One of the main concerns many people have with travel is the financial component. Many assume travel is expensive and something one has to save up for months (or even a year) to pull off. Depending on how luxurious your trip is, you may have to do more saving than others. However, a great deal of travel can be affordable. It’s all about being creative, diligent, and strategic. I’ve been traveling internationally consistently for 7 years and the majority of my trips have been on a budget. Here are some of my TOP travel hacks that have allowed me to travel so frequently.
Rewards Credit Cards
No matter what you do in life, one thing is certain: you’re going to spend money. This is a given. Why not LITERALLY get paid to spend money? I only use my debit card to take cash out of the ATM. I NEVER pay for anything with my debit card and I only use cash when I absolutely have to. I pay for everything I possibly can with a credit card that offers travel rewards. There are countless cards on the market but my favorite card by far is the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. I’ve had this card for only two years and I’ve already treated myself to:
- Five nights free in the 5-star Shangri-la Dubai Hotel
- A free flight on Emirates from Hong Kong to Dubai
- Four nights free in a hotel in Cabo San Lucas
- Two nights free in an oceanfront hotel in Mykonos, Greece during high season
- A free flight on China Southern from Guangzhou, China to Cairns, Australia
- A rental car in O’ahu, Hawaii for five days
- & more…
I have also taken advantage of bonus offers for airline credit cards. I don’t recommend spending money you don’t NEED to spend in order to hit a minimum to receive bonus points. However, when I know I have a bunch of purchases to make in the coming months, I will proactively check to see which credit cards are offering major bonuses and sign up at that time. For instance: if you normally do a bunch of holiday shopping in November, it may be a good idea to get a rewards card during that time. If you’re going to spend the money anyway, why not get a return on those dollars?
Many people don’t trust themselves with credit cards so they prefer to stick to their debit cards and cash. Ultimately, you have to make the best financial decisions for YOU. However, if you can be disciplined about paying your cards off and you remember to spend responsibly, they are totally worth it!
Divide and Conquer – Register for EVERYTHING
I’m a huge supporter of registering for frequent flyer accounts with any and every airline I fly. IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU THINK YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO FLY THE AIRLINE EVER AGAIN!!! It costs you absolutely NOTHING to register an account and accumulate miles and points. If you end up flying them again, you’re that many more miles closer to a free or reduced-price flight! You have nothing to lose by signing up for frequent flyer accounts. While I have my airline preferences, I fly a little bit with everyone so I have points and some level of status with all three of the major alliances (SkyTeam, One World, and Star Alliance). I’ve booked free flights (only paid taxes) to Italy, Brazil, Hawaii, South Africa, Argentina, and more using airline miles saving me THOUSANDS of dollars!
The same applies to hotel rewards programs. My Marriott Bonvoy points have granted me with many free hotel nights, including an INSANE five-star secluded resort in Fiji.
Take advantage of long layovers/stopovers
Have you ever searched for a flight to a destination and noticed there is a 30-hour layover? That may seem ridiculous at first, however, these flights tend to be less expensive than a nonstop flight or a “reasonable” shorter layover. In addition, you are able to spend a full day in a different city on the way to your final destination. Some layovers are not as long, but I’ve enjoyed a few hours in the city center of a new country which was great for grabbing a nice lunch and some brief sightseeing before heading back to the airport.
For more information on how I take advantage of long layovers and stopovers by creating two trips in one, click HERE.
Book your flights based on the cheapest options available at that time
We all have our top travel priorities and major bucket list items. I’m all for prioritizing those trips and experiences, however, I try to keep my options open and remain flexible. For instance: when I went to Iceland, I chose flying there as a first stop into Europe solely because it was the cheapest one-way flight to get into Europe at that time. I knew I wanted to travel on those exact dates, so I chose the cheapest place as a starting point for my trip. From there I continued to see which other European cities I could travel to for as inexpensive as possible. This is not only super effective, but I also love the process of seeing how I can get to points A, B, C, & D for as cheap as possible. Sometimes I will have a route in my head, but it may make sense to travel in the order of B, D, C, A instead of my original plan. You just have to continue playing around with the destinations and the order until you find something that works for you and remains cost-effective.
If you have flexibility with your schedule, don’t feel the pressure to book that dream trip if flights are super inflated due to high seasons or other reasons. Be patient and snag a flight when there’s a sale or book your trip in the off-season. If you’re determined to go on a trip at a specific time, consider doing something that still interests you but is cheap at the time of booking. These cities aren’t going anywhere. If saving money on travel is your priority, rearrange your trips and book based on the best deals at that moment!
Book using an anonymous browser
I love to search for flights, and my web browser knows it! I’ve saved over $40 on the exact same flight before by switching to an anonymous browser. If you search for flights via “incognito mode” your search history won’t be tracked and in many cases, this will save you money. To open an incognito or anonymous browser, simply type “CTRL SHIFT N” and search away!
Set up flight alerts / follow flight deal pages
Stay in AirBnbs when traveling with a group
As popular as Airbnb is now, I still know a few people who have never used it. Airbnb is such a game-changer for me, especially when I’m traveling to expensive cities. If you’re traveling in a group of four, in most cases, you’re going to come out better financially splitting an Airbnb instead of getting two hotel rooms to split. You can also book a place that has a lot more space which is necessary when staying in a place for more than a few days.
Piggy-back off of work trips
This is for anyone who already travels for work: add mini-trips to your work trips! If you have to visit another country for work, why not stay a few extra days? You’re already there! Check with your manager/your company policy first, but at many companies, this is not a problem. Any extra days you visit, cover your hotel/Airbnb and food with your OWN money, of course. However, your roundtrip flight is covered which is usually the largest driver of the total cost. Piggy-backing personal trips off of business trips can save you not only a large percentage on the cost of the trip but also time.
What are some of your go-to travel hacks? Let me know in the comments if you implement any of my tips!
May your travels be frequent, fun, and cheap!