If there is one unifying topic that all travel bloggers write about, it is the never ending ways in which to make travel more affordable. When I think about saving money on travel, I always reflect back on my trip to Colombia. My life at the time was complicated (to say the least). I longed for an emotional and literal escape to somewhere faraway where I could clear my head and gain some much needed perspective on my career and relationship at the time. Of course, being a 20-something in New York City meant my disposable income was limited, so the idea of dropping a couple hundred on a flight and trip was daunting.
It was at this time I started to do a little research on budget travel. I began to devour the writing of travel bloggers who had pioneered ways in which to make travel virtually inexpensive. When it came time to booking my own trip, I was shocked when I not only managed to land an affordable flight but could enjoy my time abroad without wincing at the money being spent. It was then that I began to realize the big facade of travel: it is not a luxury reserved for retirement or the rich.
The next few years have been a whirlwind as I built my travel blog and eventually landed my current role as Travel Editor at Culture Trip. I’ve traveled from Argentina to Indonesia, and for each trip I always rely on the same money saving tricks. Now the thing about saving on travel is there is no one way to go about it. Some bloggers rely on miles gained from travel credit cards, others leverage volunteer or work-exchange programs, while some simply know the ways to save on flights. The following tricks are what I use to save on travel.
1. Knowing the tricks to saving BIG on airfare.
The results are in and its unanimous, the cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays (with Sundays proving the most expensive day to fly). When figuring out when to travel, I like to use Hopper, which pulls up a color coded calendar where days that are affordable are marked in green vs. expensive days to fly that are marked in red. Hopper also offers a handy service where they’ll watch trips you’re thinking of booking and send automatic alerts to your phone when the price of your trip is dropping, so you book your flights at the optimal price.
In addition to when to fly during the week, it is worth flying during “off-peak” seasons to better take advantage of affordable travel. The secret to affordable airfare is to essentially fly when no one else is. Red-eye flights? Mid-week flights? If the flight is at an off-time than you’re more likely to snag a cheap ticket, so being flexible with when you can fly is key.
2. Have your go-to flight search engines.
When starting my flight search, I begin by using search engines like Skyscanner and Momondo that will pull up smaller, budget airlines at lower price points than the Expedias’ and Kayaks’ of the world.
Also, sometimes using a “fake location” can help lower price points even more. To see this, if you have found a flight on say Skyscanner to Colombia via LAN Airlines that you are ready to book, take a moment to check out the airline’s direct website. In this example, try changing the country on LAN Airlines to Colombia which should also switch the currency from dollars to Colombian Pesos. Many travel hackers tout this trick as showing up significantly cheaper flights when prices are changed from dollars to the local currency.
Many travel bloggers and hackers swear by the trick of also clearing your browser cookies and opening an incognito window before searching for flights. Search engines tend to store your search information, so that the flight you are looking at today might prove $50-$100 more expensive when searched tomorrow.
3. Don’t let money stand in the way of booking that trip!
You’re set on booking a trip abroad and are monitoring flights when you get a notification that airfare is at the optimal price and you should book now! Unfortunately, your bank account is not in the optimal place and booking a round trip ticket seems unlikely. You’re now stuck between a rock and hard place – you can’t afford to buy the flight you’re eyeing but if you wait until that next paycheck the airfare might jump up – what do you do?
This is a question I’ve often grappled with and now, thankfully, have an answer to with Airfordable. Airfordable is a new service that allows you to purchase a plane ticket with a layaway plan. Similar to plans you may see offered by big box stores like Walmart or Best Buy, Airfordable allows you to book a flight with a deposit and choose a payment plan for your ticket. If the word DEBT is flashing across your mind right now, shake it away because Airfordable only releases your ticket information upon the full payment of your flight. What this means is that if you want to purchase a good-priced ticket in January for a trip you have planned in March, you can go ahead and do so to lock in that ticket and pay the price over the next few months with a payment plan of your choosing.
4. Consider countries that won’t burn a hole in your wallet.
London will burn a hole through your wallet but Vietnam will find you living like a king for a week on what you would spend on London in a day. If keeping a budget is top of mind and traveling longer is the goal, then look to travel to countries like Vietnam or Colombia where you can stretch your dollars.
5. You’ve saved on the flight, now save on the accommodations.
Outside of flights, hotels can prove the second biggest expense when heading abroad. Large name, four star hotels, all-inclusive resorts and high end boutiques might be fun for a night splurge if you can swing it, but will likely keep you traveling for one week and suck up your funds in a flash.
The options of where to stay don’t necessarily need to be whittled down to comfortable vs. cheap; there are plenty of places to sleep that are both affordable and nice. I like to use airbnb for apartment rentals and hostels (especially when solo traveling hostels are great for making friends on the road). On occasion, I will stay at a hotel (sometimes for free as a travel writer reviewing it) and will usually opt for boutique hotels as I find them to be more authentic and charming than their brand name counterparts. Check out recommended budget hotels here!
6. Better yet, how about spending NOTHING on accommodations.
That’s right, you can do more than find affordable accommodations, you can stay for free. Worldpackers allows you to stay anywhere in the world for free in exchange for your skills. So let’s say you’re a social media maven, you can find free accommodations at a hostel in exchange for supporting their staff with social media.
Similarly, WWOOF provides travelers with room and board in exchange for their volunteer work on a farm. Another option is to become a travel writer/blogger! Although it takes time to build your following and take your blog to the next level, you can often review hotels or land incredible travel perks to help save money on your adventure.
..and one more bonus tip: consider starting a travel blog of your own!
Having a travel blog does land you travel perks that significantly shave dollars off your traveling. From free hotels to free flights to completely complimentary trips, being able to dabble in the currency of editorial exposure and social media coverage helps big time.
That said, it’s important to note that starting a blog is first and foremost a passion project. If you want to have a successful blog your ambition should be defined by more than snagging free travel perks as it can take years to reach that point and – truth be told – there is nothing worse than a blogger who only churns out sponsored content on behalf of brands. Regardless, if travel blogging is an idea you’re flirting with, check out my blogging tips on how to get started!
Your turn! Share YOUR best money saving tips for travel in the comments section below!