programs. Here are five specific ways you can save on transportation costs.
1. Save when flying
Flying can be a great way to get somewhere faster than you could drive, but with the addition of security checks, boarding and exiting the plane, and potentially taking multiple planes, it can also be costly and stressful. One of the easiest ways to save money when flying is to use only a carry on bag when possible. Most airline companies now charge around $25 just for the first checked bag. You can also save money by flying airlines that offer free baggage, like SouthWest. You can also save on plane tickets by traveling at less popular times; often prices go up around the holidays or spring breaks.
Try looking for tickets mid-week instead of on the weekend, as the prices often go down in the middle of the week. Using search engines that allow you to search multiple airlines at once can be a helpful way to see low prices, but be sure to check the actual airline’s site after to see if the prices compare. Often you can save money over time by becoming part of an airline’s rewards program (although some search sites have these programs as well.)
2. Save when taking the train
Many people forget about train travel, but it can be an affordable and convenient way to travel. It has the disadvantage of taking longer than a plane ride (usually), but if you can work the travel time into your schedule, you might save money just by deciding to take a train. You won’t have to pay any additional fee for gasoline like you would driving, and you often will find that the tickets are much less expensive than plane tickets. If you have flexible travel dates, you might be able to save on the price for your tickets.
Sometimes there are specific deals you can take advantage of as well, and Amtrak has these deals. Students can get a discount as can kids, and there are also last minute deals and deals for specific organizations. You can also sign up to receive emails about specific deals.
3. Save when using your car
Cars are expensive, and they add significantly to transportation costs for many Americans. You can often save money just by purchasing a used car instead of a new one, which will reduce your overall spending. However, of course you want to be careful to only purchase used cars that are in good condition. You should stay away from gas-guzzlers or cars that have serious problems that affect their efficiency. Keeping your car well maintained will also help you avoid costly repairs.
You can also save money on gas in many different ways. Many people don’t like to hear it, but driving the speed limit will actually reduce the amount you spend on gasoline (and help you avoid speeding tickets.) You should also make it a priority to drive in a sane manner. Specific days of the week are best to fill up at the pump. If possible, fill up at the grocery store you frequent if it has a rewards program, or use a rewards credit card. Also, make sure to compare gas prices around town, and if you are going on a trip, plan on your trip route as well.
4. Save on your daily transportation costs
If you live in a very bus friendly city or town, take the bus. Especially if you purchase a punch card, you can potentially save a lot of money by riding the bus instead of using your car. This type of transportation can sometimes be inconvenient, but you might find the savings are worth it. You can also save during the warmer months by riding your bike; many cities are taking initiative to make more bike friendly roads and paths. Biking will not only save you money, but will help you stay healthy. Walking will do the same. Although many people have to commute to work and can’t walk, if you can, you should do it whenever possible.
If you are hoping to move sometime in the future, consider looking for a community that is friendly to walkers, bikers, and bus riders. It’s important to remember that even if you can’t move, just because you take your car to work doesn’t mean you have to drive it every time you go anywhere. Even biking, walking, or taking the bus instead of driving to do errands or visit a friend, will save you money over time.
5. Travel together
Traveling with someone else can help you save money no matter which type of travel you choose. Carpooling regularly to work will save you money, and often, it will help you build relationships; you also might save money on monthly parking costs. You could also share a taxi when you are on a trip, or consider using Zipcar. Sharing will also often save you money when traveling for long road trips, and if you have a large group, you can sometimes get a group discount for other methods of travel as well. Sometimes you can get an added discount by referring a friend too, especially for vacation packages, but sometimes for other travel options as well.
Daily, monthly, and vacation transportation costs really add up. However, you can save money by making smart choices and choosing to cut costs wherever possible.