6 Quick Tips for Saving Money Traveling
Regardless or income or frequency of travel, EVERYONE wants to save money when traveling - and why not? Every penny you save on your next trip can be put toward a future trip. Here's a few quick tips for saving money on upcoming adventures.
1. Go Beyond Google Flights
Google Flights is a fantastic place to find cheap flights and their matrix allows you to easily see how flight prices vary over time, allowing you to adjust your travel dates to save money. I once found a $500 round-trip flight to Singapore on there! If you're flexible with your destination, you can also type in broad destinations like "Africa" or "Middle East" and Google will show a map of the continent or region, populated with dozens of flight options and their prices.
That said, Google Flights doesn't have access to every airline so you'll only see a portion of airfares offered. Southwest Airlines is a personal favorite of mine, as they offer great prices and excellent service, along with the unusual practice of allowing you to change your flight without a penalty fee. Southwest flights do not show up on Google Flights and are often the cheapest option so be sure to check their website directly.
2. Rethink Hotel Bookings
The time of booking directly on hotel websites is long gone but know that discount search engines like Expedia and Kayak aren’t your only options – and sometimes, they’re not even the best option! Booking.com is an easy-to-navigate website with tons of hotels, hostels and poshtels (posh hostels) listed along with reviews and pictures. You pay a small amount to the website (usually a few dollars) to reserve the room and pay the rest when you arrive in person. I used the site throughout my travels to Malaysia and Thailand and absolutely loved it. The best part? You can use my $25 off discount code on your first booking! HotelsCombined.com is also a good site to find cheap hotels.
Hostelworld is another great source for affordable hostels and affordable hotels. They have over 36,000 listings in 170 countries, and the listings are smartly organized and clearly ranked based on cleanliness, amenities, and service. I used this site a lot while backpacking through Peru and Bolivia.
Want something more intimate or unique than the usual hotels that show up in search engines? AirBnB offers everything from boats and cabins to castles and tree houses in all price ranges. New users can use my AirBnB discount code to save $40 on their first stay!
3. Don't Book Your Flight too Early
Tons of articles exist on the science behind the best time to book a flight. Some say Tuesdays at midnight, others specify the exact number of days prior to your trip (apparently it's 70 days, though last year it was supposedly 54 days), and others say that all of these theories are bunk.
Booking too far in advance or too close to the travel date means you'll pay more. If you're booking a flight 11 months in advance or 7 days in advance, the airline knows you are likely very committed to the specific city and travel dates chosen, so they'll list a higher price since they know your travel schedule isn’t flexible. Bloggers can debate how long the ideal travel booking window is, just know that booking as early as possible is a common mistake and costs a lot of travelers extra money.
4. Fly on the Cheaper Days
Though the day of the week that you book the ticket may not matter too much, the days of the week that you travel can matter quite a bit. The cheapest days to fly are Tuesday and Wednesday so be sure to check the "flexible dates" box and adjust your travel dates when possible. In some cases, Saturdays are cheap flying days, as travelers seeking long-weekend escapes fill up Thursday and Friday outbound flights and Sunday and Monday return flights, leaving Saturday flights wide open for savings. I once saved nearly $200 on a return flight from Havana to JFK by flying on the Saturday of a busy holiday weekend.
5. Search Flights in the Right Order
Many airlines manipulate the flight prices on their website depending on factors like the user’s previous airline searches. If you’ve previously looked up a flight on discount travel sites like Kayak or Expedia, which typically offer the best prices, then the airline in question is more likely to display a lower price. It’s in your best interest to search discount sites first, since airlines want to remain competitive with the lower prices they know you’ve already seen elsewhere.
Related question: What do you do if you find the same price in a search engine as you find directly on the airline’s website? Book directly with the airline since it ensures you’ll get your frequent flyer miles and receive flight updates from the airline.
6. Don't Forget the leftovers!
Packing your own food to save money during travel seems like too basic of a suggestion to include here but I want to include a quick note since it saves me a lot of money and come in really handy when I don't have a kitchen in my hotel/casa/guest house. I ALWAYS bring my metal lunchbox (an Indian "tiffin") with me to fill up with leftovers to eat at home later. Malaysian spicy noodles, Thai fried rice, and Mexican rice and beans have made GREAT breakfast, which I enjoyed in my pajamas from the comfort of my bed. I bring this metal lunchbox with me on every single trip and even take it to restaurants at home in New York City to cut down on plastic and styrofoam take-out container waste!
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Share your money-saving travel tips below in the comments!