The first step to dealing with a problem is admitting you have one. I’m obsessed with traveling. I cannot get enough of it. I have this constant desire to visit new places, see new things, try new foods. I’m sure I’m not alone. Aside from getting enough vacation time at work, the issue with traveling is that I don’t have an endless supply of money to pay for all the traveling I want to do. That is why I’ve compiled some advice on how to cut costs when traveling.
Transportation: As mentioned in my post 10 Apps to Save You Money, Hopper is an app that finds you the best time to buy your flight based on cost. You provide Hopper with the dates of you travel, and if you’re flexible with those dates, along with your departure and arrival destinations and Hopper will let you know if you should buy your flight now or wait. It will even send you notifications when the flight price drops. Along with Hopper, you can find great deals on flights with Hipmunk, OTAs (see below), Skiplagged, Skyscanner and more.
Lodging: When thinking about where to stay when vacation, most people typically think hotel or resort; however, there are many other creative (and cheaper) ways to lodge. While hostels are an option, I am not personally a fan of this option because you never know how safe they are and I don’t particularly find it relaxing to share bathrooms and the like with people I don’t know.
What I do think is a good option, and I have used before, are websites like HomeAway.com and Airbnb.com. For those of you who haven’t heard of these websites, they allow people to rent out their personal property to users via the internet. For example, if I was going away for the week, I could list my house on Airbnb or HomeAway and users could book my house to stay in and I would get compensated for their stay. Payment is done via the third party website, so your information is secure. We used HomeAway for my bachelorette party and had a wonderful experience. Plus, it was cheaper for 8 girls to split the cost of a house versus multiple hotel rooms.
Travel Agency: Both your stereotypical travel agency and an OTA, or online travel agency, can help save you money. We often use our local travel agent when booking vacations simply for convenience, but she also has access to certain discounts and packages that we do not as the traveler. For our honeymoon, our travel agent got us a package that included breakfast and dinner in the cost of the hotel (which in Bora Bora is HUGE because everything is crazy expensive).
Online travel agencies basically eliminate the middle man, but tend to offer discounted pricing and packages. Online travel agencies are websites like Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity. If you’ve heard of these before, or used them yourself, you’ve probably found that the packages they offer, combining airfare and hotel, can be pretty hard to beat.
Loyalty: I think many people underestimate the power of loyalty programs; I know I certainly used to. Loyalty programs are a great way to earn discounted, or even sometimes free, travel. I sign up for almost all loyalty programs, even if I doubt I’ll be able to use them frequently. For hotel loyalty programs, it is easiest to build your points (which can be used for free nights, WiFi, upgrades and more) by using the same chain every time you travel. For example, if you are a Starwood Preferred Guest member, you can gain points by staying at all Starwood hotels which includes W hotels, Sheraton, Westin St. Regis and more.
With airlines, there’s less variety of brands, but some airlines don’t have direct flights where you are going, so it may be difficult to remain loyal to the same airline; however, the more you fly with the same airline, the more likely you are to get enough frequent flyer miles to turn into a free flight.
Credit Cards: There are so many credit cards geared towards travel. My favorite, the one my husband and I use, is the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. With this card you get 3% cash back on all travel and food (which really go hand-in-hand, in my opinion). Although the card has an annual fee of $450, when you sign up you get 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months, a $300 annual travel credit, and 1.5 times the value of your points when you book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards (i.e., 50,000 points is equivalent to $500, but when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards it equals $750). Additionally, you pay no foreign transaction fees when you use your card abroad.
Other popular choices for credit cards with travel rewards Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card, and Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®.
Everyone travels differently, so in order to make traveling easier on your wallet, you have to decide what you can or can’t deal with. Maybe you need the amenities hotels have to offer (use loyalty programs), but you don’t mind flying at odd hours of the day or having layovers (use Hopper or another flight checking app). Maybe you don’t want to change your travel preferences and just want to earn money from doing exactly what you want (credit card rewards). There is a way to save and even make money on travel no matter what effort you’re willing to put in.
What ways do you save money on travel? I’d love to hear your ideas!