Think you can’t take that trip you’ve been dreaming of because you’re on a budget? Think again. Here are some money-saving tips to help you take that trip without straying too far from your financial goals.
Join a frequent flyer program
If you’re planning on traveling more in the future, you might want to consider joining in a frequent flyer program. Frequent flyer programs reward you with points each time you fly, based on how many miles you travel and tickets you purchase. You can later save up these points to pay for upgrades, cheaper flights, or other perks. Most frequent flyer programs operate under one airline, so be sure to sign up with the airline you’re most likely to fly. You could also opt for opening a credit card that earns you miles on a specific airline each time you use it. With that said, you don’t want to spend more money than you usually do just to earn miles. If you know a trip is in your future, you may want to substitute the miles-earning credit card for your regularly used credit card. Some of these cards offer free checked bags in addition to the miles.
*If travelling abroad, you’ll also want to make sure to use a card that doesn’t charge you foreign transaction fees as those can really add up.
Book during the “off” times
Avoid booking during the holiday season and school breaks to dodge sky high rates. Try to book early morning or red eye flights for cheaper rates and less airport traffic. You can also book flights on specific days of the week with cheaper rates or choose the “flexible days” option in your search criteria to see which days cost less to fly on. Try to keep up with the news in your departure and arrival locations so you can steer clear of dates with big events, like conferences or trade shows. A quick google search should yield some useful information.
Compare different flights before buying your tickets
“Comparison shop” when you’re booking your flight. Switch out different airports and airlines, and check different sites, like Kayak and Expedia. Also, make sure to check if two one-way tickets are cheaper or if there are any all-inclusive deals that fit your needs. Keep in mind that this method may not complement your frequent flyer program if your program is restricted to one airline. If that’s the case, you could always compare flights on the airline’s website.
Don’t get flak for what you pack
You’ve probably heard it before, but proper packing occurs when you limit your packing to just the necessities. Besides a lighter load on your shoulders, a properly packed carry-on will give you a chance to dodge overweight and checked bag fees. Some airlines will also allow you to check your carry-on bag at the gate for free, but I wouldn’t rely on this as a failsafe. Instead, confirm your carry-on bag will fit on the plane before you leave for the airport by checking your airline’s carry-on rules.
Skip the Four Seasons
Another way to save when booking your getaway is to choose an alternative setting over a hotel. Hostels are probably the most cost effective option and can be a great home away from home and allow for a more social stay, but most require you to stay in a room with other travelers. For a more private stay, ask the hostel if they have a room that can accommodate all of the people you’re travelling with. Check out our favorite hostels here.
You can also scout out bed and breakfasts or vacation rentals on Airbnb or VRBO. These alternatives can require a great deal of upfront research in exchange for a great price. Read different ratings and reviews and look up the neighborhood to see how walkable and safe it is. Try to get a room with a refrigerator to help you with Tip #9.
After a great vacation abroad, the last thing you want to come home to is a pricey phone bill. Reduce data roaming charges by asking your carrier about different deals or international plans. For a data-free trip, disable data roaming and software downloads and research places in the area with free Wifi. To contact those back home, use a messaging app you both have like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.
In addition, take advantage of the plethora of free travel applications you can download onto your smartphone. They can help you save money, time and the like.
Use public transit
Another way to save when you’re away is to use the local public transportation. If your immediate area is walkable, grab your sneakers. If you want to make a day-trip to the nearest city, take the local train or bus. If you insist on renting a car, try to book the cheapest option available. Be sure to review your auto insurance policy with a careful eye; if your policy covers rentals, consider passing on car rental insurance.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but there is such a thing as a free activity to do after you eat your lunch
Bask in the local culture by attending free activities in the area. Local concerts, fairs, beaches, and parks are usually open to non-residents. Window shopping and people watching are also fun from time to time!
For the history buffs, go sightseeing and hit all the museums, monuments, and ruins in your area. This may take some time to plan around business hours, but most attractions are free or low cost. Hidden fees lie in gift shops, additional exhibits, and overpriced cafés run by the attractions. Eat a hearty breakfast and steer clear of these in order to stick to your budget.
Your vacation dining habits may be tasty, but they could also cost you big bucks. To shorten the bill, veer off popular streets and try smaller, more authentic eats. You can also ask hotel concierges and those from the area for their favorite spots: these recommendations are often cheaper and more fruitful than those from Yelp or Zagat. For a quick bite, you can also try street food from local carts or stands.
We recommend trying to make your own meals whenever possible, especially for breakfasts or rainy days. Try to have a picnic in a public beach or park or pack sandwiches for on-the-go excursions to must-see museums. Go to the local grocery store to buy what you need for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks to get you through your day.
Richard Flahive – Private Wealth Advisor and Director of Research & Planning – HighTower Westchester
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