“Traveling 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 six months and going on many trips after I came back, I can tell you traveling doesn’t have to break the bank. Whether you are traveling for a year, a month or a weekend, here is a list of simple ways to save money on travel.
1. Be flexible with your travel dates
Everyone wants to travel during the peak summer seasons but you’re not most people. Try traveling during the shoulder season. There will be less crowds and fares on hotels and flights will usually be cheaper. Also, try booking your flights for mid-week. Flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday can be considerably cheaper than weekend flights.
2. Be flexible with your destination
Using the ‘Explore’ option on search engines like Google Flights and Skyscanner will show you inexpensive fares to destinations that may not have been on your radar. Being flexible with your destination can be useful when looking for a last minute getaway.
3. Set up price alerts
If you’re like me, then planning a trip is part of the fun of traveling! As soon as I have an idea of where I’d like to go, I start researching flights on Google Flights and Skyscanner. Both of these search engines have a calendar that will show you the cheapest days/months to fly to a given destination. But prices changes and 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.
4. Watch for mistake fares
Mistake fares are fares where an airline carrier or online travel agency (OTA) enter the wrong fare price for a given route or destination. Now you can try to search for these rare fares yourself or you can subscribe to a premium service like Scott’s Cheap Flights and let their extraordinary fare hunters find these mistake fares and send them directly to your inbox!
5. Book accommodations directly with hotel
When researching accommodations, sometimes booking directly with the hotel is cheaper than using an OTA. Start by searching on the big OTAs 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 will likely try to match or beat the price. They would rather pass the savings to the guest than pay commissions to a 3rd party.
6. Travel hacking
Travel hacking refers to the method of using travel 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 cards 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 rewards that you may earn with these cards.
7. Sharing economy
The recent boom in the sharing economy has given travelers more options with a local flair. Websites and apps like Airbnb, EatWith and Turo allow locals to share their homes, vehicles, culinary skills and local knowledge with travelers. Usually these apps are cheaper than their traditional counterparts and you get the added benefit of a local touch.
8. Open a travel account and credit card
ATM fees and foreign transaction fees can add up while traveling. And who wants to carry around a big wad of cash with them with the possibility of losing it all. That’s why I have an account with Charles Schwab. Charles Schwab does not charge ATM withdrawal fees and any fees charged by another bank are rebated back to you at the end of the month. Travel Cards like the Chase Sapphire do not charge foreign transactions fees while abroad, adding up to some serious savings considering that most regular cards charge 3% for every charge made outside of the United States.
9. 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.
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!
Other Useful Tips:
Beware of Fees:
- Resorts Fees: Nowadays it seems almost every hotel is charging a resort fee. Their excuse? Wifi, free continental breakfast of bagels and coffee, the 2 treadmills in a room that they count as a gym, etc. These fees can bring the prices of a room way up and it might be worth calling the hotel directly and negotiate the fees or avoid the hotel entirely.
- Cleaning Fees on Airbnb: Airbnb hosts have always charged cleaning fees but some hosts charge a lot more than others. Some cleaning fees may even be more than the room itself! You can message the host to negotiate the cleaning fees or rent a place with cheaper fees.
- Airline Fees on Basic Economy Tickets: Basic economy tickets include a seat on a plane and a personal item. That’s it! You will not get to choose a seat, no carry-ons, no group/family seating, no flight changes or refunds, etc. Sometimes buying a regular economy ticket will be cheaper than paying for these “extras” separately.
- Rental Insurance: The age old question: Do you really need rental insurance? My advice, first check if your personal car insurance company covers you for rentals. In case they do not, get a travel credit card that acts as a primary insurer for auto rentals. That way you don’t have to pay high fees but you’re still covered in case of an accident. In either case, bring proof with you to the rental company that you’re covered and decline their insurance.
- Reusable Water Bottle: Single-use plastics are a huge source of pollution and can put a dent in your wallet while on the road. Why not tackle two birds with one stone and invest in a reusable water bottle. Fill it up at your hotel before you venture out and refill it at a restaurant or bar. I’ve never been denied a refill.
- Public Transportation: Using public transportation is not only cheaper than a taxi but it also eco-friendly. Google maps is a helpful and accurate tool to help you navigate around a new city.
- Walk: My personal favorite way to get around a new city is simply walking around and getting lost. I usually like to join a free walking tour when I first arrive to my destination. It helps me get my bearings and usually the guides will give me some great tips on local restaurants and bars.
Search Flights at 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. I live in New Jersey, so I usually fly out of Newark International. However, 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 Spain but come across a good deal to France. You can fly into France and then book a flight or train to Spain. This is a simple yet effective way to save money on travel with the added benefit of seeing more places.
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.
Every trip I go on I try to use some, if not all, of these tips in order to save money on travel. That way I can spend more on experiences and travel more throughout the year. What are some of your favorite ways to save money on travel? Comment below and I’ll share them on my social media!
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