Who says you need money to travel? In today's day and age, traveling the globe has never been more accessible. Not only that, but you certainly do not need loads of cash to do it. In fact, some of the best travels in my life have happened when I was the most broke. As it turns out, if you have some time and plenty of patience, there are plenty of ways to book yourself an awesome vacation. Today, I'm sharing some of my favorite tips and tricks on how to travel cheaply. Broke millennials, this one is for you.
1. Get Yourself a Credit Card
Stop. Using. Cash.
Now let's be clear. You are NOT getting a credit card to put your travels on. In fact, that is the opposite of what you want to do. You are going to need a credit card in order to make your money work for you. Now full disclosure, for this next tip, responsibility is of the utmost importance.
In my quest to figuring out how to travel cheaply, one of my best tips is as simple as stop using cash. While cash is wonderful in the fact that it's cold and hard and you never overspend, it does you a real disservice. This disservice is the fact that cash does not really do much to work for you. If there is anything a frugal mind like mine wants, its to make my money work. Even after I have spent it. Unlike the virtual currency, shopping with cash won't give you the added benefits that shopping with a credit card does. In fact, in my own experience, letting my credit cards do the work has helped generate about $1,000 for travel in the past couple of years alone.
If you have not done so already, then one of the best ways to travel the globe is by getting yourself a travel rewards credit card. When you are enrolled in a good travel rewards program, you set yourself on the path of earning travel points and miles towards your next vacation. For those who do it right, using a travel credit card wisely can result in some serious savings.
Pro Tip: Pick the Right Travel Rewards Credit Card
When it comes to picking out the right travel credit cards, there are some things that you need to consider. For starters, a credit card that will work for one person may not necessarily work for another. Each credit card offers different parks that you need to evaluate carefully. Some credit cards offer you the ability to earn points and miles on certain commodities while others do not. For example, some credit cards give you the opportunity to earn more travel points when you purchase gas than when you do groceries. As someone who does not fill up her own gas tank on a daily basis (Thanks to my lovely husband), the travel rewards card that emphasizes this commodity does not work well for me. Instead, a credit card like the Bank of America Travels Rewards Credit Card that earns me points on every dollar purchase is right up my alley. (I may not know how to make a dent at the gas station, but drop me off at the mall and I'll earn some serious miles!)
Other perks that you can look out for are things like whether or not you eat out. For some travel rewards cards, you can earn bonus points if you eat at certain restaurants. It's all about what type of lifestyle you lead. When you are shopping around for the right travel rewards program, you need to consider whether your needs aligned with the credit cards goals.
Lastly, you want to keep an eye out for pesky little fees. Because remember, the goal is to make money not spend it with your travel rewards card. Personally, I aim to stay away from cards that charge annual fees. They might not always yield the highest travel points or miles, but at the end of the day, I like the fact that I don't have to pay additional fees for my miles and points.
Finally, your next step with joining a travel rewards program is knowing how to use your card wisely. After all, if you can't be responsible for a travel rewards card, then you are doing yourself more harm than good. Make it a habit to try and pay your credit card bills off every single month. Because remember, will your travel rewards card, it is not so much trying to build credit that is your goal. (Though you will by paying if off). Instead, your goal is to rack those travel miles and travel points.
A tip that helps keep me on track is to never buy what I can't afford. Think of your credit card as a debit card. This way you can avoid spending money that is not actually yours. Lastly, if you can do a good job of paying off your credit card in full every month, then you do not need to worry about the interest rate. Oftentimes this can be in your favor. Some cards with the highest interest rate typically yield some of the best points and miles.
Did we mention that having a great travel rewards card can come with some pretty awesome perks? Especially when it comes to flying? For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a gold mine when it comes to perks. Not only do you get lounge access to over 900 airports with this card. But it is one of the best ways of how to travel cheap but with an added dose of luxury. You get things such as better protection if your flight gets canceled and $300 in annual travel credit. If you are looking to start with a solid travel rewards card, then it wouldn't hurt to start looking at the Chase Sapphire Reserve travel card.
2. Do Your Research
Before you head out on a trip, one of the best ways of how to travel cheaply is to do your research first. Whenever I plan a vacation, I start researching about six months before I want to actually head out. When you do your research, you automatically set yourself up for the opportunity to save big bucks.
When I start researching, I usually try to narrow down a time frame of when I want to go. Based off of that time frame, I give myself about three to four days of wiggle room in terms of departure date and return date. This wiggle room allows me to find the best price. Starting your research early allows you to get a sense of how much a plane ticket would cost and hotel reservations would cost. As the weeks go by, you will see the price fluctuate often. This gives you the opportunity to see how low a ticket will go for. Having a general sense of these fluctuating prices will give you the opportunity to avoid overpaying for your vacation.
When starting your research, you want to start with your popular sites like Google Flights and Priceline. These sites will typically give you a baseline for your flight price. You can look at things like your flight time, airline carrier, and actual specific flights to see which site is offering a better deal. Not only will researching allow you to get a sense of how much your trip is going to cost, but it allows you the opportunity to start putting your vacation perspective. Knowing a ballpark figure will allow you to start working towards saving that ballpark figure.
Before and during your research, it does not hurt to check out flight prices from specific airline carriers themselves. Just keep in mind that for the most part, you should never by your plane ticket from an airline carrier itself. When it comes to finding the price, buying a ticket from a third party is usually your best bet. (Unless of course you are flying with a budget airline. We will get into that in a moment.)
The same goes for your hotel. You will oftentimes find hotel prices to be much lower when you book through a third party website. However, it does not hurt to be part of a loyalty program like IHG Rewards. Sometimes, purchasing a hotel room directly from the hotel can be a bit cheaper. Plus you do earn reward points towards your next stay. In my experience, I have not had much luck collecting points towards another stay. Instead, I opt for spending my points on cash back gift cards. However, this is simply because of my preference for purchasing rooms from third party websites.
3. Use the Right Tools
When doing your research, it is imperative that you use the right tools to find the best prices. Some of my favorite sites to use includes Hopper. Hopper is a nifty little app that breaks down some of the best days to fly. I always use Hopper to guide me in picking a time frame. Once Hopper has established a time frame for me, my next go-to site is Skyscanner. Skyscanner allows me to search specific flights and set tabs so that I get alerts when my flight prices drop.
Another great site I love to use for booking airline tickets is Priceline. Priceline does not necessarily always have the best prices, but they have been accommodating in the past when I have found the same flight for a cheaper price elsewhere. This brings me to my next point. Once you to book your ticket, you will still want to continue your research. Oftentimes, if you find your flight at a cheaper price, it is worth the hassle of calling that third party and haggling down the price. For example, I purchased a flight to Cali for $370 roundtrip. After seeing that same flight for $245 on a competitor site, Priceline was able to match that price. Granted it did take one hour and several phone transfers. However, it was an hour well spent if it meant saving a little over a hundred bucks. As someone who is a regular on websites like Priceline and Hotwire, I have found tremendous luck in getting a lower price once I have found a cheaper price elsewhere.
Lastly, be sure to take advantage of budget friendly airlines. If you are traveling in the states, some of the best airlines to take advantage of include Allegiant Air and Frontier Airlines. (If you are traveling through Europe, then you will want to check out Ryan Air.) When it comes to these airlines, you will want to purchase directly from the company. You can snag some series deals buying your tickets this way. For example, flying from Virginia to Florida can come at a hefty price tag at around $200. However, the same flight on Allegiant Air has cost me around $100. Did I mention that that is $100 round trip? Yea, that is a deal that is too good to pass up. With a little bit of time and a lot of research you too can be well on your way of figuring out how to travel cheaply.
4. Find a Free (or Cheap) Place to Stay
Do not underestimate the power of free. One of my favorite tips on how to travel cheaply starts by finding a free place to stay. If you have the awesome advantage of family scattered all over the world, then do yourself a favor and reach out to them. Not only do you get the opportunity to see family that you don't usually see, but you also get a chance to trim your travel bill. Staying with family even for one day can help you save anywhere from thirty to sixty bucks in hotel fees. This is money that can be spent on exploring your destination instead.
If you do not have the luxury of family scattered around, then your next goal is to find a cheap place to stay. One of my favorite things about going to a new location is going out and exploring it. This means that at the end of the day I simply need a place to put my head down. One of the best ways of how to travel cheaply is to find a hotel that offers really the bare minimum. When I travel, I typically do not care for staying in five-star resorts or hotels. After all, my goal is to see the world not see the inside of hotel rooms. When shopping around for a cheap place to stay, look for the bare necessities such as safety and cleanliness. Trim out all the extra bells and whistles, and you can find some great deals waiting for you.
Hostels Are the Best Kept Secret
Lastly, this next option is one that is way underrated. Hostels can be great lodging options if your goal is figuring out how to travel cheaply. Contrary to popular belief, hostels can be quite wonderful. Before you book your stay in a hostel, be sure to do your research to make sure it's an appropriate place to stay in. Sites like TripAdvisor and Bookings.com will allow you to read reviews by previous guests who stayed there and their experiences.
If you are looking for how to travel cheaply through Europe, then hostiles are something you should certainly take advantage of. Not only do they allow you to curve your travel expenses, but you get to meet some really cool people from all over the world. To start shopping for hostels, head over to Hostelbookers.com. They feature over 35,000 hostels in nearly 170 countries. Another great site to use is to Hostelworld.com. Hostelworld is great because of their superb customer service. You can contact them 24/7 for any questions or concerns about your booking.
5. Layovers Are Your Friend
One of my favorite tips on how to travel cheaply is to look for layovers when booking your flight. While this might sound a little counter intuitive, layovers can be pretty awesome. Instead of looking at them as nuances, you need to learn to embrace them.
Think of it this way, layovers can be little mini vacations before your big vacation. Some of the best layovers to look for are the 24-hour layovers. If you time your trip just right, then a 24-hour layover will allow you to see a city that is totally off the course of your final destination. Oftentimes, layovers happen in popular cities like Paris or Istanbul. This can be perfect for checking off another stop on your bucket list for really no charge at all.
If you want to take advantage of layovers, then there are some things that you need to do beforehand. For example, make sure to check in your baggage once you board your flight. This way you do not have to take it off the flight with you and lug it around on your 24-hour excursion.
Along with that, layovers give you the added benefit of not having to worry about where to stay. You get to explore the city, and when it's time to head back to the airport, you can snooze at your terminal until it's time for your next flight. Lastly, layovers can be pretty awesome when it comes to the overall price tag of your plane ticket. Oftentimes, a flight with layover tends to be a couple hundred dollars cheaper than a flight without. Take for example a recent flight I booked to Morocco. A direct flight to Casablanca cost me about $950. However, I refunded that flight and booked another one that had a 32-hour layover in Spain for $650. That's a savings of nearly $300! Without a doubt, one of my favorite ways on how to travel cheaply is by taking advantage of awesome layovers.
6. Skip the Big Cities
One of the biggest mistakes in traveling the word is booking your flight departure and arrival location at big city airports. When you are shopping around for ways of how to travel cheaply, you want to keep this simple hack in mind. Instead of selecting a major city as your drop off destination, search around for neighboring airports. Chances are, you will likely be able to snag a better deal than you would in a bigger city.
Booking your stay at a smaller airport can be helpful for several reasons. For starters, you get to avoid the hustle and bustle that hums around big city airports. Not only that but if you plan on getting a car rental, you may find that you have better odds at booking a rental in an airport that is not so busy.
You should know that when you are shopping around for neighboring airports, you can expect to have a layover or two in your flight. While this may be inconvenient for some, the difference in the price tag is so well worth it. Don’t skip out on this simple hack if you are looking for ways of how to travel cheaply.
7. Travel off Season
One of the best hacks that have served me well in my travel endeavors has been booking tickets when it is off season. In fact, about 90% of my travels have taken place during the off season. And every single time, I have had a fabulous experience.
There are so many benefits for traveling off season. For starters, prices get slashed across the board. From plane tickets to hotels to attractions, you can look forward to paying as little as half the original price. Take the Caribbean for example. The off season for the beautiful turquoise islands is typically April to December. While this is primarily due to the fact that this marks the start of hurricane season, many travel gurus will tell you that this is perhaps one of the best times to go out and explore.
Once the rush of spring break is over, hotels and resorts scram to try and fill up their rooms. All too often, this will result in them slashing prices. In the past, I have been able to snag resort rooms for nearly half the price. Not only that but once you can check in, you can negotiate a bit with the front desk to be upgraded to more luxurious rooms. That balcony view suite in Mexico overlooking the majestic Gulf of Mexico? Yea, that was a total upgrade. When it comes to traveling the off season, you can expect to find some great deals, especially with your room and board.
Lastly, one of the best tips of how to travel cheaply is this simple rule: When in doubt, ask. Sometimes, asking for simple accommodations will result in hotels offering you more than you may have bargained for. If you are staying in a hotel that is locally or even privately owned, the more likely you are are to snagging some awesome deals.
Finally, when you are traveling during the off season, you want to keep another simple guideline in mind. Try to aim and book your trip at the start of the off seasons. Especially if you are traveling in an area where the off season is because of weather related issues. Booking your trip at the start off season allows you the opportunity to enjoy your destination without too much worry.
8. Be Flexible
One of the biggest tips that has helped me so much in achieving more of my travel goals is flexibility. If you are trying to figure out how to travel cheaply, then being flexible is a habit that you want to practice. You cannot tie yourself down to specific locations and specific dates. In fact, some of my best trips have been ones where my original plans have been scrapped. Instead of going to the Bahamas, I went to the crystal clear waters of Cancun for a vacation that I will never forget. A different destination, yes. But nearly a thousand dollars in savings? I will take it thank you very much!
Not only that, but flexibility is key from a technical standpoint. When you are searching for the best travel deals, always search for several days around your desired departure date and desired return date. Often times, traveling on a Tuesday or Sunday is much cheaper than traveling on a Thursday or Friday. Flexibility like this has allowed me to find some of the best deals around. Round trip to Puerto Rico for a little over two hundred bucks? Yes, please!
When it comes to being flexible you want to be flexible not just with your departure dates, but with your travel location as well. If you have to scrap your original plans of a desired destination for a much cheaper one, then so be it. At the end, you will still get to experience an awesome vacation in a new location.
9. Get in on the Volunteering
One of the best ways of how to travel cheaply is by volunteering your time with specific organizations. One of the most popular companies but has helped hundreds of broke travelers find wonderful adventures is WWOOF. (Willing workers on organic farms. In a sense, organizations like WWOOF allow travelers to volunteer their time and energy for free accommodation, lodging, and food. Not only that but volunteers get the unique opportunity of working firsthand in a new culture.
Oftentimes the accommodations allow you to stay with a host family. If you have never done it before, staying with a host family is one of the most unique opportunities you can take advantage up. Being with a host family allows you the opportunity of really getting to know your host country. Not only that, but you will walk away from the experience with the best skill set revolving around farm work that is not only practical but priceless.
Keep in mind, that with many volunteer websites like WWOOF you will still be responsible for paying your flight fees. However, if you can snag a great deal on your flight, you can really experience a cheap and rewarding trip.
10. Eat at Home
Ok, If we are being honest, this is one that I'm still struggling with on a daily basis. However, legend has it that if you cook at home, you will save more money than if you are eating out?
Seriously though, one of the best tips for how to travel cheaply is to quit going through the drive through and eat at home instead. When you break down the figures, this really does make plenty of sense. If you eat out a couple of times a week, you can easily rack up hundreds of dollars a month eating out. (And yes, I am speaking from experience here, unfortunately.) These are bucks that you could easily be curbing towards your adventure fund.
It's not just eating out that will kill any wishful traveler's vibe, but casual stops at the coffee shop can be vacation killers too. In fact, Popular millionaire tycoon, Mr. Wonderful, from the ever popular hit show Shark Tank is famous for saying that a daily cup of coffee from your local coffee shop is, in fact, one of the biggest wastes of money possible.
Aside from saving money, cooking at home is a great way to generate some passive income. Nifty tools like Ibotta and Checkout 51 can help you collect some serious side cash to spend on your travels. Last year alone I was able to generate almost $200 by simply shopping for my daily groceries with Ibotta by my side. Lastly, if stores like Walmart are always guilty of draining your bank account faster than you can fill it up, then you need to take advantage of tools like their Savings Catcher. Small dollar amounts from sites like these will slowly add up to valuable funds that can take care of a hotel stay or even a partial plane ticket.
At the end of the day, cooking at home is one of the best tips for figuring out how to travel cheaply. If you find yourself struggling with this, remember to take it one day at a time. And remember, we are in this together, my friends.
We have come a long way in the world of travel. It used to be that you could only go out and explore the world if you had access to a great travel agent. Nowadays, finding a great ticket price is literally only a couple of keystrokes away. If you are looking for ways of how to travel cheaply, then take some of these suggestions into consideration. The good news is that these tips will carry you through any stage in your life. Whether you are single and looking for a quick vacation, or married with kids. With the right amount of planning and patience, the right vacation is much closer than you think.
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