Taking a trip outside your day-to-day environment creates endless opportunities to expand your horizon, learn something new and maybe even gain a new perspective on your surroundings.
However, traveling can be financially difficult and time consuming, which is why most people prefer to stay home.
For those who want to see the sights without breaking the bank, we have travel hacks to help save you time and money.
Tickets: When to Buy, When to Fly and What to Expect
The first and most important concept when planning your trip is deciding when to go.
This affects when you buy your tickets, when you decide to fly and what you should expect when going for the cheaper alternative.
When to Buy and When to Fly
You may be surprised to find out, but the day and time when you purchase tickets can ultimately affect your final bill.
Grainne Kelly, founder of BubbleBum, the first inflatable car booster, is a certified child passenger safety technician and a former travel agent, and she has a few insider secrets on how to save on travel.
Kelly recommends booking flights on Tuesdays or Wednesdays around lunchtime, as airlines release sale prices during these days of the week. However, make sure you confirm that the rate includes taxes, as taxes can send your bill skyward, sometimes to the tune of several hundred dollars.
In addition, try to travel on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday, as these days offer lower pricing on connecting flights.
What to Expect
With great savings come layovers, so prepare for a long route. Many discounted flights often include at least one layover, sometimes two, depending on the destination, so it will take longer to get to your end point, and you have to hope there are no delays that could affect whether you’ll make your next flight.
“Many discounted flights are only offered at peak times,” Kelly adds, “departing at a very early hour or late at night.”
In addition, seat assignments are not guaranteed, meaning if you’re traveling with family or friends, your seats might not be together. Most discount carriers operate on a first-come, first-served basis, so try to get to the gate early to find a decent seat next to your travel companions.
Most discounted carriers no longer include meals, so you shouldn’t expect the classic free drink and snack on your flight. Pack snacks to hold you over until your destination, especially if you have a long layover. Remember: You can’t bring liquids through security, so you’ll likely need to purchase a drink near your gate or on your flight.
What to Pack and What to Pitch
First of all, be sure to read the fine print and find out the terms and conditions for your carrier. According to Kelly, there could be charges for checked baggage (typically $25 each way), carry-ons, the dimensions or weight of your baggage, snacks or meals, and more.
“Be prepared ahead of time so you’re not in sticker shock at the airport,” says Kelly. “This is how airlines make up for missing revenue. Try to just travel with a carry-on bag so you don’t have to pay for a checked bag.”
However, Kelly suggests a way to get a checked bag for free – by checking it at the gate. If you have a larger carry-on and later decide you would rather check it, wait until everyone else boards the flight with their carry-ons. Kelly suggests the plane will likely run out of the room for bags and check your carry-on for free.
“Always ask the gate if there is room or if they should check your bag, as they are usually happy to check it,” Kelly advises. “It makes it easier for them to ensure everything else fits in cabin storage.”
Also, print your boarding pass at home, as some airlines charge to print them at the airport. If you have an iPhone, Apple Wallet is a great way to organize your boarding passes for easy access at the airport.
As for outfit options, Kendal Perez, savings expert at Coupon Sherpa, asserted that most people wear the same items repeatedly during trips. Instead of packing many options, Perez suggests packing versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched for different looks.
“This saves you time while packing and reduces the hassle of an overly-heavy bag,” she says.
Krystal Rogers-Nelson, travel writer for ASecureLife ASecureLife also has a few packing suggestions, outline below:
- Unless you’re going somewhere remote, don’t bring toiletries, as most hotels provide them for free
- Pack a small backpack or tote bag in your carry-on so you can have a day bag on the plane and during your trip (and without extra baggage fees!)
- Leave room in your luggage for souvenirs and keepsakes
Transportation: Rent or Ride?
When does it make sense to rent a car versus riding public transportation during your vacation?
Opting for public transportation can save most of your money, suggested Perez, especially in larger and more crowded cities like New York, San Francisco, Chicago or Boston. Don’t waste your time or money with a rental car when you can cost-effectively get around via public transportation.
Rogers-Nelson expands on this concept, adding that you’ll save money on parking fees, as most metropolitan areas require a fee for secure parking. Additionally, public transportation options tend to be reliable and affordable.
Be sure to look into bike rentals or opt for walking if your destinations are close by. This is not only cost-effective but also a good way to get to know your surroundings.
However, if you are traveling to a more remote location with infrequent public transportation service to your destination, Rogers-Nelson suggested it might be more cost effective to rent a car but avoid upselling attempts by agencies.
“In most cases, the insurance offered by agents is already covered by your personal auto insurance or by the credit card you’re using to book the reservation,” Perez explains.
Also avoid prepaying for fuel, since you won’t be reimbursed for any fuel you have in the tank when you return the vehicle.
Since most rental agencies offer coupon codes for online bookings, you can use sites like Coupon Sherpa to easily find deals, like a certain percentage or dollar amount off your car rental.
Food for Thought
Rogers suggests, “A hotel or Airbnb with a kitchen is a little bit more expensive than a standard hotel room, however, you will most likely make up for that in saving on food and drink, as long as you commit to making the majority of your meals yourself.”
If you want to save the most money and have a kitchen where you’re lodging (such as in a condo, apartment, hotel, Airbnb rental or hostel), consider cooking most of your meals with local ingredients and stocking up on snacks and beverages. This will limit the amount of money you spend on food.
You can find coupons in local newspapers or catalogs in the entryway of most grocery stores, giving you an opportunity to save even more on your food.
Find local dining deals by downloading apps that access coupons to local eateries, like Groupon or Coupon Sherpa. Or simply ask the locals where the best bites to eat are located. They’ll usually be able to give you more affordable dining locations.
In addition, limit the number of times you dine out to keep costs down, and rely on snacks and small meals purchased from local markets. When you do dine out, eat local by trying street vendors or sit-down restaurants.
Should you choose to sample a local restaurant, try to go during a happy hour and order house-made wines and local beer to lower your bill. Plus, some happy hours have free or discounted food along with less expensive drinks.
Where to Stay
When it comes to deciding where to stay, you should factor in not only money but also convenience and comfort.
Hotels are nice because you can pick a location close to the airport, with most airports offering free shuttles.
They also offer a more private room experience, compared to Airbnb rentals and hostels.
You should also consider the comfort of hotel amenities, such as pools, workout areas and continental breakfasts, all three of which are often free with the purchase of a room.
Just like with flights, you can find discounts on hotels at Kayak, Orbitz and Expedia. Groupon also has great deals, but they’re sometimes limited by date, so be sure to read the fine print.
Airbnb Rentals and Hostels
If you’re looking to take the stress out of traveling, consider staying at an Airbnb rental or a hostel, a unique traveling experience that may allow you to meet fellow travelers and create a more personalized vacation.
Airbnb allows individuals to rent their homes (or rooms in their homes) to tourists.
Rogers-Nelson suggested Airbnb as a great outlet when you’re working with a budget because you can filter by price, number of people and amenities based on what you’re looking to experience on your trip.
Much like Airbnb, hostels will also offer cheaper pricing on lodging and provide a more custom traveling experience than a hotel.
When you stay at an Airbnb rental or a hostel, you’re often more submerged in the culture that you’re visiting, allowing a more personal and meaningful experience when you travel away from your surroundings.
Do you have travel tips that we didn’t mention above? Let us know in the comments!
If so, subscribe now for tips on home, money, and life delivered straight to your inbox.