“Travel is expensive”. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these words and each time it kills me. After traveling overseas for 6 months I can tell you, traveling doesn’t have to be expensive. Whether you are traveling for a year, a month or a weekend, here is a list of tips and hacks that you can use to save money on travel.
1. Be Flexible
Most people have a similar routine when it comes to booking their trips. They usually have a destination in mind, choose the dates they want to travel and then do a search on the popular OTAs (online travel agents). Booking flights this way can possibly take away most of your leverage as a consumer. In many cases, to get those great deals you read about you have to be flexible. Try flying mid-week instead of on the weekend. Try visiting destinations during their off-peak seasons. Search engines such as Google Flights, Skyscanner and Momondo all have calendars that show you when is the cheapest dates to fly to a given destination. Another way to be flexible (and a bit adventurous) is to use the ‘Explore’ option on these search engines. Type in when you want to travel and the search engines will give you the cheapest destinations to travel to.
2. Search for Cheaper Flights in Nearby Airports
Not everyone may have the luxury to live within driving distance to multiple airports but if you do it may be worth traveling a little further to get a cheap flight. Coming from New Jersey, I usually fly out of Newark International. But I have flown out of JFK, LaGuardia, Trenton, Atlantic City and even Philadelphia to snag a good deal. That logic goes the other way around too, especially when flying to Europe. Once in Europe, regional travel can be inexpensive. For example, you may want to travel to Italy but come across a good deal to Spain. You can fly into Spain and then book a flight from Spain to Italy. This is a simple yet effective way to save money on travel.
3. Scott’s Cheap Flights
Scott’s Cheap Flights is one of, if not the best, website for flight deals. I started with their free membership which notified me of airfare deals from a preset regional area. If you upgrade to the the premium version ($39/annually) you’ll be able to choose specific airports, receive mistake fares, deals to Alaska and Hawaii, the ability to view the most recent flight deals, etc. Basically, book one flight using this service and it will pay for itself. When using Scott’s Cheap Flights you’ll have to be a little flexible. That flexibility can and will lead to huge savings.
4. Stay in a Hostel
If you’re American, I know what you’re thinking. Hostel? Like the movie where those young guys get drugged and sold to an underground murder club. Yea, that’s not the case. Many travelers from all over the world know that hostels can be a traveler’s best friend. Most Americans haven’t caught on yet, so let me explain. First, hostels offer inexpensive accommodations with many amenities that hotels offer; free wifi, complimentary breakfasts, comfortable beds, clean bathrooms and great locations. They also offer things that most hotels do not offer, such as kitchens, a community and free activities. I have met some great people at hostels, whom I still keep in touch with, and have some of the best memories of my time spent overseas in hostels. The staff at most hostels can be an invaluable resource of knowledge for places to eat, activities, sites and the local culture. If you’re still not up to share a room with strangers, most hostels do offer private rooms where you can take advantage of all the social activities but go back to your own private bed.
I use Airbnb quite often as it provides private accommodations with good locations and many comforts of home at an affordable price. Accommodations can vary from a private room in someone’s home to having an entire house to yourself. Some properties even come with a washer, dryer, refrigerator, full kitchen, etc., adding to the savings. The reviews that many users leave are reliable and mostly accurate, so be sure to read through them. Hint: Be careful of the added cleaning costs that some hosts can get carried away with.
6. Book Accommodations Directly with Hotel
When booking a hotel, sometimes you can get a better price if you book directly with the hotel rather than online. Start by searching on the big OTAs (online travel agencies) like Expedia, Kayak, Booking.com, etc. and when you find a hotel you like, call the hotel directly for a reservation. Tell them the price on the OTA website and ask if they can beat it. This might not work for bigger chain hotels but smaller boutique hotels most likely will work with you. Even if you don’t receive a cheaper rate they might be able to give you a freebie like breakfast, early check-in/late check-out or free WiFi.
7. Travel Hack your way to Free Flights and Hotels
Travel hacking refers to the method of using credit cards and the points earned on them to book flights and hotel rooms. Using credit card reward points is by far the best way to save money on travel. I have saved thousands of dollars on flights without changing my spending habits by using my credit card for everyday purchases and taking advantage of sign-up bonuses. In addition to flights, travel points can be used to reserve hotel rooms and activities. With credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire, points are worth more when you use their travel booking portal. Warning: If you are not able to pay off your credit card bill each month in full, DO NOT open one. The interest rates and fees will cancel out any points that you accrue with these cards.
8. Join a Loyalty Program
If opening up another credit card is not for you, that shouldn’t stop you from accruing loyalty points with your favorite airline carrier or hotel chain. Most airlines have loyalty programs that allow you to accrue points by booking flights directly with the airline (same goes with hotel companies), by dining with restaurants in their dining program network and even by using their online shopping portals. Again, this shouldn’t require you to do any extra spending. If you normally shop online, check the shopping portal for your favorite stores and just by being directed through their shopping portal you will accrue points. Dining programs allow you to register a credit card and each time you dine at a restaurant in their network you will gain points. Loyalty programs are free to join and are a great way to start earning points for your favorite airline or hotel.
It seems everyone has their own way of handling finances on their trips. Some people bring a wad of cash with them and if they are traveling internationally, exchange it at a bank when they arrive. Others pay for everything with a credit card. And others may take out money from a foreign ATM wincing at the fees being charged by the ATM and their own bank. I suggest opening an account with Charles Schwab. Charles Schwab is a popular bank amongst travelers who do not want to be charged any fees, even while overseas. Charles Schwab will also refund any ATM fees charged by other banks. Now you can take money out of any ATM without worrying about fees and receive the best currency exchange rate at the moment. Furthermore, if you are making purchases with a credit card overseas, you will want to be aware if your credit card company charges you a foreign transaction fee. These fees (usually 3%) will add up over time especially if the credit card is your primary form of payment. Cards such as the Chase Sapphire do not charge any foreign transactions fees.
10. Pack Light
Are you an over-packer? Do you try to fit everything in your closet in a giant suitcase? Do you pack for all those “What-if?” situations that never seem to happen? If this sounds like you then let me tell you, you’re wasting money. The average cost for a checked bag on most major airlines is $30, each way! The average cost for a carry-on? $0. Of course, every airline has their own fees, especially those too-good-to-be-true budget airlines, but you can see that packing less can save you money. Not only does packing a carry-on save you money, it also saves you time. No longer do you have to wait to check-in your bag at the counter or wait for your bag at the luggage carousel. It really is a win-win, so put down those extra pair of boots!
11. Social Media
Social media can be used for more than arguing about politics with total strangers and watching pet videos. Every major company in the travel industry has a social media presence where they often advertise deals that they are having. There are also accounts, such as The Points Guy and Airfare Watchdog on Twitter, who constantly post any airfare deals that they may find. You can set your preferences on your social media platform to be alerted each time one of these accounts publishes a post.
12. Price Alerts
Most travel search engines have the option to set up price alerts. Who really has the time to look at airfare prices everyday, multiple times a day? I know I don’t and I definitely do not want to miss out if the flight I am searching for suddenly sees a decrease in price. If you set up a price alert, you will receive an email notifying you of any change in price of your selected flight.
If you follow these tips you’ll be sure to save money on travel. What are some of your favorite money saving travel tips? Did I miss some? Let me know in the comments below! As always, if you enjoyed this post please share it on social media with your friends and family to help inspire them to travel more!
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