Traveling on a budget while enjoying myself is very important to me. Like most millennial, I too have a travel bug. I love traveling, trekking, exploring new cities and countries, their culture, cuisines, everything. The wanderlust is real and I crave the thrill of traveling and exploring more than anything else. But, on a freelancer’s income, the travel bug can be very heavy on the pocket. Hence, finding a solution to fly for almost free or get great deals was quite essential.
I found over dozens of travel hackers that make it their business to hunt tricks and ambiguities that help them comfortably travel in a smaller budget too. I found that people who travel very often, are able to do that because they travel smart. Unlike people who splurge aimlessly while traveling and practically draining their accounts by the time they get back.
Through my research, I came across several travelers who have managed to unlock a lot of perks like getting free flights, getting bumped to first-class sometimes for almost the fraction of the cost, and more. After reading some experiences, I decided to get in touch with these experts so I can get an idea of how they travel so much on low budgets. I convinced a couple of these experts to share their insights and tips.
Travel hackers make it their business to hunt down insider tricks and loopholes to beat the airlines at their own game. It’s their way of getting free flights, complimentary upgrades, all kinds of perks and even cash, in some cases. By using these strategies, you can travel in ways you never thought possible.
Tip 1: Saving on Air Travel
Your trips commute is one of the biggest and mandatory expenses while traveling. Whether you are traveling to another city or country, other than food and hotel stay, traveling via air is one of the biggest expenses. Here are some tips I learned from the travel experts on how to travel almost for free on budget airlines.
Know when to book your flight
You cannot expect to get a cheap flight close to the actual date of your travel. Try to plan ahead and that way you can find cheaper flight tickets. Knowing not to book tickets during a festive or holiday season is also wise. There’s a good chance that you won’t find the tickets and if you do the surge will be unbelievably expensive. So, definitely either make plans in advance or don’t opt for making last-minute plans.
Find budget flights
Often when you visit a website to book your tickets, they show you a list of pricey and big brand airlines on the top. The smaller airlines go unnoticed most of the time. To find smaller airlines that will cost you less, these airlines don’t normally show up on the aggregator websites. If you have a layover, choose a flight that very well may be a smaller airline brand, hence fitting right in your budget. You might have to book the flights separately in this case but what’s a little hassle in efforts of saving your precious, hard-earned money?
Book via Travel agencies
More often than not travel agencies are expensive. But they also provide a lot of offers and cut down half of the effort and research you personally would have to put in to book a flight. Find the right travel agent and you’d be set up with great deals. Although, researching a bit yourself before hiring is not harmful. Just to be sure of what you are paying is true to the real cost of the flight. Look for travel agencies who know the ins and out of the destination you are traveling to, they’ll have several tips for you to explore in budget.
Pay with a Credit-Card
These cards have as many cons as they have pros, but for now, let’s focus on the pros. I personally avoid using my credit card as much as I can but when it comes to booking flights, it is the easiest and cheapest option. The credit card premiums can be paid in installments so technically you’d legitimately be traveling for free. Credit cards also provide perks like discounts, redeemable points, cashback offers and more. Some cards provide points every time you book a ticket that is redeemable whenever you book flight tickets with your credit card again.
Frequent Flyer Program for budget travelers
This is a commonly known loyalty program offered by a lot of airlines. This program encourages frequent travelers to enroll and accumulate points also known as miles that can be redeemed for flight bookings or other rewards. These points are based on the distance you have flown with one airline, the class fare and the amount paid. This program is perfect for frequent travelers. Perks like getting complimentary first-class upgrades, free tickets, free goodies and more are common returns of this loyalty program.
I have often heard and even tried this hack myself. You can get someone to book your flight for you and in exchange, you can work for them on something for free. For example, my college roommate was unable to go to his hometown for Christmas because he was almost broke. So, he came up with the idea that he could write my assignment that was due before Christmas, he would clean up our room and would do my laundry for the next month and in exchange for this, I would have to buy his flight tickets. It was a sweet deal and it turns out, quite a few people already do this.
Choose traveling by road whenever you can
If you are traveling to a nearby city and not a far of place, consider driving as an option. This way you get to enjoy the scenic views if any and save much more on that expensive air ticket.
We took a cross country trip and explored many cities on our way to our destinations. It all depends on how much you love driving and the availability of traveling time you have. Sometimes you can reach the destination faster than the road.
Some people are worried about the reliability of their vehicles and don’t want to put too many miles on it. In that case there are a lot of car rental services that you can get cheap rental cars from. Like enterprise, Hertz,
In conclusion, I would say, there are more ways to fly with cheap flights but these are tried and tested methods by me and fellow travel experts. It’s not always easy to travel on a budget but with these hacks and tips, anyone can do it. So, go on and find the best budget airlines and budget flights you can find and start using these hacks if you haven’t already.
Tip 2: Stay on budget
Apart from air tickets, another big expense on a person’s travel is the expense of staying at a hotel. Here are some tips to help you stay on budget.
Stay at a friends or relatives
I know it’s not possible to have someone you know in every city you want to visit. But if you have a family member or friend living in that city. Pay him a visit and stay there for a night. It will save you money that you spend on staying at a hotel.
Plus it also gives you a chance to spend some time with that person. Just don’t forget to give a nice thank you gift to that person. It’s a gesture your friend will also cherish.
Many people like to spend on hotels due to the amenities, but if you are traveling with kids
If you are booking ahead of time and in off season you can get some amazing savings on your stay.
If you can’t find a property that suits your needs on Airbnb, then you should consider hotels.com. It is my personal favorite for booking hotels. On every 10th night you get 1 free night at a hotel of your choice. Plus its prices are lower than many other hotel booking services available today.
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Tip 3: Book a complete Package
Another way to save on your vacation is by booking a package deal. There are lot of online sites that offer reasonable deals on round trip air tickets and hotel stays. One of such sites is Priceline.com. You can find some wallet-friendly vacation packages here.
Tip 4: Stay on your traveling budget with saving on attractions
Look for Promo Codes for City Attractions
No matter which city we visit, my wife always finds an attraction that she wants to see. Even I believe, that one can indulge in spending on attractions that you won’t find anywhere else. While it is fun exploring new attractions, it can be expensive too.
To make the best of such situations, I always look for discount codes online. Believe it or not, most attractions have some promotions going on and you can save some bucks on those expenses passes for sure. I discovered this when I planned my families vacation to San Antonio, Texas and my daughter wanted to see the dolphins at the sea world. Luckily at that time Sea World had a special discount going on if you booked your passes online instead of purchasing them at the gate.
This rung a bell in my head and ever since then I always look for online specials before visiting the busy ticket booth at the attraction.
If you spend some time on planning your itinerary, you will discover that most major cities have large number of sites that are absolutely free of cost. There will be streets, festivals, mountain ranges, site seeing, picnic grounds, beaches, lakes and many more such amazing sites for you to explore. I am a big fan of nature and whenever I plan a trip it has to have the natural, historic or scenic essence of that city included in it.
Tip 5: Pocket-friendly eating
The other expense is food. Many people don’t really give much thought to it, because vacation or not, they eat out mostly. So, for them, it’s not a big deal to spend too much money on restaurants. But let’s face it, if you are taking a long vacation eating out every meal will expensive plus it not at all healthy.
Hotel with a kitchenette
The money you spend on expensive meals at good restaurant can easily be saved by staying at a hotel where you can have an accessible kitchenette. Also, if you have dietary restrictions or your kids are picky eaters, finding a restaurant of your choice in an unknown city can also be challenging. Having a kitchenette can be helpful in such cases.
You can reheat your leftovers from last night’s dinner the next day instead of trashing them. You can get cheaper grocery items from a neighborhood grocery store and prepare your own fresh food. Having a kitchenette is a blessing in disguise for people who travel on a strict budget.
There are a lot of hotels that offer free breakfast over your stay. With free breakfast, you will start your day with a full belly and some extra cash in your pocket. On a family of four, you can easily save more $30 by just looking for a hotel that offers complimentary breakfast.
Fast food chains
Even though I am not a big fan of choosing fast food over other healthy options. If you are in a city where there are not many restaurants of your choice, choose to eat at a famous fast-food chain. The taste and quality of the food is mostly consistent and it is much cheaper than other local restaurant options.
Tip 6: Travel of season
Traveling when majority of other people are planning to traveling can be heavy on your traveling budget. If possible, plan your trip a month before or after the peak seasons. You will save ample amount of money. Hotels offer amazing savings, flights become cheaper, car rentals become affordable and many major city attractions have promotional discounts.
If there are some seasonal attractions or if you have kids that go to school, then this might be a difficult choice for you.
There is no limit on how much you wanna spend on your travel. You can stay at a fancy expensive hotel or eat at the most elite restaurant in town. Ultimately the decision is always yours. You want to spend it all in one night or make smarter choices. Ultimately you use the hotel to sleep and a restaurant to fill your empty belly.
I have been traveling smart for many years now. Traveling on a budget gives me the discipline of not over splurging and feeling guilty later. Plus I am able to explore more travel attractions than other people.
Let us know in the comments below if you have tried these hacks and if you have any tips you’d like to contribute to this article, feel free to share.
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