I’ve lost count of the number of times people have told me that they wish they could travel, but can’t afford to. A lot of people automatically think of traveling as a luxury that only people with a lot of extra money can have, but that’s not the case at all. Take it from me. I’m young and far from wealthy. However, I’m always planning at least a few trips a year. I’m actually planning my 22nd birthday trip right now, which inspired me to write this post. Through experience, I’ve learned how to do this as inexpensively and smartly as possible. That’s why I’ve compiled some tips and tricks to save you tons of money and be headed out on your next trip!
Get an airline credit card
If you have a favorite airline, I strongly recommend applying for a credit card with them. I actually very recently signed up for a JetBlue credit card because they’ve been my usual airline choice for years and I’ve already racked up quite a few TrueBlue points with them in the past. Enough points can get you free flights and since flights are often the most expensive part of planning a trip, they really do come in handy. The awesome thing about the JetBlue credit card (or any other airline credit card) is that you earn points for every purchase you make. You can pay for anything that accepts MasterCard with this card, so you’re not limited to just using it for travel expenses. If you use your credit card to purchase your next flight and even just daily expenses from gas to groceries, these points will add up in no time. I’m not sure how other airlines’ cards work, but with JetBlue your points never expire and there’s no limit to how many you can earn. I can’t stress enough how much easier getting one of these credit cards will make traveling in the long run.
use travel search engines
A travel search engine is a type of search engine that helps you find flights at the lowest prices possible. You simply enter where you’re departing from, your destination, the dates you want to travel, and you’re given the cheapest price results available. Ever since I’ve discovered the power of using a travel search engine to book flights, I’ve always done it this way. The key when using one of these is to try and be as flexible as possible. This is how you’ll find the overall best deals. For example, if you have just a certain month in mind, but no particular destination, you can choose to just view the cheapest overall destinations in that month. Even a place that you’ve never considered going before can have all kinds of hidden treasures, so it’s worth a shot. Better yet, some search engines allow you to choose to view the cheapest month of the year as well as the cheapest destination, which can lead to some amazing deals. My personal favorite travel search engine is Skyscanner. Google Flights and Kayak are a couple of other good ones. The more open minded you are when it comes to dates, times, destinations, and airlines, the more you’ll get out of this tip.
search in a private tab
This is something so simple, yet so important when planning your next trip All of your searches that involve booking something, whether for flights or places to stay, should be done in an incognito or private tab in your browser. This is because websites often keep track of your data and if you’re constantly checking back for prices, they tend to raise them up. By searching incognito, websites cannot keep your data, therefore the price you see while you’re incognito is the actual price it will cost you to book.
be flexible with ACCOMMODATION
The way I see it, the place you’ll want to be the least while traveling is cooped up in the place you’re going to be staying in, so why spend a lot on it? Skip the luxury hotel. Motels are much cheaper and while they won’t be anything to brag about, they’ll have a bed, bathroom, and sometimes WiFi and breakfast, which is plenty. Sometimes staying in an AirBnb is even cheaper and you have the option of having an entire house or apartment to yourself. Hostels are another very cheap option, as long as you don’t mind rooming with other travelers. You may even be able to stay somewhere for free through websites like Couchsurfing. This website connects you to people who will allow you to stay in their home for little or no cost. Of course not everyone is comfortable with this option, but the website does allow users to provide verification of who they are and they can be reviewed by people who have stayed with them in the past. If you’re creative and have some kind of service to offer, like advertisement, some hotels and hostels will allow you to stay with them for free in exchange for your service. This is all a matter of personally reaching out to places and discussing this with them.
book ahead of time
Usually the case is that the longer you take to book your flight or hotel, the more expensive it will end up being. As soon as you’ve decided where you want to go and when, you should book everything necessary for your trip. If you don’t have the money right at the moment, but know that you will in the future, this is where your airline credit card from my first tip can come in. One common mistake when it comes to travel planning is hesitation. I’ve been guilty of thinking about a future trip, looking at the prices and taking too much time to consider going, only to end up booking a flight or place to stay later on and paying way more for it. The further ahead you book, the cheaper the prices will be in most cases. This isn’t to say that waiting last minute will always be ridiculously expensive, but it’s smarter to not take that risk.
always look out for deals
Last but not least, always keep your eyes peeled for travel deals. Some social media accounts are dedicated to posting insanely cheap deals that are only available for a limited amount of time. My favorite is the Facebook page Travel Pirates, which not only posts deals and messages them to you, but also occasionally holds travel giveaways. Groupon is also another great way to find travel deals. Sometimes they have entire packages that include flights, a place to stay and activities to places all over the world at affordable prices. The catch with most online deals is that they only leave from certain major cities like Los Angeles or New York, but sometimes its cheaper to travel from your hometown to one of these cities to get the deal than to leave directly from where you live.
If you follow these tricks, you’ll never have to break the bank while traveling. The more money you save when planning a trip, the more trips you can plan in the future!