Many occasions my friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and fellow bloggers/readers ask: how do you travel so much?! I admit that it gets crazy expensive at times so I am compelled to share some free tips I learned along to help you save some serious cash. Some of what I’ve learned can save a little or a lot depending on how aggressive you are about being frugal. If you have anything extra to add, drop it in the comments. If you like what you read, be sure to let me know as well!
So let’s jump in to the good stuff!
Kayak. This or any flight search engine can help you compare prices easily. Kayak being on my phone makes it super easy to plug in different dates, check at a glance, track, as well as explore different destinations depending on A) how long I want to travel and B) my budget. Google flights also has accurate pricing from my experience if you want to search both and compare. TIP: Flying Tuesdays or Thursdays can be more affordable than Monday or Fridays. Sometimes, the earliest and latest flights of the day also tend to be cheaper. Kayak’s Explore Option
TIP: Track your exact dates at least 8 weeks or sooner then sign up for emails that notify you if the price drops. Still too pricey? Try flying out of a different airport (this may include driving or adding an extra layover).
TIP: Search incognito on your browser so airlines and online booking agencies can’t see your searches and hike up the prices the more you search the flight. Disable site cookies!
Tip: Add flight insurance when booking separate tickets or flying to a non-home airport. I will also caution you to be at the airport 3 hours before your international departure.
What else? Checking late Tuesday nights is an old tip, whether it is accurate or just by luck, that has worked on some occasions for me.
TIP: Travel with one bag on a basic economy flight segment.
Once booked: Ask! Ask for seat upgrades while at the desk and don’t bring more than the allowed bags if you can help it. I know this isn’t always an option, but it does have a perk of being quicker and avoiding lost luggage. So my tip, leave the suitcase of shoes at home and save $$!
Want first class upgrade for free? Bring it to the customer service attendant if you’ve had a delay or bad experience previously with their airline and politely ask if they can manage an upgrade. This has worked on multiple occasions for me for seat upgrades and with scoring vouchers.
Because one of the best things about traveling is the opportunity to try new cuisines, I’m always enjoying the chance to try new foods: who doesn’t though?! Changes I’ve made to be more budget friendly:
TIP: Save by sharing a lunch if you’re not traveling solo. It eliminates the cost of 1-3 meals per day, and you feel lighter.
TIP: Get a hotel with breakfast included. Not all hotels include breakfast anymore.
TIP: Happy Hour: Alcohol and appetizers are usually half price or discounted which is pretty common knowledge. So beat the crowd, get there early, and save a little!
Hotels and Nightly Accommodations
Of course, I have to suggest using Kayak for your hotel accommodations.
TIP: Search the trend, set up price alerts to be emailed, and then select your filters based on what you want/need. I always select AC, Wifi, and free breakfast as those are my personal must haves.
TIP: Stay in areas during off peak seasons. Don’t know when that is? Google is your friend here.
To the left, you see staying in South Lake Tahoe during non-peak season is about $50-80 nightly on average. However, the same room at the same hotel can be as high as $250 a night mid-summer.
I stayed early June and early September, had amazing weather, and paid non-peak season prices.
Another thing: Use search sites like Kayak or Google, then check directly with the hotel reservation line to cross check prices.
AirBnB: I created an account with AirBnB and have used it at least a dozen times. When I use AirBnB, I usually save $100 a night compared to a hotel.
Hostels: Not my style, but I’ve heard they are better in Europe and people save about 50% compared to hotels. The housing is shared and typically co-ed (not always though). Just check ways to be safe if it is your first time and be sure to secure/lock your belongings.
Trains and public transportation can be intimidating, but they can also be some of the most affordable means of transportation.
TIP: The train is usually always cheaper unless you can walk. Try to download the city transit maps before you visit. Most will allow you to plug in your destination that will tell you which specific train and stop. Screenshot your stop in case you lose cell reception en route.
Ride share apps: Uber and Lyft (two of the apps I use in my Travel folder)
For those that don’t know, Uber and Lyft are ride share applications where drivers who pick you up and drop you off based on the address you enter. Your card is on file and charged while never handling cash or letting the drivers know your card details.
Last tip: Parking a car for a long holiday/vacation? Use long term airport parking so you don’t pay pricey garage fees. Do not ever do short term parking at an airport!! You can save by googling long term parking and only pay about $6-15 depending on your airport.
In a wrap:
- For flights, Kayak and Google Flights lets you play with dates and search price trends– get signed up for price drop alerts!
- Check directly with airlines and hotels after looking at search engines.
- Do Basic Economy on flights if you travel light and don’t care about seat selection. (I usually get my window seat and sneak a second bag on for free most times…shh!)
- Change airports you fly out of or select “nearby airports” when searching.
- Get free breakfast when you can, and share a lunch with your travel buddy!
- Get to restaurants early to take advantage of happy hour and skip the 5 course meals.
- Try housing alternatives like AirBnb or asking hotels for discounts: AAA is a good one if you are a member.
- Take the train or Uber instead of using a taxi cab.
- Using ride share apps? Plug in your address in both to see which is cheaper. Then cross compare with the train/subway systems.
- For activities, take a scenic hike (we always do this and leave with some of the best pictures). It’s usually free.
- Have a friend abroad or living in a new city? Ask to visit. Take them out to dinner! Return the favor when applicable.
- Bonus: Get a rewards card like Chase Sapphire if you can be responsible with charges and use their rewards site to book free hotels, flights, and car rentals.
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