For many people, seeing the world is the ultimate dream. So why do many of us stay home when we could be indulging our wanderlust and doing all of the things we’ve dreamed about? It’s not usually a fear of airline food or moldy motel mattresses that holds us back. Most potential travelers feel like they simply can’t afford to live the jet-set lifestyle. There’s no avoiding the fact that travel by land or air can be expensive. Factor in meals, attraction costs, and other expenses and it may feel downright impossible to afford a nice vacation. But for those in the know, travel does not have to be nearly as expensive as you’re imagining; you may even be able to cut the price of a vacation in half.
There’s a world of travel hacks out there to make vacationing an affordable experience. Follow these tips and nothing will hold you back from planning an amazing trip at the right price. Travel can fit your budget with a bit of planning!
Be Flexible With Travel Dates
It’s totally possible to find cheap flights, but you’re going to have to be ready to move when the deals are available. There are a few different ways to find affordable flights. It might seem obvious, but make sure you keep your eyes on flight prices for all nearby airports, not just the major hubs. You should also make sure you set up Twitter and email alerts from sites and airlines that offer deals, like Kayak.com. Some software will let you search for airfares at the lowest prices as well, and you’ll also want to keep an eye out for tickets to less-popular destinations. Keep in mind that the cheapest days to fly are generally Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. If you’re flexible and willing to hop on a plane to anywhere while the deals are hot, you’re sure to visit many new destinations for a fraction of the price.
Try Out Hidden-City Ticketing
This hack is not a favorite of airlines, but it can certainly save you a bundle. “Hidden-city ticketing” refers to seeking out cheap flights to an unpopular destination with a layover in the city you actually hope to visit. For example, let’s say that you want to travel from Chicago to New York. That’s a popular and pricey flight. But if you can find an affordable flight from Chicago to Portland, Maine, with a layover in New York, you can hop off in New York, skip the second leg to Portland, and escape with amazing savings. There are a few drawbacks to hidden-city ticketing that you’ll need to keep in mind. Airlines really don’t like it, so make sure not to link your ticket to your frequent-flier account, or else they might penalize you by taking away your miles. Also, don’t buy a round-trip ticket: Airlines will cancel the rest of your itinerary when you don’t board the second leg of the flight, leaving you without a flight home. You’ll also need to travel with a carry-on only, as any checked bags will go on to the final destination without you. Sites like Skiplagged can help you search out those hidden-city tickets.
Consider Driving vs. Flying
In many cases, if you’re traveling domestically, you can save a lot of money by opting to drive instead of fly. It’s easy to compare these costs: Use a simple calculator like this one from Be Frugal to compare prices of flying and driving to your chosen destination. Even if you are buying gas in a state with higher fuel prices, you might still save money when you skip a plane ticket that can cost hundreds or even more than a thousand dollars. There are plenty of other benefits to driving other than cost savings, too. You’ll be traveling on your own schedule, leaving you free to make as many rest stops or detours as you want. You won’t have to worry about checking any bags or going through TSA pat-downs. Besides, who can resist the allure of a good road trip?
Opt for a Vacation Rental Over a Hotel
The low-maintenance and adventurous travelers among us can save a load of money on accommodations when they opt for a home or apartment on Airbnb over staying in a hotel. Of course, the price of an Airbnb can change dramatically based on the particular location, but there is no doubt that there are many chances for savings if you take a look and do your research. Aside from the possibility of major savings, you might be able to have a way more interesting stay than you would at a chain hotel. You can find an Airbnb in many unique locations, from a yurt in the desert to a retro trailer on the beach. When you choose an Airbnb, you may save money and have a far more rewarding experience than you would at a hotel.
Book Trips Based on Price Over Destination
As you can tell from some of the other travel hacks, in order to travel on a budget, you may not always be able to visit your dream destination. But if your primary goal is to fit travel into a tight budget, follow the deals wherever they may take you. Choose destinations for their price rather than their glamour and you’re sure to stay within your budget while visiting new and exciting places. You may have Paris on the brain, but who knows what you may discover on an affordable trip to Seattle? For those with wanderlust, this is an exciting, inexpensive, and often surprising way to view travel. It’s kind of like throwing a dart on the map and seeing where it lands. If that’s ever sounded like a dream to you, try checking Airfarewatchdog for the cheapest flights available, then pack your bags and head off for an adventure!
Don’t Overpay for Gas
If you have chosen to travel by car instead of plane, there are many things you can do to make sure that you aren’t paying too much for gas. Gas stations located right off the highway can be more expensive than gas in out-of-the-way locations, so it can sometimes pay off to go a little out of your way to find better prices. Many GPS systems are capable of finding gas stations for you and may even list the prices. You could also try GasBuddy – just put in your location and you’ll find the best gas prices around.
More Travel Tips
Using these travel hacks can help you save hundreds of dollars while traveling in style. But just in case these weren’t enough, here are a few other helpful tips to guide you on your journey:
- Apply for TSA Pre`LEFTQUOTE~` ® to receive a “known traveler number” which will allow you to skip the long TSA lines.
- Volunteer to get bumped off of overbooked flights to receive compensation like extra frequent-flier miles or cash vouchers.
- If you’re outside the U.S., use Skype and Google Hangouts to make free calls.
- Carry an empty water bottle and refill it from a water fountain after the security checkpoint. Buying water at airports can get expensive!
- When shopping for airline tickets online, clear your history, cache, and cookies. Sometimes, airlines track searches and increase prices on what they view as in-demand flights.
- Download the app SitOrSquat to locate the cleanest bathrooms along your road trip route.
- Find fun places to visit on your road trip and learn about their prices by using Field Trip.
- Try to avoid “city passes” to top attractions, or at least do the math to see if they’re truly a good deal. They are often price-bumped and appeal to tourists, and they often include destinations that are completely free to visit.
- Speaking of free, make sure you take advantage of free local tours.
- Dine out for lunch rather than dinner. Lunch hour can feature some great deals!
- Use credit cards that will give you frequent-flier miles as rewards.
- Bring your own snacks and meals, especially on road trips. You can potentially save hundreds of dollars on food this way.
With these travel hacks in mind, you’ll be ready to hit the road or the skies. We’ve recommended many apps and websites that can help you locate amazing savings, but make sure you recheck your research regularly: There are always new sources to discover and new apps to try out. Sometimes, a bit of research is all you need to make sure you’re spending as little as possible on your travels.
We hope you feel encouraged to travel, no matter how large or small your budget. It’s a big world out there, and you don’t need to be rolling in dough to explore it! Frugal decisions, flexibility, careful research, and a sense of adventure are all that’s really needed. Travel is all about mindset: Those who are determined to wander will find their way.