We all want to travel the world but we can’t afford it… until now. With these tips I hope you can save up and be creative so that you can achieve some of your all-time bucket list trips. I have been lucky enough to travel a lot and try to do so cost efficiently so that I can do it as often as possible. With these tips and tricks hopefully you can start to go on an amazing vacation 1-2x a year or more to see all of what the world has to offer.
People think a trip will cost $5,000 and they just can’t afford it but there are so many ways to travel for cheaper than you’d think. Whether you plan efficiently or pinch pennies that tropical vacation can be just $1-2,000 away! The key is finding value and below are some great ways to be as efficient with your travel budget as possible.
If you want to travel cheap then be open to going anywhere on earth at any time of the week, month or year.
Did you ever play that game in school where you spun the globe and put your finger down to see where you were gonna live when you grow up? Well do that now but with search engines for your trip. Being flexible can open up tons of cheap options and locations for you to checkout as you search for a great deal.
Google Flights is awesome where you can go to the main page (desktop is more user friendly), enter an airport and then scroll around on the map to see costs of flights to anywhere in the world for your dates. It actually is a bit of a rabbit hole once you get started as it opens up the entire world to you! Skyscanner and greatescape.co offer “search everywhere” option and Groupon is another great place to checkout.
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You definitely need to be open with when you fly whether it be time of the year, month or day of the week.
Obviously flying midweek is normally cheaper because most people travel on weekends etc, pretty common knowledge. I often will take Wednesday through the weekend off so I can fly out Weds to save on the flight but also make my trip an extended long weekend or a 12 day trip from Wednesday to two Sundays away. Be flexible for your time of the month and also if you are trying to save then avoid flying around holidays at all costs.
Eat & Grocery Shop Like the Locals
If you aren’t eating the local food then you’re ridiculous. For whatever reason going grocery shopping or to a market is one of my favorite things to do when traveling.
You should be experiencing every single part of another culture by trying all their own dishes, even if you might not love them anyways. With that said, an added bonus is normally eating like a local is so much cheaper. You can get so much fruit, eat street meat or visit local small restaurants for a fraction of what it costs to try and find American food wherever you are.
Drink the local beer, eat the local cuisine and grocery shop for as many meals as possible to save money but also to truly experience as much of the culture as possible.
It’s easy to say but it is not easy to put it into practice. This contradicts some of my other travel beliefs about spending to have fun but if you are on a budget then you gotta do what you gotta do.
At the end of the day remind yourself that for a 7-21+ day trip, in 5 years from now you aren’t going to remember your flight that didn’t have movies or a bus that took 4 hours longer so don’t let some time or conveniences stop you from a trip of a lifetime.
You can travel 50% cheaper flying no frills with an airline like Allegiant, Spirit or Norwegian. There are busses or trains everywhere that will take longer but cheaper than a flight, private shuttle or renting a car. Overall if it means sacrificing a little comfort or time to make your dream trip happen or make it so you can pinch pennies enough to do two trips vs. just one then it is a no brainer.
When you purchase your travel affects the price! “Algorithm” has become a buzz word widely used and it is something to pay attention to when booking your flight to save money.
While we all aren’t mathematicians you can use some supply and demand common sense when purchasing to help you figure out those pesky algorithms. Most people have their free time on weekends so clearly booking on weekends you will see higher flight prices, thus try to book on Tuesday and Wednesday as those are the cheapest days to book.
Book at the start of the year as that is right after the holiday season where everyone has spent all their money traveling and on the holidays. The travel sites know this and thus drop prices to try and get purchases since it is a typically slow period of purchasing.
Take a Chance On The Down or Rainy Season
What’s the cheesy saying? Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass but learning to dance in the rain.
Sure “rainy season” in countries sound bad but unless you get extremely unlucky often rain just comes down hard for a couple hours a day at most in tropical destinations. You could get unlucky and get a few days but don’t let the threat of “rainy” or “green season” scare you off especially if you are going to save $1,000+ on hotels and flights.
Politely Negotiate Vacation Rental Price
I like to treat life like it’s an Asian street market and everything is negotiable. With that said, just be overly nice, create a relationship and the worst they can say is politely decline.
Airbnbs are often negotiable if there is plenty of supply and no demand. People renting their places are just like you and me and if you are nice and seem trustworthy then they’d rather have someone who isn’t going to cancel and someone who will take care of their place vs. a stranger who just books and they never talk to.
Write them a nice note, let them know about yourself and who is coming to instill a little trust in you taking care of their place to create a bit of a relationship. In the end complement them on their place and say you love it but it is just a touch out of your price range, however if it is flexible a touch on price you would love to book. If it’s a few weeks out and they haven’t rented it yet then they are sweating it out, trust me.
Don’t be rude and ask for 50% or even 25% off but if you can maybe save $100-200 total over 5 nights or something it isn’t bad to ask for at all. You can add “I completely understand if not possible but just thought I would ask before booking elsewhere” and keep that nice relationship.
There is so much random work you can do when you travel like bar promoting, nannying, ski lift operating, bartending, farming, resort working and english teaching.
Depending how long you are going, start searching or asking around a way to live in paradise for a little while. If you have a longer trip and will be staying in one spot for a while then definitely make friends with some tourists and surely you will find some work wherever you are. I once worked for Club Med and while you only make about $800 a month you had free lodging and you ate the same food as the guests all while living in paradise!
Go To Countries Where Stock Has Dipped Recently
This is terrible to say but I have unintentionally traveled to Thailand within a year of the Tsunami and to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands within a year of the hurricane. This was honestly completely unintentional but in the end it was intentional by the countries as they sought to get tourists back to their countries. Tourism is what will help get them back on their feet and travel sites offer cheap flights and lodging. What is also great is you are helping the economy get back while also reassuring your friends that all is good and they need to go there!
Another example is traveling to countries where the economy has been hit such as Greece when the economy fell out and the US dollar was incredible in comparison. Or look at countries where the dollar isn’t doing too well… a quick google search of “biggest national dollar dip in 2019” just let me know the Australian Dollar has hit a 10 year low. It sounds a little morbid but take advantage of timing and also know your travel is helping so you aren’t just taking but helping as well.
Flexible Flights & Purposeful Layovers
This is my favorite thing to do as you get to see more! Be flexible as flying direct from your hometown to your destination isn’t always the cheapest or smartest option.
Let’s say you want to fly to Greece or to Cambodia but flights are outrageously priced and 30+ hours. Take a look at flights from/to Barcelona, London, Singapore or Bangkok as they are considerably cheaper and more direct. Add in that flying within Europe or Asia is extremely cheap, like $40 flights… Do you see where I am going with this?
Be flexible and change up your itinerary a little stopping in a different amazing city for a day or two before heading onto your final destination. In fact double down and get one way flights in and out of different cities so you can tour a new major city for a day or two during your trip.
Domestically if you are from a smaller airport hub be open to flying a different airline to LA, New York Or Miami then out from there. Even stay a day in a cool city like NYC that maybe you haven’t explored much. Sometimes flights are 20-30 hours due to long layovers thus make your own layover and go site see.
Turn On Private or Incognito Mode On Your Web Browser
Now that we talked algorithms you can be sure to know that you are cookie’d the second you go to any website and your purchase habits are tracked.
With that said, if you and everyone else keep searching a flight to San Diego over and over then the sites are going to see it is a popular time to travel to San Diego with lots of demand. In turn for this demand they of course are going to up the prices, an easier way to look at it is Super Bowl flights into a SB city or Spring Break into Cancun. Help yourself and everyone by going private and being free from the tracking to avoid prices going up.
Self Guided Tours
Instead of paying for a tour or a guide just use sites like this one or google “top tours in Barcelona” to see what is on the tour then just go do them yourself.
I personally hate tours, being on a tours time, waiting for people and all that. I just go see the sites myself and ideally do it walking or running so you can see even more of the city you are visiting vs. just where the bus stops.
Alcohol On Flights
If you are an alcoholic like one of my friends you come up with this genius idea… bring the mini bottles of liquor on your flights in clear plastic bags and…. wow… game changer right!
Netflix & Chill
Don’t want to spend money to watch movies or TV on some airlines? Or maybe your airline doesn’t offer TV, like Southwest on some “International” flights. Well… Netflix has an area where you can download certain movies and series that will be on your phone/iPad or laptop so you watch them on the plane!
There are a plethora of ways to save on where you stay! Definitely remind yourself over and over that it’s just a bed and ideally you will only be in it to sleep anyways.
Make sure to price shop all sites, apps and options obviously. Often staying in an airbnb is 25-50% cheaper than a hotel in many places and a must if you are getting more than one room. Download apps like hotels.com as being an app holder and member you get a discount. Stay outside the main areas or downtown as costs will be much cheaper and ideally you only will come back to your room to sleep so no need to be right in the middle of anything.
If you are true traveler then you know about home-stays and this is always an option depending your preference. Home-stays can be an absolute once in a lifetime experience to live with a family in a foreign country.
Reach Out To Your Network
Don’t forget to tap into your network as you may never know someone who knows someone that has a place for you to stay.
There are millions of people like me and I once took complete strangers in my house for a drink, set them up with a hotel and invited them to party with me and my friends. They had driven 8 hours for an NFL game and I met them selling my tickets online. One of them ended up getting arrested and they both missed the game but that’s not the point of the story is it conclusions jumpers.
Anyways, even if it’s just for the start of your travel your friend’s friend could put you up and then guide you with the best place or area to stay, things to see getting a head-start and local’s perspective and guide to your trip. Travelers love to help other travelers so put a feeler out there and maybe could end up with a free place to stay or a local guide! Maybe your friend’s friend has a blog website for travel and you’re reading this right now… and sharing it with your friends… and commenting below to help the Google ranking… maybe?
A travel credit card is a great way to get cheap or free flights fast. Better yet, use your travel card for your business and rack up points from your business expenses.
At the time of this writing Southwest was offering a free companion pass with their signup while other credit cards offer 50,000+ points with signup. If you have a significant other you could take turns opening a new travel card each year and then canceling without dinging your credit too much.
Some of the best cards are the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Capital One Venture Rewards Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Card or the Platinum Card from AMEX.
Be Smart With Debit Cards
Taking out money is always a pain, do you take a lump sum out before you leave, use the airport or hotel conversion, a local bank?
First off find your sister bank company in each country if available as right away you will be saving a ton or withdrawal fees as this is the best bet. Never do the airport conversion pop-ups as they take the highest percent. If a sister bank isn’t an option then take out larger sums to avoid the one-time fees over and over. Another option is to find a bank like Chase or TD who will reimburse you any international withdrawal charges! If you are that much of a traveller this might be a good option for you.
House Swap Or House Sitting
This stuff still happens out there and it is worth looking into! First reach out to your network as you never know who might know someone with a house in another country that you could either stay with or sit. From there checkout a plethora of apps just looking for house or pet sitters.
Favorite Travel Deal Sites
There are hundreds of travel sites out there and be sure to price shop a few of them to find the best deals.
My favorites are: Google Flights (better on desktop), skyscanner.com, kayak.com, hotelstonight.com, fly.com, airbnb.com, hipmunk.com and jetsetter.com and hotels.com is a good one to use as a baseline to price shop.
It goes without saying to make sure you don’t land somewhere and all of the sudden a few days later you have $100 in cell charges. Turn on airplane mode and only use your phone when you can get to wifi, where nowadays most hotels, vacation rentals. You can also pay for a local sim card as well, which is very cheap and easy.