If you have looked into traveling, you know how expensive it can be. If you have traveled much before, you know it can be exhausting to find a good deal and it still might not be a “good deal”. There are a few tips/tricks you can use to help find some cheaper options for traveling, but it’s important that you’re FLEXIBLE! Beggars can’t be choosers, right? But really, the pickier you are about things, the harder it is to get yourself an affordable vacay.
Personally I love going anywhere, anywhere new especially. So with that said, tip one:
BE OPEN TO DIFFERENT DESTINATIONS
If you’re traveling during peak times especially, spring break, summer, etc, check various locations. Spring break time in the US is likely to raise prices in places like Florida and Mexico, but check other warm options like Belize, Greece and Spain. It may be the same cost to go to Greece during spring break as it is Florida. You’ll find that less populated places (with a decent airport still) will typically be less expensive as well. Want to go to the Greek Islands? Crete will also be a better deal than Santorini. And in Crete you’ll have a lot more space to yourself as its quite a bit larger than Santorini and less popular of a destination. However, it still has gorgeous Mediterranean beaches and beautiful architecture. Another option if you’ve always wanted to explore Europe is to go during the winter. Don’t mind chilly weather? You’ll save like 50% on airfare alone if you go in November/December versus July and you’ll have less than half the crowds that you would experience in the summer months. Oregon weather in December is basically the same as weather in Western Europe, so I figure why not be in Europe?!
A FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE IS WHERE ITS AT
This alone is a HUGE money saver. If you can be flexible with your travel dates, you could literally save hundreds on airfare by flying out a few days earlier or a week later. Some sites will have the option to search airfare with flexible dates, take advantage of it. If it doesn’t, search various dates and various sites even. I typically search Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia (these are pretty similar in prices but sometimes one will have an option the other doesn’t), and IcelandAir. I got a round trip flight from PDX (Portland) to CDG (Paris), leaving AMS (Amsterdam) back to PDX for $420 because I went in November and flew on the cheapest days. If I would’ve flown a day later it was over $950 (which still isn’t a bad deal but you can’t beat $420). I will sometimes sit at my computer for several hours searching various days (and locations) to find the best price for traveling. If you’ve got the bug, you get it.
LOOK FOR SALES
This is mostly if you live near a major airport or hub. Unfortunately for me, PDX doesn’t get a lot of great deals. You’ll find a lot of good deals flying out of LA, Seattle, Denver, and Atlanta. Even if you aren’t close to a major airport, you can still find awesome sales. IcelandAir recently started doing direct flights from PDX to KEF and was promoting it and Icelandic tourism by offering really good deals. I had ZERO intention of going to Iceland at the time, or traveling at all as I literally had just gotten home from Kauai two days prior, but I saw the sale on a date for the next month. I paid under $350 for a round trip ticket to KEF for a flight that was less than a month away (THAT NEVER HAPPENS).
BOOK YOUR FLIGHT FIRST
Hotel/lodging prices vary by the day but not by a whole lot. Your flight, however, can vary hundreds by the day. Find your super awesome good deal flight first before booking your accommodations. Its much harder to find a good deal on a flight with specific dates than it is to find a hotel or airbnb that is bomb and cheap.
This is NOT always a cheaper option, especially if you snag an international flight for $400. BUT a lot of times you can book a hotel and flight together and nearly get the hotel for free. Look for deals on Orbitz and other travel sites. My first trip to Paris the flight alone was $1500, but to book with a nice boutique hotel I like, it was $1500. What? It doesn’t even make sense, but it happens. This works for booking with a car rental too (but less common). So don’t think finding a cheap flight and some roachy hostel is always the best deal. Personally I’m not a hostel type of girl, because you can always find an inexpensive Airbnb, even a private room, that’s nicer than a hostel and more private. I like my space though- and a private bathroom. A lot of times you’ll get a night for free when booking together or a discounted rate that you wouldn’t get if you book separately.
AIRBNB IS HEAVEN
Don’t like hotels? You don’t have to book together, you can always find a cool place on Airbnb that is usually more personal or authentic. Airbnb can be an amazing thing, because you can save money by booking room but still get a local experience in a nice house. Keep in mind, Airbnb can be awkward too. I’ve never had any horrible experiences, but I’ve definitely had some less than enjoyable experiences. What’s so great though is you can book your flight months out, have that paid, and then a week or two before your trip, book on Airbnb. I like to stay at a couple different ones when I go somewhere because you’ll have a very different experience at each one and it’ll let you explore different areas. This also lets you stay somewhere super fancy for a night or two and then somewhere less… than perfect… for the rest of the time to cut your costs down.
Umm when I first heard of Ebates I thought it was some scam. Paranoid much? Add it to your browser tool bar, and activate the discount when you’re booking your trip! Not all sites offer a discount, but on travel sites there’s usually 5%-10% cash back (Ebates mails you a check every 90 days or so). It’s not huge savings but it’s better than nothing, especially for doing nothing! How it works, is Ebates basically “refers” you to these sites and the sites throw them back some change for leading you in their direction (even if they really didn’t).
TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS
This one is huge. Your trips can be completely free! If you have excellent credit (and are responsible), sign up for a travel card. A good one to use regularly is the Capital One Venture Card. You get bonus miles when you make some odd purchases in the first three months. I believe their promotion is usually 40k-50k bonus miles if you make enough purchases in the first three months, which is quite a bit. Not only that but you get 2 miles per dollar spent which is better than most travel cards. Because travel cards give you a promotional bonus when you sign up and make inital purchases, it’s beneficial to sign up for a new card (if the promotion is good) every so often. I signed up for a Hawaiian Airlines card which was doing a 35k mile bonus if you made $2000 in purchases in the first three months. This bonus mileage was enough for a paid flight from PDX to HNL. Holla! That’s enough for me to sign up. Make sure if you choose this route that you pay off your card each month, because all those suckas paying interested are basically paying for your rewards! You know that $420 round trip flight I mentioned earlier to Paris & Amsterdam? I didn’t even pay for that flight or the two weeks of hotel stay, my Venture Card rewards for about a year and a half completely covered it. Please please only do this though if you can be responsible or it’s definitely not worth it, travel cards usually have a high interest rate too. One other benefit of a travel card is they don’t (usually) have foreign transaction fees! Gotta love usually your card for free while on vacay rather than having to order cash and constantly having to pull out money from ATMs with a high exchange rate. Ugh.
That’s all the info I have for you for now! Just remember you’ll save the most money by being flexible (location and dates). I know not everyone can do both, but if you can do at least one you’ll end up reapin’ some savings. Happy Travels!