2019 is upon us and I see a lot of social media posts about traveling more in 2019. I also see a lot of posts about paying off debt and saving more money. You may think traveling more and saving money are mutually exclusive but, in reality, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are ways to cut travel costs!
If you haven’t traveled much before or if you are new to travel altogether, there are some cost cutting strategies that have helped me and my clients achieve the goal of more travel. With the money you save, you can either travel more or you can travel better. The choice is yours.
Use a Travel Agent
Yes, I said use a travel agent. The great thing about using a travel agent or consultant is that they have access to suppliers that don’t work with the general public. They can help find you great deals, especially packages, that have perks that add more value to your travel dollars. They can also identify the best times to travel to spare you unnecessary spending as well as nerve wracking crowds.
If you have special needs, they can help make sure you have suitable accommodations or even special needs equipment ensuring you have the best travel experience possible. There’s nothing worse than traveling to some fabulous destination and then finding out there are some things that will keep you from truly enjoying your vacation.
When I say be flexible I don’t mean that you should compromise your standards or settle for something that will not make you happy. What I mean is traveling on a different day, taking a red-eye flight, or staying a few miles from your intended destination could save you a ton of money.
Stay a few miles from your destination and use public transportation to get to your target to save on hotel expenses. We utilize this strategy quite a bit and, not only do we save a lot of money (sometimes a few hundred dollars!), but we also get to know unknown neighborhoods and towns that we ended up loving.
Travel Off Season
Traveling during peak season when everyone else is traveling is one sure way to spend more than you really need to. Prices are driven up due to supply and demand: everyone else is competing for the same flights and hotels as you. Sometimes moving your travel plans just a couple of weeks is enough to save big time.
For the Caribbean, consider the early part of the year since summer is full of family travelers when the kiddos are out of school. For Iceland, consider traveling outside of the Northern Lights Season. For NYC, don’t go during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Consider when it is busiest for your intended destination and then go at another time of the year. You will potentially save yourself a ton of money.
Unless you have an infinite amount of time at your intended destination, I recommend prioritizing tours and attractions. Make the most of your travel dollars by seeing the things that drew you to the destination to begin with. You may have ten attractions and tours on your list but realistically only have time for six of them. See the things that matter most to you and you will ensure you the best time possible and you won’t walk away feeling disappointed because you missed something you really wanted to see.
Check Out Unknown Destinations
This one ties into being flexible. When we went to Greece, our intended destination was Athens however we did not stay in Athens. Instead, we stayed in Alimos which is less than 10 miles from Athens and were able to secure a fabulous 3 bedroom/2 bath condo across from the beach for $200 per night. It was walking distance to the beach, stores, and several restaurants and all it took was a quick Uber to get to the ancient monuments we wanted to see.
Yes, we spent an extra $30 – $50 for Uber on the days we wanted to go Athens but we easily saved $100+ per night in accommodations. We prioritized and grouped attractions and tours so that we could do multiple in one day and limit the number of Uber rides we needed. In addition, we were able to spend some time on some beautiful beaches that were otherwise not on our radar.
This one goes back to a previous article I wrote about how to decide between hotels and vacation rentals (i.e. Airbnb) for your next trip. My first consideration is the price of a hotel vs the price of a vacation rental. If you are traveling with your family or with a group, the price of a vacation rental with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms may very well be less expensive that getting multiple hotel rooms.
Upside to a vacation rental? Shared living space means you get more quality time together. Downside? You miss out on daily housekeeping, benefit of the hotel concierge, and the 1-to-1 ratio of bedrooms to bathrooms. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing a bathroom with members of your group, this is likely not the best option for you. If you are new to Airbnb, you can use my code to get $40 off your first booking.
Use Public Transportation
This is a no brainer but still worth mentioning. Using available buses and trains is absolutely less expensive that using cabs or Uber. A multi day Hop-On-Hop-Off bus is also an alternative plus you oftentimes get a narrated tour of the city. It will take some research on your part to determine the stops and stations you need but the cost savings can be significant, especially if you are traveling alone or as a couple when you have less opportunity to defray the costs.
Watch for Deals
Two words: flash sale. If you are not airline loyal, flash sales will save you a bunch of money. If you aren’t familiar with flash sales, they are sales that come up quickly and with a short lifespan. There are limited number of seats for the flash sale so you have to act fast.A couple of years ago we went to Ireland, Italy, and Greece and we took advantage of round trip airfare to Dublin for $450 per person. Yes they were economy seats but we then upgraded to premium economy so that we had a few more creature comforts for the long flight. It was absolutely worth the quick action on our parts. The downside is that flash sales don’t pop up for all destinations or for all departure cities. You have to keep an eye out and be ready to pull the trigger when it does happen.
In addition, watch for hotel promotions that could include daily breakfast, free upgrades, or free nights with a minimum nights stay. If you are a member of rewards program for a certain hotel chain, you may be eligible for members only rates and specials as well.
Frequent Flier Programs
If you are airline loyal, this will work well for you. If you go where the deals are, it will take you longer to get to having enough miles for a free flight but it can still work. You have to pay attention to the fine print because using miles may not apply to all routes, seat categories, or there may be black out periods. In addition, your miles may expire after a certain amount of time or you may have to fly every 12 months to keep them from expiring. Read the fine print so you know how to best take advantage of the program!
Travel Credit Cards
Travel credit cards are the ones that give you travel perks including earning miles, have an annual travel credit, or credit for TSA pre-check or Global Entry. They may include car rental or travel insurance when you use your card for car rentals or airfare purchases, access to airport lounges, and they may even offer roadside assistance. Make sure you are familiar with the benefits of your card so you can avoid purchasing items and services unnecessarily.
I have a Delta American Express card that I use for EVERYTHING. I use it at the grocery store and to pay bills, and then I pay it off each month. I earn miles for all transactions which I plan to use on a future trip. Again……read the fine print so you know how to best earn and use your miles.
I cringe when I think back to the trips I took many years ago in which I had no travel insurance. I was seriously taking a huge chance on things working out as well as the did. If you travel often, an annual policy may work well for you.
Travel insurance is not just for accidents or medical emergencies. Depending on the policy and coverage you select, it may also cover trip delays, lost luggage, or cancelled flights and tours. It may also cover trip cancellation due to weather events or terrorist threats and attacks. Again…….it all depends on the policy and coverage you select.
There have many times in which we had flights delayed for various reasons, luggage was put on the wrong flight, and once my kiddo’s was wheelchair lost. The point is you never know when something may happen and having insurance will help you replace those items, pay for hotel rooms if you get stranded somewhere, or even help if you lose your passport on your trip.
Cook Your Own Meals and Pack Snacks
We prefer to stay in vacation rentals because we love having a full kitchen. Yes, we go out to eat during our trips however we save money by cooking dinner at least a couple of times during a 7 night period and we fix our own breakfast on most days. It is such a simple thing to do too. It can be as simple as grabbing some frozen waffles or fruit and yogurt at a nearby grocery store or making a full breakfast that keeps us full til dinner.
While at the grocery store we grab snacks that we can throw into our backpack and eat on the run. We can spend $10 – $20 on a few snacks that keep us on move until we are ready to have a nice dinner. It is a little harder to implement this strategy if you don’t have access to a kitchen but grab some snacks for breakfast and you are good to go.
Free Tours and Museums
It has been my experience that most big cities have free walking tours and/or museums with free admission. A lack of an admission price does not mean there is a lack of quality. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you find in the freebies.
We went to Cuba in 2017 and stumbled across an amazing art museum that I never saw in travel guides. It had free admission but did have a couple of boxes posted in different areas to accept donations. It ended up being on of my favorite places! Keep your eyes open for this hidden gems!