1. Location, location, location
When choosing a destination for your trip, make sure you’ve done your homework. Some places are a better deal than others during certain times of the year. For examples, Caribbean resorts are a great deal around hurricane season… just make sure you purchase travel insurance (we’re partial to TripTime, but we’re not biased or anything) so that you’re protected in case of an emergency.
2. Beat the airline agencies at their own game
Look at booking two one-way tickets instead of a round-trip ticket. Be careful, though: doing this can be cheaper in some cases, but not always. It’s best to do your research carefully and compare prices to get the best deals. Price alerts can also be a lifesaver if you’re ballin’ on a budget- they notify you when the price of your flight drops, so you can buy your ticket at the best price possible. This is a way better alternative to checking prices on different websites every day.
3. Avoid hidden fees
You did it. You just scored big-time on a cheap flight. You’re ridin’ high. Nothing can bring you down. Then… BAM! Here come the hidden fees. Checked luggage and carry-on fees can cost you upwards of $60 per checked bag. There’s good news, though: some airlines don’t charge you for the first checked bag, like Southwest and JetBlue. When it comes to hotels, watch out for places that charge you a fee for parking, Wi-Fi, or breakfast.
4. Plan ahead
Sure, procrastination has its charms- you get lots of sleep, and generally live a much more spontaneous existence. But at some point, even the most dyed-in-the-wool procrastinator has to face up to the hard, cold fact: planning ahead can be a pretty good thing. Especially when it comes to travel. The price of your flight can change significantly depending on how early (or late) you book in advance. For travel within North America, it’s best to book your flight two to four weeks in advance. If you’re looking to take an international trip, three to four months in advance will most likely get you the best deals.
5. Be flexible
Being flexible with your trip dates, flight times, and departure/arrival airport can be a money-saver when traveling. Flying out of (or into) a less popular airport, booking that 5am flight that no one else wants, or traveling in the middle of the week can all add up to huge savings. However, be wary: sometimes what you think is saving you a buck or two might actually end up costing you more in the end. That flight out of a less-convenient airport at 5am might cost less, but transportation to the airport or a hotel for the night before could end up costing you more than if you had just booked the more expensive, more convenient flight. The lesson here? It pays to be flexible; just don’t sprain anything.
6. Choose your lodging wisely
Sure, you got the cheapest flight and saved a ton of money… but you’re staying at a luxury resort! Kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? Luckily, there are so many alternatives to hotels now, like Airbnb or home exchange networks, that are much cheaper, more environmentally sustainable, and often a great introduction to the local culture.
7. Make good food choices
So, we can all agree that vacation calories don’t count, right? Trying new and exotic foods can be one of the highlights of an international trip. The downside: eating out on vacation can get REALLY expensive, REALLY fast. But that doesn’t mean you have to book yourself on The Ramen Tour of Southern France- you’ve got options. For example, book a hotel that offers free breakfast, or stay in a place with its own kitchen so you can cook some of your own meals. If your place doesn’t have a kitchen, you can always get snacks or breakfast food from a supermarket to tide you over until your next meal. Lastly, lunch options are usually cheaper than dinner options at restaurants, so eating out for lunch and staying in for dinner can help you stay on-budget.
8. Don't do it all in one trip
Ever come back from a vacation and feel more frazzled than when you left? We know, we know, you want to get the most out of your trips. We get that. Just don’t fall into the trap of trying to squeeze too much into one expedition. While it might seem like you’re getting the most bang for your buck, you might actually be spending more money on extra transportation to get to all those things you want to see and do. This will make your trip feel rushed, and you’ll waste a lot of precious vacation time in transit from one place to another. C’mon, now. You’re better than that.
To sum it up: traveling on a budget is really all about planning ahead and doing your research. Do those two things, and you’ll be on-track for the vacation of your dreams… and you won’t have to sell any organs to make it happen. Happy travels!