13 Secrets to Travel and NOT Break the Bank
Updated: May 6, 2020
Who likes to save money? *Every hand goes up*
Who is trying to travel more in 2019? *Hands stay up*
Seem contradictory, right? “I don’t have enough money” is definitely one of the top three reasons people cite for being unable to travel! I often hear "you must be rolling with money." The last time I checked 1) I do not have a money-growing tree in my backyard, 2) Wait...I do not even have a backyard because I live in a small apartment in NYC, and 3) I am hustling daily to make income.
Regardless of the money in your bank account, why would you want to spend more when you can spend less? Here is how I #maximizemoney in order to support my clear travel addiction:
1) My traveling life motto: "Follow the flight deal, not the destination."
Flexibility is CRUCIAL to saving. If you are a person who plans to travel just a couple of times a year, there is no reason to adapt your destination based on prices. Every destination has a high peak season. High Peak = Higher Prices on Flights and Hotels.
It can be the difference of a few hundred dollars. You may have been dreaming about being in London for your birthday in July for weeks. However, did you search what that means for your pocket? For example, when I looked up London for a Thursday-Monday trip on Google Flights for March versus July, the difference was literally $300! Make sure you hop on deals when you see them as they can quickly disappear.
2) Clutch Websites for Research
This is the perfect segway to the second tip. When searching up the prices of locations, Google Flights and Skyscanner are my two first go-to websites (co-signed by @cnm4real).
As a High School Assistant Principal, I do not have the luxury of being flexible with my travel dates. Because of this, I pay close attention to flight costs during my time off rather than pay attention to flight deals and then request paid time off for those days. With the responsibility of kids to educate and teachers to develop, I cannot just take off sporadically!
...allows you to input your dates, home airport and not specify a destination by typing "everywhere" in the destination box. It will then list places to travel to (grouped by country). You can then filter by outbound or inbound time, airlines, departure airports, etc.
If you have #flexibility with dates, I also recommend checking out this feature on the website: search a specific destination or "everywhere", but filter by the cheapest month. That will allow you to maximize your money!
Google Flights, although a different interface, also allows you to tap into Skyscanners’ similar features. In fact, you have more specific ways to search.
I like to utilize the website by searching according to region. Unlike Skyscanner, if I know I want to travel to the Caribbean on specific dates, I can just type that as a destination and a map as well as a list of places will pop-up! You can make adjustments for costs, departure/return times and types of flights.
The other thing I utilize is the monthly view feature so that I can see the prices for every single day in a given month. You can scroll several months ahead of time and see if there is a cheap week.
C) Other websites:
Recommended by @travel_foodie_beauty
Recommended by @themalcolmking
Recommended by @fathappyphotog
3) Book hotels through 3rd party websites
Looking to find 4 star hotels to stay in within the United States and not pay 4 star prices? Check out Hotwire.com. (Disclaimer: This is not an ad or sponsorship, I just love this website!) When I stayed in Washington, DC with my mom a couple of years ago, I ended up paying $200 a night for a hotel. However, after returning with my mom to DC and using Hotwire, I was able to find a 4-star hotel near the White House, for $67 a night. That is a HUGE difference! The cost of several nights with Hotwire is literally the equivalent of what I paid for one night. Let my personal experience serve as your motivation to check out Hotwire!
4) Book trip packages.
For those who know me, I have no problem planning a full-blown itinerary for a trip. However, sometimes you just want to SHOW UP and nothing else. All-inclusive packages also can be cheaper (co-signed by @sj_torres).
For all inclusive Caribbean vacations, I have used Cheap Caribbean twice, thanks to my friend @themalcolmking. It has held me down for my trips to the Dominican Republic and Bahamas. It gives you different options of hotels, so whether you want to splurge or save some coins, you can evaluate your options!
My absolute go-to travel tour company is Gate 1 Travel, hands down. Once you go with Gate 1, there is no turning back! When you go on a tour, you will meet people who have used them 20 times. I am not on that level...yet! However, I have used them to travel to Ecuador, Morocco, Portugal and Central Europe (and soon, Egypt).
Central Europe was the biggest steal that I got from Gate 1 through an email notification! For under $800, I got flight, centrally located hotel accommodations with free breakfast, and transportation between the two countries for an 8 day trip to Prague and Budapest! Normally, the flight alone would be that price. I'll take it! Make sure to sign up for their weekly newsletter to be notified about the best deals!
5) Credit Card Rewards
Less than a year ago I acquired a Chase Sapphire Reserve. Consulting multiple people and considering how much I travel, it was the best choice. Although it has a $450 annual fee, the card pays itself. Do NOT let the annual fee scare you!
Why? What are the benefits?
You earn a $300 credit a year.
If you do not have it already, it will pay for your Global Entry. Once you pay for it using your card, it will immediately credit you the $100!
You earn 50,000 bonus points to start
Airport Lounge Access (definitely comes in handy… and your travel companion can join you as well! I have done that a few times already!)
You earn three points per dollar on travel (includes Lyft and Uber) and dining at restaurants, then one point per dollar on all other purchases.
I knew this was the best choice when I realized that I had points from my other Chase Freedom card and was able to transfer it over. #Redeemingpoints for travel were worth more using Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Chase Freedom.
There are other credit cards you can use as well. However, the point is that you can use your points to pay for travel. Hence, the card is always paying itself! (co-signed by @sj_torres)
6) Commit to Buying Early
I am a person who likes to have my trips planned early. It always gives me a trip to look forward to as my mind goes into deep wanderlust mode.
There are cost benefits as well. For example, I have been monitoring the cost of plane tickets from NYC to Martinique and Guadeloupe to NYC. I purchased them in April 2018 for February 2019 and it was $400 (which is a steal considering it is during President's Day weekend). Well, when I looked up the price January, 2019, the price for Guadeloupe to NYC alone was over $700! ...Considering that my friend @miguelatronreads is going on this trip as well, this is EXACTLY why he made this recommendation.
7) The Day does Matter
...that is for the day you purchase your ticket and the days you plan to travel.
The best day to buy a U.S. plane ticket is on Tuesdays. 3 PM is apparently the BEST time as many airlines release weekly airfare sales early on Tuesdays. However, by mid-afternoon, competing airlines have matched these sale prices and shoppers will have the best deals to choose from. As a science person, I have tested the "Tuesday hypothesis" by tracking flights daily when looking to book my own flights and more often than not, I have had the best luck purchasing on a Tuesday!
Think about the day in which you most frequently travel. You are probably leaving at the end of the week on a Friday and returning on a Saturday for a long trip, or leaving Friday and coming back Monday for a long weekend trip. Well, millions of other people travel on these same days, as well!
If you have flexibility on travel days, the middle of the week (Tuesdays or Wednesdays) is the cheapest for both departing and returning. It is best to pull it up on Google Flights to see which days are cheapest to travel for your destination.
8) Free Ways to Redeem Points
I recommend creating accounts with every major airline you fly. When you travel, you automatically earn miles and those miles can then translate into points for further trips.
Thank me later because it is FREE.99. Make your travels work for you! For example, if you sign up for American Airlines, you also earn points for its One World partners, which include British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and others listed on their website.
9) Social Media is your friend
I follow several travel groups on IG and Facebook, such as Black Travel Movement and Sisters Traveling Solo. On social media (particularly on Facebook), people will post travel deals they see almost instantly.
In addition, many of the websites that post or email travel deals also have IG and Facebook accounts where they post these deals as well.
10) Find a free walking tour.
You've landed in a new city and you want to explore it, right? You do not have to pay an arm or leg for a tour! In fact, many major cities have #FREEwalkingtours, which is the new wave to "pay as you like." Considering it is FREE.99 (although, do not be that cheap person and not tip!), you really get a quality tour. Several companies offer it with the two most popular being Free Tours by Foot (for domestic big cities) and Sandeman's (for international big cities), which have an array of tours that include street art, food, and historical. They are offered in many major cities across the country and throughout the world. You will definitely find something of interest!
For example, I took advantage of the shortest layover in Paris by going on a free walking tour...in Spanish! It was the only one that fit for the time we needed. Although my Spanish is basic right now, I understood enough of it to get an overview of the history. More importantly, I was able to hit up the biggest sites in a short period of time (and get some fly pics in the process!)
11) Maximize your work trip.
Going on conferences is a great way to travel on your job's dime! If you are a valued employee, they will want to invest money in your development, which can mean going to an all-expense paid conference. YES...you read that correctly! Flight, hotel AND reimbursement for food and cabs. I wouldn't add other expenses such as visiting tourist sites, but this is a GREAT time to try out new restaurants. I also always try to find things that I can do on the evenings and weekends that I am away at the conference. During my 8 years as an educator, I have traveled to quite a number of states as a result of conferences including: Chicago, Denver, Colorado Springs, Boston, San Antonio, and Nashville. In fact, I took my first plane ride EVER when I was heading to a conference! Work trips = #workation
12) Save at the Museum: use your Student ID & look for free nights
Just because you are no longer in college does not mean you cannot milk your once student status. Hang on to your college ID (especially if it does not list an expiration date in the front of it) or get an alumni ID. Numerous museums offer #studentdiscounts as long you present Student ID. In fact, some museums give teacher discounts and almost all give military discounts. Be sure to look for free nights as sometimes museums offer free admission on a certain evening of the week or a certain day each month.
13) Reorganize priorities!
I think I saved the biggest one for last. As with anything, if it is truly important, you will find a way! As I stated earlier, I do not have a money tree, but I cut expenses in other ways. I do not buy brand name clothes or bags. I take public transportation and try to maximize my unlimited metro card! Now I am not perfect in cutting out all unnecessary expenses, but just know that traveling is my #1 priority (after my monthly bills).