Hey guys – have you ever wanted to go on vacation but your bank account had tumbleweeds rolling around in it? Travel doesn't HAVE to be expensive – check out what Katie over at www.MoreMoneyFor.me has to say about millennial vacations! ~M$M
I've been on a trip every summer since I was in preschool, from camping in Yellowstone to backpacking through the Middle East. Once I grew up and started paying for my own adventures, I quickly learned that this travel habit is expensive!
Since I was practically raised in airports, traveling is a top priority for me, and I’ve worked hard to keep it a part of my life as an adult. You don’t have to travel less frequently or sleep in bus stations—you just have to travel smarter.
I’ve rounded up my biggest aha!-moment insights, plus the strategies I use to plan my awesome, fun, and cheap adventures, every time.
Closer isn’t always cheaper. A couple years ago I was planning a trip for my birthday weekend. As I checked prices through the map feature on Google Flights, I saw that there was a ticket to Abu Dhabi for less than one to Atlanta (Yes, I went to Abu Dhabi for the weekend—I’m that kind of crazy). There are a lot of factors that influence the price of a plane ticket, and distance is only one of them.
DIY your plane tickets. Once upon a time I wanted to visit Uzbekistan, but flights from home were ridiculously expensive. Rather than give up, I found a cheap flight into Uzbekistan that took off from Kiev, then found a cheap ticket from my hometown to Kiev. Just because your route isn’t showing up online or looks prohibitively expensive doesn’t mean you can’t get from point A to point B.
Avoid traveling on popular weekends like Memorial Day, Labor Day, or 4th of July. Party at home instead! This applies to travel within the US as well as popular getaway destinations like the Caribbean and Mexico. Flights, hotels, activities, and even food will likely be more expensive. If you’re having trouble taking off work for your trip, try offering to come into the office on one of these designated days off, in exchange for a longer weekend later in the summer.
Visit during shoulder season. Look up popular travel months to your destination of choice, and visit a few weeks before or after this “peak season”. For example, if you head to Rome in July you’ll experience sky-high hotel prices, but if you wait until September you’ll be rewarded with discounted hotels, airfare—and shorter lines. Central America and Southeast Asia offer great summer deals if you don’t mind rainy afternoons. Changing your dates can drastically reduce the price tag of your trip—the savings can be as high as 50%.
If you can’t take time off, go remote for a week. I’ve done this alone and with my brothers, and it (unsurprisingly) beats working at an office desk, every time. Get a few friends together and plan a weeklong co-working trip—this way, nobody has to use vacation days, and you get to spend more time absorbing your destination of choice. Plus, many airbnbs and hotels offer discounted rates if you stay the whole week. You may even be able to deduct your plane tickets, accommodations, and other costs as business expenses.
Do a housing swap with a friend in a different city. Ask friends and extended family if they would be interested in swapping apartments during a designated weekend. This way, each of you can skip the expensive hotel room, and you get a trusted local guide (A twist on this one: ask friends and family if you can stay at their summer cottage or beach house.)
Travel with a buddy. This halves the cost of hotels, car rentals, and gas. Plus… it’s fun!
Head outdoors for a cheap/free vacation. If you’re super low on cash and you want an adventure, visit one of the 400+ National Parks in the United States. They often have cheap or free admission and camping. You can hike, rock climb, swim, sunbathe, canoe, kayak, and geo-cache; build campfires, have a hot dog and hamburger cookout, and roast s'mores. If you plan to visit a lot of parks with entrance fees this season, buy an annual pass for unlimited access to every park for only $80.
Save early so you don’t miss out on sales. Start saving for your trip early—really early—before-you-even-know-where-you’re-going-early. You don’t want to miss out on flash sales, so be prepared. I have a separate bucket for travel in my bank account, and I contribute to it all year long. This way, I never go over budget because I see exactly how much money I have, and I always have cash on hand to take advantage of awesome deals.
Use social media to find cheap flights. Since airfare is often the most expensive part of travel, I follow Facebook pages like Secret Flying and The Points Guy to get a heads up on error fares and flight deals as they become available. To take advantage of these deals you usually have to book right away, so be prepared with a few date ranges that work for you.
Open a travel rewards credit card. If you know you can use credit cards responsibly, these are a fantastic way to travel for free. Just by opening and using a credit card I’ve racked up enough points to fly anywhere in the world, round trip. Look for a card with a big signup bonus, that ideally offers double points for something you pay for frequently, like gas or groceries. Some cards come with online travel portals that offer discounts on airfare and/or extra points if you shop through them.