This week I’m featuring a guest post from Tia over at Financially Fit and Fab (see her bio at the end of the post!) related to saving money while traveling. Getting away doesn't have to be as expensive as it may seem - with some strategic moves, you can absolutely afford that dream vacation (like my recent one to Peru!) without breaking the bank. I've used a few of these tips myself, and I highly suggest you do the same - take a read!
Can I tell you a secret? Anyone can travel. Yes, even you. I know you may be focused on other priorities, but everyone needs to enjoy life. My favorite way to enjoy life is traveling the world. The coolest part is that traveling is not as expensive as you think - at least it doesn't have to be! Last year I traveled domestically and internationally and none of the round trip flights were over $250! Check out these 6 tips to save your Benjamins while traveling.
Flight Searches & Deals
Traveling for less starts with finding the best flight. I always start with the number 1 flight search engine, Google Flights. Google Flights allows you to find the "best flight" after taking into consideration price, layover time, length of flight, and departure/arrival times. In addition, it lets you know if there is a lower flight available departing from a nearby airport within +/- 3 days.
Flight search engines aren't the only way to find a great deal, though. There are awesome websites that also post low fares and other deals. The easiest way for me to keep up with all of the sites is to follow them via social media - specifically twitter. Here are a few of my favorite social media accounts to follow for flight alerts:
There are a plethora of ways to find a great deal when looking for a nice, comfortable, and convenient place to stay. My new favorite resource is Airbnb. Airbnb is a site where you can list and find lodging for less. Most times, you are staying in an apartment or house that someone is renting out for you. A little known fact about Airbnb: in certain cities like Miami and Las Vegas, certain hotels are even available on Airbnb!
If you aren't comfortable with Airbnb, there are other resources to find the best hotel deal. My favorite sites are Booking.com and Hotels.com. Both of the sites have refundable options where you aren't charged until a few days before your trip and you can cancel without losing any money. I usually hop on those sites when I first plan my trip, get something reserved while demand and price are low, and then search for better deals with Airbnb.
My first two go-to sources of low cost transportation are Uber and Lyft. Uber and Lyft are ride sharing services similar to taxi's. The best part about ride sharing services is that they are super convenient - the driver comes directly to your location. In addition, if you are staying in a hotel, you don't need to worry about stashing your vehicle or paying to park at the hotel. Beware, some cities have banned ride sharing services. I typically research the city I'm visiting in advance to ensure Uber and/or Lyft are viable options.
I challenge you on your next trip to dine where the locals dine. 9 times out of 10 the authentic food tastes much better and is more reasonably priced than airport or hotel food. Unless the food is free through the hotel like a continental breakfast, I always try local restaurants. Going out of town for more than a couple days? If so, visit a local convenience store or grocery store and purchase a few items. That way every meal is not spent eating out!
Credit Card Points
Credit cards get a bad rap in the personal finance sphere. If used properly, credit card points can earn you money that can be used to put a dent in your travel expenses. A few things to keep in mind when opening a credit card for travel points:
- Pay attention to any annual fees. Some of the best travel rewards cards have annual fees. If you can't stomach annual fees, make sure to find a card without them.
- Ensure you are able to stick to your budget. In order to avoid any added interest, you must pay off your balance every single month!
Check out this detailed post that outlines "Credit Cards: The Good, The Bad, and The Best One For You" and features some of the best travel reward cards in 2016.
The most important travel tip is to always be flexible! Often times the best flight and lodging aren't the most convenient. Just last week, I was able to find a last minute flight to Dominican Republic for a friend where credit card points would pay her full cost! However, the flight involved two layovers, only middle seats, and awkward departure times. She opted to get the flight; however, many others would pay more for convenience. Only you can decide what it is ultimately the best deal for you.
Also, the best deals don't last long! I was able to find a round trip flight to Panama City, Panama for $200 last year; however, when I went to purchase the flight 4 hours later, it was no longer available. That is why it is important to save often for things that are important to you! That way if an awesome deal arises, you can afford it.
What are your favorite tips to save your Benjamins while traveling?
Tia is passionate about educating young professionals regarding budgeting, saving, credit, investing, and traveling for less at www.FinanciallyFitandFab.com.