If you're like me, then you're the type of person that is always looking for the best deals. I am thrifty by blood; my Dad has taught me a LOT about how to manage money and to make it work in your favor. One thing I love to save up for is travel. I 100% believe that experiences are worth the investment, and travel is one of the best experiences you can have. Being able to learn about other cultures through submersion is so important! However, travel can get expensive if you don't know the tricks of the trade. Here are some of my best money-saving tips when it comes to travel. Come along for the ride!
F L I G H T S
Airfare is often the aspect of travel that costs people the most money. According to ValuePenguin, 44% of the average vacation cost is dedicated to transportation to and from your destination. That's a lot of money! This is the first aspect of travel you should save money on.
Ever heard of that hack that says to search for flights using an incognito tab on your web browser to get the cheapest flights? Well, I hate to break it to you, but nine times out of 10, that hack doesn't work. Here is an example of using an incognito tab v. my standard browser with no cookies cleared to search for a flight from Boston Logan airport to any London airport for Sunday, September 13th with no time specifics made:
As you can see, using an incognito tab (bottom) was not lucrative at all. The prices, airlines, and travel times are all exactly the same.
However, I would 100% recommend using the tool I used above: Google Flights. Google Flights is able to get results from many commercial and smaller airlines to get you the best price possible for your trip. Included in the prices are taxes and fees, so you know exactly what you're paying when you search for your flight. Unless you add additional baggage, WiFi access, or choose your own seat, you shouldn't have other fees on top of the listed price. The only con to Google Flights would be for people who only fly commercial airlines; some of the airlines listed above in the search results are smaller airlines that may not have comparable reviews to, say, Tap Air Portugal, British Airways, or Southwest. If you are picky about your in-flight customer service or would prefer to use a commercial airline for the namesake, you can go in and edit your search results to show you specific airlines.
Another way to save money on flights? Start with your credit card. Do you have a credit card that allows you to redeem points you earn for travel? If not, look into a credit card that gives you the ability to do so. If you're able, put everything on the card and PAY IT OFF IN FULL. This will give you ample points and boost your credit score--a win-win! My credit card allows me to redeem points on airfare with most airlines, which is phenomenal! Many airlines also have credit cards that allow you to earn points towards their flights. I know a few people in my life that swear by their Southwest credit cards--some of them rarely pay for flights anymore! Airline credit cards are a great option for people who are ride-or-dies with their favorite airline. However, if you're on the lookout for the cheapest options, looking into bank-issued credit cards is also a great option for travel rewards credit cards.
Last tip: READ AIRLINE REVIEWS. It might be worth it to spend the extra $50 upfront on your flight to get good customer service rather than save that money, run into problems, and be put in a situation where you now have to spend hundreds of dollars to fix your problem... not that I have any sort of experience with that. (Remember when my friend Jessa shared her tip of not flying with a certain airline? Yeah... she wasn't wrong.) Reading reviews to ensure that you're getting the best value for your dollar is just as important as saving your money. Positive customer service experiences go a long way!
H O T E L
Allow me to share my thoughts on living accommodations while traveling: accommodations are for sleeping, showering, and (maybe) eating. That's it. If I'm on vacation, especially abroad, I'm not looking for the fanciest accommodations. If it's clean and I can do all the basic necessities there, it's good in my book.
That being said, I have no problem looking into AirBnBs, hostels, or even Groupon deals for hotels in order to save money. The key when doing this is, again, to read those reviews. $30/night is a waste if you can't comfortably sleep, shower, and do basic tasks. Make sure the reviews discuss cleanliness of the space, especially for post-quarantine travels.
The above picture is from a 2012 family trip to Fort Myers, Florida. We stayed at the Doubletree Hotel!
The best inexpensive accommodation I've stayed in was a hostel in Dublin called Jacobs Inn. My friend Jessa and I stayed in a room with six other girls and we were able to all comfortably sleep and shower in the room. Breakfast was also included, which was a huge plus considering we were traveling on a college budget. Breakfasts included cereal, toast, yogurt, fruit, etc., so if you're looking for a more high-scale experience, perhaps this accommodation isn't for you. However, if you're simply looking for the basics like I am, then this is a great hostel to check out.
A C T I V I T I E S
THIS IS WHERE YOU SHOULD SPEND YOUR MONEY. Life experiences are so valuable. That being said, everyone is traveling on a different budget. No matter what your budget is, you deserve to have an amazing experience.
If you're young, this tip is for you! I recently posted on Instagram about taking advantage of your student ID when abroad. If you're studying abroad (I can only speak to study abroad experiences in Europe), bring your student ID with you EVERYWHERE. My friends and I were able to get generously discounted tickets to Westminster Abbey in London (aka one of my favorite attractions in the city), free entry to the Louvre museum in Paris, and discounted tickets to Castelo de S. Jorge (St. George's Castle) in Lisbon, Portugal. Even domestically, there are plenty of student rates for different attractions. Especially if you're traveling to a city or town with a bustling college atmosphere, such as Boston, most museums and even some restaurants will have students deals, students nights, etc. to check out. Take advantage of being young and save money while doing it! It's a win-win.
Would you like a more in-depth post about student deals abroad? Let me know if you'd come along for the ride!
If you're not of college age, you can still find great money-saving hacks for discounted (or free!) activities to do while traveling. It will take a bit more research on your part, but it will be worth it when you save that coin.
Oftentimes, there are Facebook groups dedicated to deals in different travel hotspots. In your Facebook search bar, type in "(insert city name here) travel deals" and you'll find a myriad of Facebook groups/pages dedicated to travel deals. Are you a Disney lover? Facebook groups such as "Walt Disney World News, Tips, and Fun Facts" are going to be your best friend. Oftentimes, Disney travel agents will post updates on Dining Plan deals/freebies, updates to FastPass+ information, and other Disney updates that can help you plan the best Disney trip at the best value.
Google will be your best friend. Simply search "Free activities in (insert city name here)" to find free things to do in your travel destination. Oftentimes, museums will have free/discounted nights. Museums are a great way to make any trip educational and spend a few hours learning about different topics such as science, fine art, and history.
If you can walk from activity to activity, DO IT. Walking is a great way to see the city you're in for free. I once went on a three-hour walk around London and saw so many tourist sights in that time span! It is much cheaper than taking public transportation everywhere, allows you to see everything at your own speed without the time constraints of public transportation, and helps you achieve that 10,000 daily step goal!
G E N E R A L T I P S
My biggest tip for planning an inexpensive vacation is to be flexible with travel dates. If you're able to with your job, consider vacationing during off-seasons. You'll want to go to Google again to search for peak v. off-seasons in your travel destination. For instance, Florida beaches might be packed in March, but empty in September, whereas New England states experience their peak tourist times during the summer and fall seasons with their amazing coastlines and leaf-peeping.
Continuing the topic of flexibility, flying during the week might be cheaper than flying during the weekend depending on the destination, time of year, and airline. It might be worth it to take some time off for half the work week to cash in on a cheaper flight than it would be to work the entire week and pay more for your flight. That will obviously depend on income, available PTO, and the cost of flights.
I feel as though I could do an entire blog post on money-saving hacks for food. Would you come along for the ride? Let me know in the comments!
I hope these tips and tricks help you plan an affordable trip! Make sure to bookmark this post to save for future travel planning post-quarantine/travel ban. Thanks for coming along for the ride! x
FTC: This post is not sponsored in any way. All opinions are my own.