As someone who travels almost every month, I often get asked a variation of ‘how do you travel so much?’ to which I try to give my best summarized answer. You don’t have to be rich to travel, you don’t even have to give up that daily $5 latte in order to save up. Whether you want to make traveling part of your monthly routine or you want to finally take that yearly family trip, my tried and true tips will help guide you.
My top five money saving travel tips have to do with the following: prioritizing, flexibility, planning, hunting, budgeting and the bonus tip on using your skills to get reduced rates. So let’s start from the top.
Since seeing the world is my priority I’ve constructed my life to be as travel friendly as possible, meaning no pets, no house and a flexible job (see flexibility later on), BUT that doesn’t mean you have to have such rigid priorities yourself. Here is a little guide to finding that travel priority, because the first step to getting what you want is clearly identifying a goal or priority:
- Identify what your travel goal is, maybe a trip to Tulum, Mexico for example.
- Understand if your priority is to see and enjoy that area or to stay at the fanciest hotel in Tulum. If its the former you are already saving money.
- Create a list of your current priorities and realistically place travel in a hierarchical list.
Having flexible travel dates will save you the big bucks on your next trip. Of course tickets to Mexico are $900 on spring break, everyone wants to go at that time, so figure out if you can take more off season trips. Ask you employer when would be good non-traditional times to take off, or if you work for your self, figure out when your slowest times are, and see if you can get deals on those dates.
Use Google Flights to understand when you can get the cheapest ticket, it allows you to browse dates, and even look at a map with prices on it, if you want to be flexible with your destination.
Being flexible with your destination is also a good way to save, my boyfriend and I wanted a beach and surf vacation but quickly realized how pricey it would be in a place like Puerto Rico or Hawaii so we opted for somewhere off the beaten path- Nicaragua. It had all the amenities we wanted, the natural landscape we craved and was a fraction of the cost. So don’t be afraid to branch out to other destinations when the prices add up!
When planning your trip you must account for everything- food, transport, hotel taxes, exchange rates etc. As I come up with my trip itineraries I like to understand what it will cost so I can budget correctly. Here are questions to ask yourself:
- What flight will I take?
- Will I need a rental car or a shuttle to take me to my destination or am I comfortable using public transit (especially and important question if you are in a third world country)?
- Will I be able to eat affordably in the area if I’m in a hotel, or should I stay at an AirBNB with a kitchen?
- What activities do I want to do on my trip, what are their cost and do I need reservations?
- Will I need a passport?
- What is the exchange rate and what does my bank charge for foreign transaction fees (if applicable), is it safe to use ATMs in the area or do I need to bring cash?
- Do I need any special gear for this trip i.e hiking shoes etc?
The only kind of hunting I do is for a bargain, and you should hunt for them too. Sure you can look at Groupon and Jettsetter, but often those deals are no better than if you bought that same deal on Expedia or directly, so do your research. Check out these money savers:
- Hotel Tonight app, where hotels put their extra rooms up at extremely discounted rates. You can only book a week in advance but if you are being flexible- it is worth it.
- Check out AirBNB for good deals.
- See if your credit card does discounted rates- I have an Amex Delta Platinum and many rooms are 20% off.
- Join a loyalty program for a specific hotel chain.
Now that you have pretty good plan in place its time to get yo money right. I said you don’t have to give up that $5 latte right? Well, you don’t but you might want to after setting you priorities list up. If travel trumps everyday luxuries then its time to make that latte yourself. If you are having trouble figuring out where to cut spending try out www.Mint.com where you can track your spending and see what categories you can cut down on, as well as create new budget categories. I love the visual layout of mint, with its easy to understand pie charts and graphs.
If you have any relevant skills like photography, videography, writing, youtube-ing, and you are good at it, with some type of following, use that to your advantage and reach out to hotels or activity companies to see if you can get a discounted rate in exchange for a review, a video or some photos. You never know until you ask. But don’t go in to asking for things without being organized, you will want to create a proposal and a media kit first. My Blogging Journey has some great tips for bloggers here: http://www.mybloggingjourney.com/2012/08/19/how-to-get-sponsored-stays-through-your-travel-blog/