Already planning your summer vacation for this year? If you’ve got a big travel bug but not a big travel budget, don’t get discouraged. There are many ways you can say money on travel and still enjoy your trip.
Whether you’re on a strict budget or just looking to save a few dollars (to plan another vacation around the corner!), here are 4 ways to travel for less.
The best way to save money on travel is the ability to be flexible with your itinerary. In most circumstances, Friday and Saturday are your most expensive travel nights. You could score a deal by staying during the week.
Compare flight prices on different days by using Google's flight tool. They'll allow you to look at different fares throughout the week so you can see which days to fly on are cheapest.
Also, call your preferred hotel ahead of time and see if they’re offering any specials for Monday through Thursday stays, or if they’re offering any packages for the same price as a weekend stay. Some hotels will charge you the same amount for a Friday through Sunday stay but can offer you a package deal (like $50 off a massage or a $25 room credit) for stays during the week.
You can also look into traveling during the “shoulder seasons,” like March through April and September through October. These are seasons when the kids are in school and there are no major holidays attracting hordes of tourists -- but they're not completely off-season, either.
In addition to paying less for your flights and stays, you’ll likely find fewer people in line for major tourist attractions.
Hack Your Way to Cheaper Travel
It’s a well-known secret in the personal finance blogosphere that travel hacking, when done responsibly, is one of the best ways to get free or reduced travel.
Before jumping into signing up for a travel rewards credit card, first spread your wings by signing up for every free travel loyalty program you’re interested in, including hotel and car rental. And when booking, see if hotels (or airlines) offer any amenities, like a free shuttle to the airport or a free hot breakfast.
Depending on the price between hotels, a hotel that is $10 more but offers a free breakfast for 2 people could be worth the price difference.
If you want to sign up for a travel rewards credit card, be sure to read the eligibility requirements and make sure your everyday, normal spending would meet the card's required spend to get the signup bonus. Most cards require that you spend something around $3,000 in the first 3 months after signing up to get the bonus points.
If this fits within your normal budget -- and you don't have to spend more than you would normally to get the points -- applying for a travel credit card might help reduce the cost of a trip.
Scour the Internet
In addition to everyone’s favorite travel-deal aggregating site, Kayak.com, branch out by looking at less well-known travel-deal hunting sites. If you’re flexible on where you want to travel -- which is another way to save! -- check out SkyScanner.com and type in your closest airport and flight dates.
From there, choose the “Everywhere” option to be given a list of places around the world and the cost for each destination. Then, build a trip around cheap destinations. You can also scan for cost-effective hotel rooms and car rentals.
And if you’re comfortable staying in someone else’s place, check out Airbnb as a comparison to hotels. For a weekend stay in July in San Diego, you could stay at a hotel 5 miles from the beach for $700 for 3 nights. With Airbnb, you can find a 1 bedroom condo 5 minutes from the beach for $500.
Keep in mind, you can search for places to stay through Airbnb with or without “roommates.” Typically, you will spend more to have an entire place to yourself, whereas if you rent a room in someone’s house, you’ll pay considerably less. Consider your space comforts and budget accordingly.
Once you arrive at your destination, take a walk around the city or town. Look for local newspapers or pamphlets advertising free or cheaper entertainment. Many big cities have at least a few local newspapers, usually free, where you can find this information.
What better way to blend in and look less like a tourist than attending a local event?
Before you leave, Google your destination and the word “free entertainment” after it to see what type of free activities are going on. For example, typing in “San Francisco free entertainment” pulls up an entire guide to free events happening in the city currently. Particularly if you’re vacationing in a big city, or close to one, you’re bound to find a handful of free activities.
Skipping the more touristy spots and living like a local will help you keep costs down, which will allow for more travel in your budget.
What are your favorite ways to travel while on a budget?